Words by Taylor Thomas of Thomas Endurance Coaching
There’s a special bond between a coach and an athlete that’s rarely duplicated in other environments. The shared passion and commitment towards lofty goals is something that makes for a special experience for everyone involved. However, despite all of the positives that come from the coach-athlete relationship, most athletes are self-coached. Phrases such as, “Coaches are only for pros.” “I don’t need the accountability.”, or “I can write my own training” are so often associated with the conversation around whether or not an athlete would benefit from a relationship with a coach. Let’s take a moment to break down what it is that coaches actually do, the purpose they serve, and if choosing to work with a coach is right for you.
Relationship First, Training Second
Let’s go ahead and get one fact out in the open. Good training plans are everywhere! These days every athlete with a computer or a smartphone has access to expertly built workouts and training plans for little or no cost. Access to quality workouts is not the reason to work with a coach. I’ll qualify that statement more a little later, but it’s important to realize that the primary responsibility of a good coach is not simply to write a training schedule. The primary reason to consider working with a coach is to find someone that has a vested interest in your success. Have someone in your corner that’s as invested as you are. That investment goes far beyond the time and expertise it requires to write sound training plans. Training for aggressive goals takes a full commitment from an athlete. Having someone that’s as committed to your goals as you are is key. Coaches should be there to help you navigate the highs and lows of training and racing. They’re an invaluable part of your support network, and someone you can look to when things become challenging. Motivation, drive, and commitment are what get an athlete through a tough training block, but a coach can be the critical piece needed to navigate the often rocky mental and emotional components of training. So often the non-physical parts of training are what stand in an athlete’s way, and a strong relationship with a coach can be the difference between one tough season, and many successful ones. Having a good training plan is important, but there’s much more to success than hard workouts. Coaches are there for the wins and failures.
Decrease the Learning Curve
The modern-day landscape of endurance sports is complex. Between the gadgets, hardware, software, and performance metrics there’s a lot to keep up with. Some athletes truly enjoy learning to harness the power of these tools and techniques. However, for many, these necessary tools can be challenging to master, and often impossible to find the time. It’s hard to find the time to learn how to utilize all of the parts and pieces of the modern athlete’s toolbox, while also trying to train and implement these tools in realtime. That’s where a coach comes in. Working with someone that not only has a mastery of all of these concepts but more importantly knows how to apply them specifically to you can take away a lot of stress. A coach can ensure you’re speaking the same language when it comes to discussing the metrics that matter for you, and how to use the tools at your disposal to make the best use of your time and energy. It’s not a question of whether you can learn these skills, but rather if it’s the highest and best use of your time. A coach is there to do their job so that you can get back to doing yours: training.
Sound Training Approach
While a relationship with a coach is far more complex and valuable than putting together a training plan, there’s no denying that the actual workouts are an integral part of the equation. Achieving your goals is largely based on the fitness that’s achieved during the season, and how that fitness is produced is critical. As I stated earlier, “canned” training plans and workouts are around every corner these days, and they might be the answer for some athletes. The most important component of training is knowing when to perform the right workout, on the right day, in relation to your goals. This is where one size fits all plans can let athletes down. How do you know if it’s the right time to focus on FTP building, muscular endurance, aerobic capacity, VO2 Max, Stamina or any of the other hundreds of possible areas to direct your focus? A good coach will be able to help you see the forest through the trees and know when and where to apply the appropriate training stress and focus. It’s not enough to simply perform hard workouts in the build-up to a priority race. To maximize your potential every detail needs to be analyzed such as, is the duration of each interval appropriate, are the intervals set at the correct percentage of FTP, are the recovery periods appropriate, when to time rest and active recovery days, what’s an appropriate ramp rate, ideal Form for race day, and tons more. Every detail should be built for you as an individual. When you have a relationship with a coach, guesswork is replaced with confidence, and you know you can trust that what you do today is exactly what you should be doing.
Coaching is about more than writing good workouts and getting prepared for one A race. It’s about building a longterm relationship with someone who has your back and is as invested in your success as you are. Athletes are fueled by their passion, drive, and commitment to be their best selves, and there’s no one that supports that more than a dedicated coach. Coaches not only have the expertise to navigate the complex landscape of training for endurance sports, but they also have the experience and heart needed to guide their athletes through the highs and lows of pursuing aggressive goals. It’s those highs and lows that keep us all coming back for more.
Taylor Thomas is the founder and head coach of Thomas Endurance Coaching (TEC) and has more than a decade of experience in the endurance sports industry as an athlete, coach, team organizer, writer, and podcast host. TEC provides expert level coaching to athletes of all ability levels and specializes in both a scientific and metrics-based approach to endurance sports. They guide athletes in a wide variety of disciplines ranging from running and cycling to mountaineering. For more information on their personal coaching and training plan options visit http://www.thomasendurancecoaching.com/. Also, listen to their top-rated podcast Endurance Minded everywhere you get your podcasts.