This post is going help you ask the right questions to create the conditions for a successful coach–athlete relationship. Most athletes are looking for a Coach because they’re seeking improvement in either their training (such as a particular discipline) or in their overall performance. But the reality is that it’s not easy to discern how someone else will help you achieve your goals without clearly defining the concept of success. It’s easy to look at accreditations, experience, race results, etc., but none of those are indicators of success.
In fact, the most effective means that you as an athlete have for evaluating a potential Coach is most likely word-of-mouth. It’s a good place to start, but it shouldn’t be the only criteria.
As a business owner, and a former one-on-one Coach, I have built a full-time career around helping athletes reach their potential. The most critical thing that we have done here inside Endurance Nation is to help athletes to define success at the outset of their relationship with us and then give them the means to achieve it. Before you drop several hundred non-refundable dollars on a Coaching relationship that you’re not sure works, please read the following.
#1 — How Do You Define Success?
It’s easy to talk to a Coach about what makes them successful, let’s not forget that their job is to make you successful. So straight up ask – what will make their work with you successful? You might be surprised at the answer.
Inside Endurance Nation success is not limited on your personal performance. Whether you have a good run or a good race (or not!) is not the final arbiter that you have become successful. Rather it’s your ability to clearly explain our concepts around training and racing to someone else inside the community that tells me you truly understand what you’re doing.
We are on a mission to build an army of self coached athletes: these are people who can self support and train/race competently without someone looking over their shoulder. A clear indicator of reaching this level of experience and competence is your ability to share what you’ve learned with others in order to support them as they develop.
Not everyone needs to be a world championships qualifier to have the authority to explain training concepts or the value of certain types of equipment or strategies.
Endurance Nation eliminates that “testosterone factor” and allows everyone to speak on equal terms. The athletes who take advantage of that, the ones who are thriving on the inside, those are the ones who get it. When you reach that stage, then you have truly become a successful athlete.
#2 – What Did You Learn Last Year That You Will Be Doing This Year?
Every year is an opportunity to incorporate new knowledge and experience. Maybe you thought that riding your bike hundred miles every weekend was a good idea for your racing, so you did it… And then you raced. How did that work out for you?
Asking this question is important because it requires your prospective Coach to explain a training or racing thesis, how they tested it, the outcomes of that test, and then what they plan on doing with the information.
That cycle – very similar to the scientific method – is a critical part of how we operate inside Endurance Nation. Anyone can search on the Internet for a breakthrough worked out. Or you can talk to your crazy fit neighbor and find out what she does and just copy her. But having a training or recent protocol, testing it, and learning from it is worth ten times more.
By testing these different approaches to training and racing your prospective Coach will be learning what works for who and how and where and when. All of that information then becomes critical resource for you, the athlete. This simple question will help you discern whether or not your Coach is actively learning as a professional or not. Where have their changes come from? Do they have any changes at all?
Inside Endurance Nation we rewrite our training plans every single year. With more than 750 athletes across the globe using our resources, we get weekly feedback on the successes and failures of our members. We track this performance through frequent testing as well as the anecdotal reports and resources that are given to us in our forums. We even have an annual survey leaves where our members have the opportunity to give us feedback and make suggestions for future training. We compile all of that information and then use it to rewrite our training plans. We are now in our ninth season and our Ironman training plans, for example, are in their 15th edition. This relentless pursuit for excellence directly benefits you.
#3 – What’s Consistently Your Biggest Challenge?
Being a Coach is not something that most people are trained to do. Many coaches get started as a successful athlete who eventually evolved into someone who people wanted to work with. The transition from doing something and teaching something, or in doing something and leading someone there’s always friction. How I teach swimming or running or how I talk about nutrition, for example, will lead people to ask certain questions.
Having a Coach who is aware of the limitations of their system and approach to coaching should give you the confidence to select them as your Coach. This is because they have demonstrated the capacity to self-review and to listen to feedback from their customers. If you can find someone who’s adept at that, then you absolutely have someone who can help nurture you to be your best.
With more than 750 athletes training and racing every year, we get thousands of data points feedback on what does and doesn’t work. Because the majority of our resources and content are online, we get actual data around what is the most read article or what is the most watched video. I can see where’s people’s eyeballs are going and where they aren’t. I can see from the race reports and feedback how the system that we have is or isn’t working.
