Coaches provide encouragement, support and accountability that help you define and achieve your goals. Identifying the right mix of workouts and activities will help you avoid injuries, get faster and stay focused. In today’s world with shelter-in-place order prevalent around the globe, now is a great time to hire a coach. Need more convincing, check out our top 10 reasons to hire a coach.
Now that you know you want to hire a coach; how do you find one? What is the process? What questions should you ask?
There are several organizations that have created curriculum and certification requirements for individuals to follow in order to become a coach. The type of coach you hire depends on your goals and interests.
For endurance athletes, this list provides the most recognized organizations with top-notch certification requirements. The links will take you to their database of certified coaches so you can get connected with the professionals who are here to help you.
CERTIFYING ORGANIZATIONS AND SEARCH SITES
These coaches have completed at least a 30-hour course and passed a rigorous test with multiple choice, essay and short answer. Their tool allows you to search by credential, location, specialties and discipline.
TrainingPeaks is a software and app used by many triathlon and endurance coaches to share workouts and to allow athletes to provide feedback. This platform allows athletes to find workout plans, connect with coaches and sync wearable technology to share data from workouts. TrainingPeaks has a certification program and a directory where you can search by criteria to find coaches. If you don’t know what you’re looking for specifically, there is also an option where they can help you find a coach right for you based on a questionnaire you fill out. The coaches on this platform have either been certified through the TrainingPeaks certification process or by another organization.
If you’re a triathlete, you know of the big brand “IRONMAN”. Several years ago, they created a certification program and also have a tool to help athletes connect with coaches based on the athlete preferences. This tool provides a quick method for finding coaches in geographical areas with easy to find years of experience.
Interested in focusing on cycling, mountain biking or other two-wheeled activities? USA Cycling certification focuses on all types of cycling related sports and their coach finding site allows you sort coaches by discipline and location.
USA MASTERS SWIMMING
Coaches certified from this organization hosts group swim instruction, exercises and competition for swimmers and aspiring swimmers throughout the US. Although pools are closed, these coaches are available to help you build your strength and fitness on dry-land so when we are able to swim in pools again, you will be more fit and stronger than ever. You can search by coach or by club. The word “masters” indicates it is for swimmers above the age of 18. You need no experience to participate in the masters program… in fact, if you’re learning how to swim at an older age, this is a great group of coaches who have taught many individuals how to swim.
ROAD RUNNERS CLUB OF AMERICA
Most regions of the US allow individuals to go outside for exercise during “Shelter-in-Place” restrictions. Running has the lowest barrier so it’s usually pretty easy for individuals to choose for fitness. All you need are athlete clothes and appropriate shoes. Coaches will help athletes make the most of this opportunity to log miles and will provide instruction on the correct running form to help you avoid injury.
If you are overwhelmed by the options available to you, we understand. There are thousands of certified professional coaches eager to help you. Ask your friends or call your local bike shop or running store for advice. They know the coaches near you and can help connect you with the coach who has the experience, knowledge and personality that best suits what you need.
GUIDANCE FOR INTERVIEWING COACHES
Now that you’ve found a few coaches with bios that are interesting to you, what do you do next? Schedule a time to talk with these individuals. Below is a list of things to consider talking about when you interview those individuals:
It’s no surprise that more experience provides more exposure to a variety of scenarios. Also, coaches who have worked for a couple of years or more will have built up a large library of of references and past workouts to leverage for your training. They will be able to choose from the most effective workouts to help you reach your goals. However, the more experience a coach has might cost you more. These experienced coaches might focus on certain segments of athletes such as elite athletes. Newer coaches usually have participated in the sport for a long time so have a deep understanding of the sport. Their certification is rigorous so consider coaches of a variety of years of experience. Experience matters but more doesn’t always mean it’s the right fit for you. Ask the prospective coach what type of athletes they work with and the experience of the athletes. If you are just beginning, you will want to work with a coach who works more with beginners. If you’re going to try out for the 2021 Olympics, a different coach will be right for you.
With social distancing in place, virtual tools will be vital for coaches to communicate and receive feedback. Most coaches have used virtual tools for at least some aspects of their coaching services prior to the current pandemic. Tools like TrainingPeaks are very helpful for coaches to share workouts and for you to share your workout results with them. Ask the prospective coach what other tools are they familiar with? Did they use those tools prior to the Covid pandemic? Some coaches focus more on in-person workouts and some are more familiar with virtual coaching. For now, virtual coaching is the most important skill. If you think you will maintain the relationship in the future, you will want to consider your lifestyle and find a coach that will work for your future normal.
Coaching is a business and most industries have different business models to provide unique opportunities to their customers. As a customer, do your homework and find out how the coaches will be paid and how often. It is important to know if they have a minimum amount of time they want to work with athletes and be sure to find out what their cancellation policy is. By speaking to several coaches, you will start to see a trend which will allow you to understand the right investment choice for your situation.
Understand what their workout plans typically include and ask them not only for the workouts but examples of how they check in with you as an athlete. Are they available for questions? What are their hours? Do they use virtual training tools? How often do they check in with digital tools? There is no right answer for this category, but you know what works best for your lifestyle and personality. Find a coach that matches you… the right coach for you is out there so be patient and speak with several individuals.
As with most big decisions, you will want input for your investments. I have not found a “Yelp” for reading reviews of coaches .., yet. Once you start working with a coach, that individual will become your confidante and a person you rely on for support. You will be sharing a lot of insight from how your body responds to the workouts as well as what the other stress is in your life. You will want to feel comfortable with this person. Finding someone who works with your style and someone you enjoy speaking to will be important. Ask for references of current and past athletes to hear their perspectives for why they hired this coach and what they enjoy (or not) about working with them. There is no right answer for this category either. This will provide you more context to find the right coach for you.
Working with a coach in today’s world of social distancing will be a 1-to-1 experience. However, some coaches are doing a great job of creating a sense of community with their current athletes and partners. Working out helps you individually but as humans, we enjoy company of other humans. These workout partners help us enjoy the journey and provide motivation when we need it. So, you’ll want to find a tribe you get along with. Also, once group workouts start again, you will have like-minded individuals to workout with again.
This should not be a deal breaker but can be a nice-to-have. Many coaches have created alliances with brands, shops and race directors which could save you a lot of money. Some have arranged limited free or discounted entry to events or discounts at stores. This shouldn’t drive your decision but it is nice to know what other opportunities these coaches have created to benefit their athletes.
Finding a coach is a lot of work but like most things, the hard work is rewarded. You will enjoy your workouts, stay motivated and know that you are supported by someone who is genuinely interested in your well-being.
Ok, still not convinced, that’s okay. Now might not be the right time to hire a coach. Many are struggling financially or have lost their job. That doesn’t mean you can’t get the support you need. There are other options:
- Talk to coaches and see if they will work with you on the pricing and payment options.
Look for groups that have gone virtual. Many shops, physical therapists and clubs are offering remote options.
- Speak to your local shops and check in with the knowledgeable professionals there. They will want to help you and might be able to provide some of the support you need. After all, they did decide to work full-time in the industry and the shop owner opened the shop to help the local community.
- Coaches and groups provide so many benefits. Identifying the right coach will be a partner to help you optimize the effort you put into your health. Choose wisely.
- Good luck and know that everyone here at Podium Multisports wish the best for you and are here to support you.
Written by Kristin Janacek, Certified USAT Coach and USA Cycling Coach. Can be found on TrainingPeaks as well.