Triathlon Magazine Canada - - TRANSITION - BY KERRY HALE

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

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