So you’re ready to take your racing to the next level. Or maybe you’re just struggling with planning out your training plan. Either way, you’ve started to think about hiring a coach. But how in the world do you go about doing that?
Finding a coach is more than just saying “Oh hey look, that person is a coach. I will hire them!”
First you have to figure out what you’re looking for in a coach. Ask yourself these questions.
Local or no?
Do you want someone local who can meet you for workouts or do you just need someone who is accessible by phone and email? There are benefits to both, it just depends on what you prefer.
Personally, I don’t love super structured workout schedules. I like knowing that I have to do this workout on this day, but when I do it is flexible. It makes things like getting stuck in traffic much less stressful. So I don’t need a coach who will meet up with me.
Group or Individual?
Some coaches do group coaching, where they will help a group of people get ready for a particular race. This is a bit less individualized (and also often cheaper), but you get the benefit of the group camaraderie. You’re going through it together, and that builds a lot of team spirit.
What qualifies your coach to be a coach? There are various certifications, depending on sport and location. I’m not going to say that any one is better than another. Just do a bit of research into who your coach is and what their experience is.
What does the Coach require of you?
Different Coaches have different requirements of what you need to do as an athlete. Some ask that you race wearing their branded gear. This can build a great team atmosphere if you use a local coach. Some require you to show up to a certain number of training sessions. Others are more hands off and require that you update your training plan with completed workouts or share your Garmin/Strava data with them so they can keep track of your progress. None of these requirements are bad – it just depends on what you want from your coach.
Sorry, coaching isn’t free. And the more specialized attention you want, the more you’re going to pay. You might find some coaches just starting out who are offering their services at a discount while they work on their coaching skills, and that can be beneficial to both the coach and the athlete who doesn’t have as much to spend. But in general, the coaching fees are going to vary, so be mindful of your budget as you are researching coaches.
Also, be mindful of what sort of contract the coach requires. Some require you to sign up through a season, so you’re committing to paying through a certain date. Many simply require you to pay monthly or on another set schedule, and you can quit at anytime if things just aren’t working out.
So you know what you’re looking for. What are the next steps? Ask your friends who are in the sport. Who do they use for coaching? Who have they heard of? Who do they recommend (or not recommend) and why?
You can also find listings of coaches through the various certification services.
Before you officially hire your coach, take the time to interview them. Talk through your goals and ask about their coaching style. Are they ready to take on an athlete like you, and do you like their methods of coaching? A lot of coaching is finding someone who you can work well with, and that is very personal.
Now go out, find your coach, and meet your goals!