So, here’s my first post that will address amateur, age grouper, elite, and professional endurance athletes all at once. Trust me, what’s in this post will make you the best athlete you can be. Why is this? A well laid out training plan with some form of measurement will deliver the best and quickest results of any other “thing” you can do when it comes to training.
Where do I Start?
Here’s what you do. First, ask around at local bike shops, endurance clubs/groups, and gyms. You’ll at least get some leads on who’s who in your area. Since this is considered “off season” for many sports, there tend to be more conventions, expos, and shows this time of year. Many of these feature product and races, but they also feature trainers and coaches. Most expos also have seminars throughout the day. In the Philadelphia area there’s the Multisport Expo in February. For New York, that same expo happens along with the Tri-Expo. You’ll spend about $10-15 on tickets, but what you find inside will be well worth it. I always leave with a bunch of notes, contact information, and best of all…schwag! You can also do a coach or club search on many active lifestyles websites. TrainingPeaks.com has an excellent search engine for this. Also check out any local fitness/physical therapy businesses. The Rothman Institute has set up shop inside Velocity Sports in NJ. They have doctors and coaches for all athletes looking to get in better shape or return from injury quickly.
What Should I Ask About?
Many professional coaches and trainers will have a wonderful website of some sort that’s full of inspiring information and reviews from past and current athlete’s they’ve coached. Ignore this. Don’t get wrapped up in what has helped others, you need what’s right for you. So, ask the coach/trainer the following 10 questions:
1.) How long have you been doing this?
2.) What did you do before coaching/training?
3.) What special degrees or certifications do you hold?
4.) How do you and at what frequency do you communicate with athletes?
5.) How many athletes do you coach?
6.) What’s included in your training/coaching and what specialized testing equipment do you have access to?
7.) What’s your style and philosophy?
8.) How much time and money will this cost me?
9.) Are you passionate about your job?
10.) What do you need from me?
That’s not too hard to do. Each coach is going to be different and you will need to compile a list of pros vs. cons for each one you contact. Keep an open mind because some coaches work from the other side of the world. Next, you want to find some of their athletes and ask some of the same questions. Many coaches only work well with a specific type of athlete. Some are better with driven people, while others like the challenge of drawing out the best in their clients. It’s totally up to you.
Every coach should be able to provide you with at least a detailed training plan geared towards your own abilities and goals. The results can then be measured and changes made accordingly. This is key. The results need to be quantifiable and interpreted correctly to keep you improving month after month. The last thing you want is to be given a “cookie cutter” style regimen that has been proven to work, but is not nearly as effective as something personalized. Besides, a 5K training plan for a beginner runner is going to be WAY different than a 10K training plan for an elite Olympic Distance triathlete. This is where the elites can do their own interpretations of plans once they have an idea of their own abilities. This is not something for a beginner to do. Every plan has some sort of flexibility to it, and that’s why there are hundreds of them out their on the internet, in books, or built into apps. Many of today’s trainers and coaches just take what’s worked for them and modify to improve. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time. Pre-designed plans also tend to be less expensive than having a coach, but you will need to follow it on your own without having anybody driving you.
I have been using a sports doctor/coach for a year now, and it has been the best investment I have made in the multisport world yet. He is able to test my VO2 max on my bike and treadmill, create training plans from that data, evaluate biomechanics, fit me to my bike, prescribe physical therapy and medication for injury, and be there to answer questions over email. He also allows me to utilize his computrainer every now and then. All of this comes at a cost, but the results are phenomenal. Whether you decide to get a coach, or coach yourself, make sure there’s somebody involved in that equation that knows what they’re doing.