Getting a coach

I did something radical in November, something that I thought I’d never do because I just didn’t need to. I got a coach. Even now it feels a little odd saying that, after all I’m a qualified coach myself with plenty of experience, so why do I need a coach? Well let me explain.

I’m not one for cheesy motivational quotes or sharing inspirational words on Instagram but I do have a few personal mantras to help guide me through this crazy world and the following is in the top 3 – “stupidity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result”. Last summer I found myself writing weekly training plans and then consistently struggling to complete even 50% of the plan. Not because I physically couldn’t, but rather I wasn’t able to hold myself to account as I had in the past to be disciplined in getting the sessions done.

With this on my doorstep I wanted to be fit enough again to be able to go on adventures

Most of my training is done early in the morning, it fits better with family and work and in general I’m a morning person and enjoy knowing I’ve got the training done before most people wake up. Plus there is a much higher risk of evening plans getting impacted by work demands or simple tiredness. But it does require you to take that first step out of bed when the alarm goes off at 5.30am which let’s face it doesn’t always feel that attractive when your bed is warm and cosy. In the past I’ve been pretty good at getting it done and coached myself to 12 marathons, 2 ultras and an ironman.

When I reflect I think the sheer volume of training for the Ironman was the tipping point, averaging 10+ hours of training for 6 months was a huge commitment but the goal motivated me and I was happy to do it with the support of my family. However the post race blues got me like never before, a few weeks of easy training and rewarding myself for the achievement turned into a few months and I just couldn’t get back to any consistency. Throw in some work stress that resulted in me looking for a new job (and ultimately a new job in a different country!) and there was an easy excuse for not training.

Getting out before the sun rises isn’t always easy

Which led me to reflect on what I wanted from my training; continue with trying to be triathlete? Go back to pure running? Some more multisport races? Actually while having a race to aim for is fun a large part of training for me is about more than achieving a goal race. It’s good for me both mentally and physically to be active, I know I’m a better person when I’m exercising regularly.

But even knowing that I needed to be active I wasn’t being consistent in my training, which is what led me to contemplating getting a coach. I needed someone who was going to keep my accountable to my plan and also give me some new sessions and approaches to training. Variety is the spice of life after all.

Training variety helps, I’ve rediscovered a love for mountain biking now we’re in Wales

Now the downside of living in rural Wales is that it was highly unlikely I was going to find a coach local to me who I could see physically on a regular basis. The nearest running club is a 30 minute drive away and there isn’t a huge demand for running coaches in a primarily farming neighbourhood! A bit of internet searching and also asking on Instagram for suggestions led me to discovering Whittlefit, based in Cardiff so not a million miles from me and recommended by a couple of quality athletes.

The rest as they say is history, a coffee with Mark gave me the reassurance that it could work and was at the very least worth trying for a few months. I’ve now had 7 months of really consistent training, I’ve increased my FTP by more than 10% and got the excitement back in my training again. Knowing that if I don’t complete the planned session I have to explain why to Mark has helped me take the first cold step out of bed each day. But if something does come up then we have a quick chat and figure how to adapt the plan to suit the work/life/family balance. We also meet up face to face periodically to chat about how things are going but otherwise communicate through TrainingPeaks and email.

For someone who loves having a plan Training Peaks is a great tool for the coach/athlete relationship

Getting a coach has certainly worked for, if you’re struggling to hit your goals or just need a bit more support with your training then worth considering getting a coach. If you do then think about the type of relationship you want with your coach and make sure you discuss that with them so you

3 thoughts on “Getting a coach

  • Ben, I found your blog whilst researching The Lakesman, and all your posts have been interesting and useful. I took the plunge and entered what will be my first Ironman and it’s now less than a week away. Scared and nervous just about sums it up, have probably done enough training to get round, but it won’t be pretty. Can easily see me getting the post-race blues and so this is another timely article. Many thanks! Micky Wheeler

    • cheers Micky, how did the race go? It’s such a big undertaking training for an ironman that unless it becomes something you do all the time can leave a big hole. Just finding my feet again now I think.

  • Ben, thanks for asking, it was great! Made a long weekend out of it and had some family and friends along to support which really helped. Even by my lowly standards I had a poor swim but got it back on the bike and then had a fairly strong run. Told everyone I just wanted to get round but secretly hoped for sub-14; ended up with a 13:34. Looking back I was fairly conservative so I think there’s an improvement to be made. But…you’re so right…having trained for 22 weeks and reached a level of fitness that genuinely surprised me, I now have a total lack of focus, and apart from cycling to work and a weekly parkrun I’m not doing anything (unless eating chocolate cake has suddenly become an Olympic sport). I’m sure it won’t last and I will naturally get back on it but I’m definitely in limbo at present. Take care, keep up the blogging and I hope you start setting some new training goals. Micky

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