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The top 5 keys to self-coaching triathlon success

Posted Apr 08 2011 11:29am


We spend thousands of dollars individually (if you don’t think so, keep a spreadsheet of your tri related expenses and you will be surprised), adjust our food intake and deprive ourselves of our favorite foods, and spend countless hours training in order to attain that brass ring in the sport of triathlon.

For some, the brass ring is simply completing a race. For others, it’s moving up to the top 3 in their age group or even going pro and competing at the highest levels of the sport.

Whatever the goal, the age old question remains; “do I need a coach for this crazy endeavor?”

Yes you do. Wait, no you don’t. Well, maybe…

Coaches are popping out of the woodwork. Google triathlon coach for your area and I’m sure you will find a handful. Better yet, there are a growing population of online coaches that will work your plan with your over email and phone when they are 2000 miles away! Need that coach with you in your workout pushing you? Prop your smart phone up by the lap pool and he can Tweet encouragement at you. USAT’s website has a list of certified coaches my major city. Next thing you know there will be Oh wait, THERE IS, but it’s not for triathletes, bust.

Coaches are out there and they have as many different philosophies as Ironman has as many different 70.3 races these days. There’s no doubt you can find a coach to meet your goals and mentality, but the big hurdle is cost. Triathletes already pay out of the wazoo for gear and entry fees; do we really have any left over for a coach? Some can run as much as $200 a month depending on what you need.

Coaching is a mixed bag. It’s not a catch-all for all triathlete goals. If you are looking to step up to the next level as a pro or elite, getting a coach is probably a foregone conclusion. If you want to be ready to compete in your first triathlon or improve your standings from back-of-the-pack to front-of-the-pack, there are enough resources such as local multisport clubs, online resources, forums and friends that you can do it without a true coach. Some websites even have “mentors” that will coach you for free! Beware that you sometimes get what you pay for, though.


Here are the keys to what you need to be self-coached with attainable realistic goals:

  1. Time. Time to go online for advice and research training plans. You will also need time to put a plan together and figure out what you need to do and when you need to do it in addition to the training.
  2. Internet Access. The internet has become as essential as swimming goggles. There are endless amounts of sites, blogs and forums on the subject of triathlon. All you have to do is apply tip 1 and narrow down to what you need.
  3. Organization. You have to be able to take the info you find and boil it down to a doable and effective training plan. If you don’t have a plan, it won’t work.
  4. Effort and Motivation. If you need external motivation to push you to train and race, self coaching isn’t going to work for you. You have to have the internal drive to want to race and improve to apply tip 1, 2 and 3.
  5. Experience. Repetition is key. As you do with training, there is no replacement for race day experience. You can practice at the beach and driveway transitions all you want but it just does not compare to race day when you have 5 gallons of adrenaline pumping in your veins and you’re trying to get your dang wetsuit off and bike shoes on. The more races you do, the more you pick up. You can read about it all you want on the internet but if you don’t execute on race day AND FAIL on some race days, you won’t learn.

Hopefully these tips will help some of you out there to make a decision to go one way or another. Happy hunting, training and racing!

Runfinish Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog , married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans.  Ryan is also the Kansas City Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughts HERE and he collects race reviews at .  Contact Ryan at: or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan .

*Expressed opinions are not necessarily that of

Follow on twitter @ everymantri or view latest videos on YouTube .

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