Triathlon Training Programs and Coaches

This article highlights the pros and cons of DIY triathlon training programmes versus engaging the services of a professional coach. The choice is yours depending on your individual needs for support, guidance and direction and of course budget but here we outline what to consider before making that decision.
Created: August 2011
Revised: November 2012
Latest Feedback: November 2012

The Right Training

Triathlons are among the most gruelling of multi-sport events, where you need to be self-motivated, determined and ready to accept the challenges of the race. Just because you get outdoors to train on a regular basis doesn’t guarantee that you are in effect, training effectively and efficiently. Performing well in triathlons is all about training smart. There are many mistakes that a triathlete could make when it comes to training programmes. Newcomers are at the risk of over-training in a bid to perform better, too soon. This often results in injuries and burnouts, which defeats the entire purpose of training with the objective of improving in the sport. However, even those with experience can waste time training when there is no structure or program - you'll hear them say "I just can't seem to get any faster". There is a reason for that!

Training for a Solid Base

It is essential to build a solid base training programme and take a systematic approach towards building up an effective and efficient training schedule. This will not only reduce the risk of injuries but allow you to peak during a race. Training programs are required to be well planned with intermittent periods of endurance training, strength training and more. It is impossible to build strength and speed without regular recovery and maintenance phases, which must be included in a training programme.

The very nature and science of the sport has made many triathletes achieve what was earlier considered impossible. This includes better ways to analyse the body’s response to training, the significance of biomechanics, physiology, nutrition, self-awareness and other important aspects. Trainers are now able to develop training programmes for aspiring triathletes on a scientific level, to help them achieve peak performance during a race.

DIY Training - Pros and Cons

For more experienced triathletes who are aware of some of the finer aspects of training such as periodization, there are many DIY training programmes in the form of books, DVDs and even online training programmes available. However, you must also have the ability to modify these to fit your individual needs, race plans, and various goals.

Many DIY training programmes are targeted at training for a specific race distances. These programmes usually have structured formula that combines various elements of volume, intensity and frequency. You can't typically pick any triathlon program and expect it to work miracles for every individual and in fact, without knowing the key goals of the program, following one not made for you (age, weight, gender, prior experience, current pacing, fitness level, prior injuries, lifestyle commitments, and goals) could have a negative impact on your training and fitness goals.

In addition, using a text-book program means you have no access to receive feedback and advice, which are the most valuable things you can receive from a personal trainer or coach. Besides, there are so many aspects to training that can never be effectively adapted through a standard DIY training programme. In this respect, hiring a coach is always a viable alternative. However, if you do choose a DIY programme ensure that you diligently follow it right from the start. Remember not to overdo it in your enthusiasm - this is the most commonly known cause of injuries and can easily result in serious setbacks to your ongoing racing future.

Advantages of a Hiring a Coach

A coach is in the best position to develop an effective training programme based on your specific needs. Given the numerous aspects of training, which include speed, developing your skills, and addressing specific weaknesses, a training coach is the only guarantee that these important aspects are not overlooked. The best part is that you can hire a coach for about the same cost as a gym membership if you desire. If you don’t fancy yourself committing to a DIY programme or haven’t achieved the results you were looking for, then this is the right time to employ a coach.

A coach has the skills to determine exactly what your needs are based on your strengths and weaknesses. Coaching is part science and good triathlon coaches are well versed in the science and have extensive racing expertise that can be applied to teach others. There are several benefits that a coach can provide to your training programme.

A coach is in the best position to develop an effective training programme based on your specific needs. Given the numerous aspects of training, which include speed, developing your skills, and addressing specific weaknesses, a training coach is the only guarantee that these important aspects are not overlooked. The best part is that you can hire a coach for about the same cost as a gym membership if you desire. If you don’t fancy yourself committing to a DIY programme or haven’t achieved the results you were looking for, then this is the right time to employ a coach.
A coach has the skills to determine exactly what your needs are based on your strengths and weaknesses. Coaching is part science and good triathlon coaches are well versed in the science and have extensive racing expertise that can be applied to teach others. There are several benefits that a coach can provide to your training programme.

Structure:- The most important element in training is a structured program that suits your needs. This will cover all aspects of training including easy runs, track-based workouts, hill climbs, pool, bike, recovery periods, rest and nutrition.

Motivation:- A coach is always there to motivate you no matter what your day may seem like. Of course, one of the aspects of training is to be more self-aware and your coach can help you achieve it.

Plan your goal:- Your coach will work with you towards meeting your goals by creating a structured training programme.

Monitor your progress:- Triathletes need to monitor speed and endurance continually, which can be best achieved with a coach. Your coach will create workouts with varying intensity and distance so that you can work towards improving your performance.

A triathlon coach will make an initial assessment to determine your fitness level, your goals and any prior experiences. Based on these results, he or she will develop a training programme that you will need to integrate into your daily lifestyle. This will include group and solo sessions, rest, recovery sessions, and specific training to suit your racing calendar. While he may not be there for every training session you will need to send in a weekly report and have a chat with your coach on a regular basis. Most coaches have a number of trainees under their belt and will coordinate group training sessions that you can participate in.

What to look for in a coach

  • Before you go ahead and hire a coach spend time on research. Ask as many questions as you desire so that you are confident about being in the right hands. Make sure the programme will be tailored to your needs.
  • A coach should be accessible to answer your queries. Find a coach that is prompt in replying and is personally accessible.
  • The coach’s experience counts so make sure you do choose one with extensive experience. You can always ask for proof of certification or references. It would be prudent to ask for a sample program in order to determine the coach’s training style and philosophy.
  • Go ahead and do some comparison shopping. The main reason why is that not all coaches may suit your style. A coach could work for you but may not work for your friend.
  • Determine the frequency of receiving workouts the coach. It is important that a coach responds to your training programme with a timely schedule.
  • Another important aspect to consider is how a coach will adjust to any unforeseen change in schedule due to injuries or visits out of town.

From your side, do not expect training programmes to work if you decide to skip a few sessions or adjust your schedule too frequently. A coach that designs a plan specifically for your needs will need you to work with it. No coach can guarantee that you could be the next Ironman but you can always work towards achieving your dream.

Tips for DIY Training Programs

Obviously, if you simply can't find a coaching arrangement that fits your needs, lifestyle, or budget then your next best thing is to create your own training program. The best way to do this, is to invest some time into reading relevant sports science so that you understand the basic concepts of how a program should be prepared.

The TriathlonOz shop has some exceptionally suitable book titles for you to choose from. For triathletes, we cannot recommend highly enough, the material to be found in The Triathlete's Training Bible, by one of the world's most highly regarded triathlon authors (and coach). Whilst you won't find a day-by-day 18 week plan to prepare you for a Half Ironman in this book, you will be better educated about the science behind training intensity, periodization, etc to be able to look at pre-defined standard programs and know a bit about how to adapt it to suit your personal needs and goals - this is the key!

Also, look at Training Plans for Multisport Athletes, which does contain training plans covering multiple weeks of build and adapt phases to get you to the Half Ironman, or Ironman.

Also, there is a plethora of training plans to be found on the internet. Whatever way you choose to train - remember race day is the reward you will reap for all your hard effort to just get to the start line!

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