Training: Should you get a coach?
Updated: Nov 22, 2018
The million dollar question, should you get a sports coach.
I often hear the question “should I get a coach” when speaking with friends and fellow sports enthusiasts. Gone are the days of coaches just being employed by top level or elite athletes, as the marketplace has shifted somewhat. People have realized that just because you’re not running a 2:20 marathon, doesn’t mean that you don’t have real goals or expectations. As with anything, it’s all about the journey and often that journey is better when you have a road map. What a coach does is help you to build out that road map, with key milestones along the way, whether it’s a race, a weight loss target or other goal that you want to achieve.
It’s not just a simple as finding the first coach you see online and paying over your hard-earned cash. Hopefully the below pointers will help you to establish if it’s the right decision for you.
Establish your own level of expertise: the reality is that often we pay to ‘outsource’ knowledge that we don’t have or for tasks that we don’t have time for. I don’t know how to replumb my shower for example, so I get a plumber in to sort it! Sports coaching is no different, if you have a background in sports science or have built up many years of experience, you most likely know enough to coach yourself. If you are lacking the experience, or simply just don’t know where to start, then a coach could be a great idea. Alternatively you may have a good base level of fitness, but want to step it up a notch or recover from an injury. Coaches can be great when brought in to help you achieve a short term goal or give you a well-deserved kick up the backside, so don’t just consider them as a monthly expense that will keep rolling for the next 5 years.
How well do you respond to inner and outer expectation: this specifically talks to how easy you find it to get up in the morning and crush your workouts. If you struggle with consistency and getting the sessions done, then a coach can be great in holding you to account for your planned workouts. If you’re like me and often drop sessions in exchange for work or family commitments, then creating that external expectation can be great in ensuring you stick to plan. If you have no problem in getting sessions done and staying motivated, then you will most likely be looking to employ a coach for the other reasons here such as a shortfall in knowledge, or for a specific goal in mind.
Level of interaction: what are your expectations when it comes to a coach? Are you looking for a monthly plan that is sent out on the first of the month and that’s it? Or are you looking for regular interaction and a plan that can be adapted with you and your schedule. When it comes to plans, anything and everything is possible, but ultimately it will come down to cost (see points below). This is something to raise in your initial conversation with a potential coach, so you can manage your expectations once you start the program. If you’re flat out with work, family and social activities and are likely to miss a lot of sessions, then you will want a plan that can be adapted. Generally speaking most coaches will structure their fees based on email, phone and text/WhatsApp interaction, as well as the amount of changes/edits that can be made to your plan throughout the week/month. You still have to be realistic in terms of your expectations however, coaches are busy people so don’t expect to send a txt at 2am cancelling a swim set and expect to have a new workout in the diary by 6am. Ask any potential coach how many clients they have, and try to gauge an idea of how best they like to interact with their athletes to see if there is a match.
Face to face or virtual: I nearly included this in the above point but figured it warrants its own point. With the advances in technology over the years, nowadays its more than realistic to have a coach that you never meet face to face. Smart phones and apps like Skype or Facetime enable you to stay in touch with your coach all around the world, and indeed around the clock. Its worth considering though how you best respond to your plan, are you someone who can read a plan the night before and stick to it, or do you need that face time to really get an understanding of your workouts. I personally believe that a combination of the two is good, but everyone is different.
Cost: Nowadays with your gym, Strava premium, Netflix and a heap of other subscriptions, everything starts to add up and the last thing you need is another monthly rolling cost. I was actually quite surprised to learn that you can establish a monthly plan from around £40-50 a month which I personally think is pretty reasonable. Of course you can find cheaper plans online (there are plenty of free 5k/10k etc. plans online for example), but expect them to be more generic and not tailored to you and your specific needs. You can then pay upwards of £200 a month for a top level coach, with higher levels of personal interaction. Generally speaking, the more you pay the more you want out of it, so go in with your eyes open and cover these points with a potential coach before you sign up to anything.
Choosing the right coach: this is an important one, and something very specific to you. Are you after a coach who kicks your arse if you miss a set or a workout? Or after a cheerleader approach who gives you high 5’s just for turning up. Again, this is personal to you and most coaches can tailor their approach to suit you, but think about how you best respond to encouragement. The same applies to feedback, the more involved your coach the more feedback you get and the better the outcome- but a base level plan will likely only give you weekly feedback. In terms of your sports discipline, there are many multi sports coaches who can cover everything from your first 5k to Ironman. I would say that if you have a specific goal, such as a mountain ultra, or a sub 10 hour Ironman, then it’s worth looking for a coach with that expertise. So, think about this if you are serious about getting set up with a coach and ensure you cover these questions off as part of your initial discussions with a potential coach.
Logistics: a boring point, but an important one. Most coaches will send you a contract to sign and request money via bank transfer on a monthly basis. Understand how much notice you need to provide if you want to cancel, and what your rights are to scale up and down the plan that you are on. Again go in with your eyes open and understand what you are getting for your money.
Embrace it: getting a coach is not of interest for some. For others, it’s a landmark decision in taking things a step forward with their training and recovery. Do your research and ensure that you pick someone you can build a great relationship with. Ultimately the better the coach understands you, the better they can tailor your plan to achieve the best outcome.
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