I've had a coach of some sort since I was four years old. First soccer, then baseball, summer league swim, then my first running coach, college coach, a couple triathlon coaches and masters swim coach.
In addition to BEING coached, I've now been a coach for about 15 years. In that time, I've seen and experienced a lot of really good coaching relationships. In all of them, there is one core underlying principle that is vital to the best possible triathlon coaching relationship: COMMUNICATION.
Communication with Your Triathlon Coach
Last week, I talked about ownership and the importance for each athlete to "own" their goals and their process. A big step in that ownership is working with a coach, and in order to get the most out of yourself and your triathlon coach, high quality communication is extremely important. As Paragon Training coaches, we work hard to proactively reach out, reply to emails quickly, respond to comments in TrainingPeaks, and generally be available for our athletes when they need us.
So here's how you can best interact with your triathlon coach and get the most out of your coaching relationship!
Don't be Afraid to Ask Questions
We love nothing more than an athlete who is committed to the process, does every session as prescribed, pushes themselves to be the best they can be, and wants to engage and understand the "why" behind what they are doing. As you learn about your body and the training process, you'll actually end up needing to ask less questions and engage with your coach less over the long-term because you understand what is going on.
Use Post-Activity Comments in TrainingPeaks
The first thing I tell new athletes when they come on is that TrainingPeaks is their own personal training diary and journal. It's not the coaches TrainingPeaks account. It belongs to the athlete. You are sharing your account with your coach so that we can help you achieve your goals. TrainingPeaks will stay with you forever, whether you are working with a coach or not. It's a place for you to make notes to yourself on how your body felt in a session, what nutrition you took, and anything else you think is relevant. You don't need to write a short story you're submitting to the Washington Post everytime you stretch for 7 minutes. But some brief notes can really help us as coaches understand where you are at and how you are adapting to the training.
As I told our track group at some point last year- "I don't care how you feel but I do want to know how you feel." ;-). We expect fatigue, soreness, etc., so we aren't surprised by those things. If the session says "Zone 5" and your notes said it was hard and you struggled to hit the intervals, we'll probably smile and give you another workout like that next week because it's what we want!
Each note and comment you make is a benchmark in time to refer back on. So put some notes in your comments section and start building out your training diary.
Use Email for Scheduling Items or Longer Form Questions
Email upcoming trips or scheduling things to your coach as far ahead of time as you can. You can also use the notes feature in TrainingPeaks.
As athletes, you will mostly live in the ios or android app. As coaches, we mostly live in the desktop version of TrainingPeaks. We do REALLY well at planning ahead with training when we know what is coming up.
For instance, if an athlete emails us to say that in 3 weeks they are going on a 5-day trip with limited training time available, that's great. We now know that they will be getting some recovery on the trip and so we will plan the training to continue loading or maintaining into that trip. If we don't know about the trip, we may plan a rest week for the athlete the week before, then they message us while they're on the cruise that they can't do the 2.5 hour run we had planned for them! We will of course accommodate any adjustments the best we can, but it helps your coach deliver the best training possible to you if they are aware of upcoming lifestyle things by a Thursday or Friday before planning training over the weekend.
Use Text Message for Quick Questions or a Check-in
Planning ahead is also beneficial here. If I have a question about a workout, I usually text my coach 2-3 days in advance instead of while I'm filling my water bottles and heading out the door. That way I get the information I need and can plan accordingly. We won't be responding to questions about a Saturday bike ride late Friday night because we are probably in bed resting up for our own bike ride!
Schedule a call for Season or Race Planning or a General Training Overview
Paragon Training coaches add a link to their athletes' TrainingPeaks calendar on Mondays, and that is a great way for you to set aside a dedicated time to talk to your coach and ask specific questions, plan events for a season, or debrief after a race. I like to think of this time as "office hours" that a professor might have. We can see all the data and answer questions with TrainingPeaks and email/text, but sometimes it is helpful to set aside a purposeful time to go over information and engage in a "real" conversation.
We are excited about another year of training hard, having fun, and suffering faster together!
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