MASTER YOUR OWN DESTINY
It’s a no-brainer to say that a coach can help you get fitter, learn more and achieve higher order athletic skills. The benefits of having a coach are many: he or she can provide clearly structured workouts, accountability, an objective eye and regular feedback on how best to improve performance. However, numerous informal studies have found that upwards of three quarters of all triathletes opt not to have a paid coach guide them.
Numerous factors are at play in this decision. Cost, which typically varies from $150/month to more than four times that amount; athletes wishing to maintain complete flexibility over their training; and an abundance of free materials and resources readily available online covering almost every tri-related topic one can think of.
It begs the obvious question: for those not wishing to hire a formal coach (the clear majority of multisport athletes) how can they successfully master their own destiny? Overseeing your training and racing comes with its own set of unique challenges that must be adequately addressed. In simple terms, it’s not as straightforward as many suppose.
Karsten Madsen, a two-time off-road national triathlon champion, is a young man on the rise in the triathlon world. He represents a new wave of athlete: equally adept at road and off-road multisport challenges. He has coached himself, has been coached by some of the best triathlon minds in the business and now coaches aspiring athletes himself. Madsen is at the top of his game with numerous off-road victories in 2016 and seems an obvious person to discuss the topic of self-coaching. Make no mistake, Madsen is definitely a proponent of having a coach. “I’ve been down the self-coached route (from 2013 to 2014), but I personally found I made too many mistakes. I was either doing way too much work or just not enough. A coach really helps you sort out all the things within your training and racing, but it goes beyond that. They can become one of the closest people in your life. They see you at your worst and they are there for the best. They bring you back to reality when you need it and always pick you up when you’re down. A good coach will keep you training happily and consistently.”
Currently coached by Craig Taylor, Madsen says with candour, “When he started to work with me I was a guy that could barely make the top 10 of a race.” The rest, as they say, is history.
In our discussions, Madsen touched on numerous key points surrounding self-coaching. He’s adamant that, for many athletes, there is still a place for self-coaching.
A lot of athletes have taken a turn at both self-coaching and paying for formal coaching. In the self-coaching phase many will use online advice or tap experienced athletes for advice. This is almost a rite of passage for those starting out in the sport and there is nothing wrong with this approach. In fact, many have used this strategy to great success and many continue in the present day down this road throughout their athletic endeavours. That said, having a different set of eyes to help motivate, inspire, build a successful training plan, and offer feedback also holds great value. Coaching is most effective when it is a joint effort, a two-way street, because no one knows your body like you do. A good coach will listen and the relationship should turn more into a partnership than a dictatorship as time goes by.
Kerry Hale is a triathlete and freelance writer from B.C.’S Comox Valley
ABOVE AND OPPOSITE Karsten Madsen self-coached in 2013 and 2014