While many people might consider an online Coaching group like Endurance Nation to be a step below a personal face-to-face relationship, it’s actually the opposite – we have the data, the information and the diversity of members that allow us to create and share information and learn rapidly from what does and doesn’t work.
In the early days of Endurance Nation, Coach Rich and I decided that we would be leaders and not put ourselves on top of a mountain like most most Coaching “gurus.” That’s because we quickly found that inside Endurance Nation there were tens if not hundreds of athletes who were smarter than Rich and me. Some were engineers some had decades of experience training and racing, others were total geeks about aerodynamics or tire pressure – all of those different personalities combined to create an incredible experience and serve as resources for Endurance Nation most importantly, these are resources that never would have existed if it was up to Rich and myself to create them from scratch.
#4 – If I Could Only Master One Thing with You, What Would It Be?
Challenge your prospective Coach to boil down their approach to just one critical thing. Their choice will tell you a lot about how they work with athletes. Is it mental? Is it physical? Does it have to do with equipment or fitness? Does it have to do with race selection or body composition? Is it real world related, or is it something to do with technology?
This will also force your prospective Coach really think outside the box. Many Coaches require a year-long or even longer relationship for their results to be seen. This is reflected in their payment and terms of service. You’ll quite often see Coaches who require several months of payment up front, much of which is nonrefundable. They need to get you locked in so that you’ll stick around long enough to see the reward.
That’s not how we operate. Everyone gets a Free Trial. Everyone is free to leave at any point in time. We are very quick to offer refunds to those who don’t want to be here. If you want to be here, I don’t want your money. And quite frankly, our reputation is too valuable to jeopardize over $100!
If there was one thing that I could give to you in our time working together I would choose our Four Keys of Race Execution.
Created in 2008/2009 by Coach Rich, the our Four Keys of Race Execution offer a high level approach to managing your effort and pacing on race day. This approach is one of the cornerstones of the Endurance Nation philosophy.
Sure you might train 364 days a year but you will always remember this year for what you did on race day. It’s no secret that races are your biggest benchmark and your biggest investment of time and money. We want that experience to be as powerful and as rewarding as possible. In fact the most important thing that we wish for is that you are able to race to your potential. Having the Four Keys in your back pocket is the first most important step towards being able to execute.
Once you know the fundamentals, you can work beyond them to become more adept at managing nutrition and heart but you have to trust the system first before you can move on. Once you’ve trusted that system and raced with the you always know how to execute – just like riding a bike. Your first season inside EN is all about mastering the Four Keys of Race Execution.
#5 – When Is Your Next Race?
This might be nitpicky but I think it’s really important that your prospective Coach is still active in the sport. It’s one thing to read articles, talk to people, or form opinions about what might or might work for athletes. It’s another thing to base that input and feedback on your own personal experience. I myself don’t recommend anything that I haven’t done or used personally for the team. All of the training approaches in racing guidance that our Team uses has been proven in the real world, much of it by myself and Coach Rich. We are essentially the “lab rats” who put our bodies and training time on the line to see if a new approach or piece of equipment or strategy is more beneficial than what we already have.
More important than just training or results, actively racing means managing all the other stuff that’s happening. It’s not just the training, it’s how you schedule your life. It’s how you juggle other things that are going on. It’s how you manage stress at work or changes in your health. There’s a ton of variables that go into being successful athlete and if your Coach is not familiar with that daily struggle, with the grind that is required to build and sustain personal excellence as a triathlete, then they might be asking you to do things that’s simply won’t jive with the world you live in.
Choosing a Coach or a training program requires some diligence and thought. The more time you put into the selection, the happier you’ll be with the outcome and the subsequent results. Remember this isn’t about buying a set of wheels… You are picking an individual, or a Team, or a system that is going to guide you ideally for at least the next year. Do your research, ask the tough questions, and reap the results. Best of luck to you in 2016 and beyond!
PS — Don’t forget that Endurance Nation has a free trial membership where you can explore the Team, get your training plans, talk to the Coaches and make sure your year is truly your best. You can find us online at: www.endurancenation.us/join.