Many athletes will entertain the idea of working with a coach at some point in their career. Some will want guidance from the beginning of their athletic endeavors; others will feel they have taken themselves as far as they can without a more experienced mentor pointing the way. No matter when you think about working with a coach, you’ll likely consider the idea of coaching yourself first.
As you consider whether to go the self-coached route or to team up with a coach, here are some questions to consider.
Can I coach myself?
It all comes down to evaluating what you want and need as an athlete, and then seeing how well your resources and skills stack up. Do you have the time available to read up on all the information available on the web, a large amount of which is complete crap (being honest here) and dissect it all? Can you take much of which is just “snapshot” information and comprehend how to apply it within the context of a strategic approach to season-long training and racing?
When you’re reporting back to someone about a workout, coaches establish a sense of accountability, a powerful source of motivation for many athletes. We all like to hear constructive feedback, but it’s hard to get that kind of feedback when the conversation is between you and yourself.
One of the biggest ways a coach can help you is to determine what a realistic training week looks like, and then help you make the best use of your time available. Self-coached athletes tend to create the “perfect training plan” and then try to shoehorn their lives around the plan, rather than building their training plan into the ebb-and-flow of their daily lives. If you’re unable to put the emotional component on the shelf while planning your training, you can find yourself behind the 8 ball early into your training plan. Then what?
There are 3 buckets of stress – physical, emotional and mental. The body doesn’t discern the type of stress we apply; it only knows that it needs to process “stress”. And, if our life is such that all 3 buckets of stress are overflowing, are you equipped to first identify this is occurring, and second know how to adjust things on the fly to compensate for the overload and for how long?
Trusting Your Instincts
If you’ve been training for a few years—with or without a coach—you’re likely able to understand what’s going on with your body and training. And, to a certain degree, you might even know how to make adjustments. Or do you? What level of confidence do you have when asking yourself “What should I do about today’s scheduled workout? Should I complete it or do I need to adjust it?” A coach’s objectivity can be priceless here.
While any one of these factors could lead you to hire a coach, it’s important to remember that most of us have the basics of the sport covered. The acts of swimming, biking and running are basic and athletes have a basic understanding of how to complete each type of sport. However, there’s always more to learn, and constant time and attention that needs to be applied to your “Master Plan”. And, if you find that you’re consistently wondering whether or not you could get to “the next level” by working with a coach, then it’s probably time to take the plunge.