Let’s face it: when it comes to training, everyone is different. We all have different goals, methods, motivations and benchmarks for improvement.
There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach to training—and there never will be. And that’s okay.
Thanks to personal coaches, you can take your performances to the next level, regardless of your goals, methods, motivations or benchmarks for improvement.
“Personal coaches provide the personal attention that athletes need to help with their accountability and motivation,” says MJ Gasik, a USAT, Ironman U and USMS Level 4 Certified Coach, as well as the owner of Tri Right Coaching. “Not to mention, they also help ensure workouts are scheduled at the right time and completed correctly.”
Of equal importance, personal coaches help athletes better organize their overall training plans. After all, there’s virtually an unlimited supply of information available to athletes as they prepare to train, to the point in which they may encounter “paralysis by analysis.”
“A great coach will take their experience and education and sort through all the noise to develop a plan that works best for each individual athlete,” states Nickolaus Early, owner and head coach at E-Endurance.
Aside from offering athletes assistance with accountability, motivation, workout scheduling and training plan development, personal coaches must also educate their athletes. In fact, according to Darryl Tyndorf, Jr., Ph.D., owner and head coach at Endurance Evolution Multisport, LLC., education may be the most important role of personal coaches.
“Adult athletes need a different level of engagement that provides rationales for why things are being done a certain way and what the benefit is for doing so,” Tyndorf explains. “The reason why I say education is the most important is because it lends itself to increased engagement, motivation, accountability, self-awareness and self-respect—and it prevents over training and limits injuries.”
Let’s Get Personal … and Physical
This increased engagement should lead to an effective personal relationship with an athlete, a relationship so effective that the coach will understand his or her athlete’s goals, limitations and personalities.
In order to help achieve the set goals, a personal coach must create a plan based on the athlete’s current fitness abilities and schedule, according to Sharone Aharon, MS, a USAT Level III Elite Coach at Well-Fit Performance LLC.
“A coach will then be able to guide an athlete through the plan and modify it, as needed, to make sure the athlete is executing the plan to achieve maximum results on race day,” Aharon says. “And then the coach will analyze the athlete’s ongoing training and periodic testing, prior to modifying the training plan accordingly.”
Such assessment will provide athletes and personal coaches insight into how the training is going, which step of the training process athletes are currently involved with and how the athletes have enhanced their skills and results thus far.
“Utilizing this, coaches help maintain real and attainable expectations for each respective athlete,” Tyndorf states. “It is a coach’s job to be honest on attainable and manageable goals—and then provide the foundation to set athletes up for continuous success.”
Clearly, the coach-athlete relationship is an important one, so finding a coach that’s a good fit for your personality, goals and methods might be tricky. Consider the following possibilities in your search:
- Online searches. Keywords must be specific to you, according to Gasik, and you must do considerable research on each coach prior to choosing three to four to speak to on the phone or in-person, according to Early.
- Most athletes tend to find their coaches through references. Tyndorf believes athletes should speak to other athletes, as well as any of their current and former coaches. These conversations will provide all-encompassing views of coaches, including insights into what other athletes like (and don’t like) about their methods.
- Specific websites. Depending on your focus, remember to review websites that are designed for specific sports—running (Road Runners Club of America’s website, etc.), swimming (USA Masters websites) and triathlons (Ironman or USA Triathlon websites), as each site will provide information about coaches that specialize in each of those sports.
Timing, Pricing and ROI
Once you find a good fit, you must bear in mind that your coach’s session frequency will vary according to his or her specialty. For example, according to Gasik, swimming coaches may meet with you once every two weeks, while triathlon coaches may meet once a month and running coaches may meet once a week.
“But so much depends on the sport, the athlete and the goals of the specific athlete,” she says. “That’s the beauty of working one-on-one—together you can set your own schedule and goals.”
Likewise, pricing varies quite considerably, ranging from $10 to $150 per private session and $100 to $500 per month for long-term, customized training plans.
“To pay for the extra work and testing that’s required to get you going, coaches may also charge start-up fees,” Aharon states. “This is a very important process that ensures the success of the program. It usually costs about 50 to 100 percent of a monthly fee.”
“Paying more doesn’t mean you’ll receive better coaching though,” Early stresses. “I’ve had friends who have paid coaches over $500 a month for online coaching and the coach could never keep a scheduled phone call.”
He adds, “On the other hand, some coaches who charge a lot less are very responsive to athletes. In the end, it’s all about value and how athletes measure that value and the return on investment.”
Although it’s often costly to hire personal coaches, athletes must consider the benefits of the potentially long-term, one-on-one interaction, and the ways in which it will improve their overall performances.
“The bottom line is this: personal coaching can be the absolute best investment you ever make in your development as an athlete,” Gasik says. “You will not regret it.”