Trying to decide whether you want a coach, training plan or neither can be tough. With a plethora of options out there, how are you meant to choose? I don't think many people would turn down a free coach (free trial) ... however a coach may not be the most accessible option for many, and therefore we will look at the alternatives.
Related: Benefits of an online coach
Related: How to make your own training plan
Here we try and break down what each of them entails and which one might be right for you!
We will break them down into three categories and quickly explain the difference between:
Coaching yourself without the input of others to achieve your goals.
Buying a training plan with little to no input from a coach at all.
Sourcing outside help to curate and deliver a training plan tailored to you and your goals.
Being self coached has pro's and con's which we will look at later. In short it's the cheapest option available. There are a few different types of self coaches, but we will focus on the 'certified' self coach... and the 'experienced' self coach.
A certified self coach could be seen as someone who's gained a coaching qualification and therefore thinks that they can coach themselves... this may or may not be the case, however it's worth being careful of this, as you can easily miss out on the experience of a lot of knowledgable individuals in the sport that may be able to help you to achieve your goals.
The experienced self coach is as it says on the tin... someone with a lot of experience in the area and has tapped into a lot of different sources of information, coaches, and literature, and knows their body well enough to manage it. Again... what does this experience look like? How many Pro athletes at the top of the sport do you know that coach themselves successfully? Probably a hand full.
That's not to say that it's not possible... you can definitely improve using this method with enough knowledge and experience with your own body. It's just worth noting it probably isn't the preferred choice as even Pro's don't trust themselves to train without aid. Pros
It can be fun to learn new things as you go and work it out for yourself.
The satisfaction of doing it on your own.
Don't need to communicate with others.
Easy to second-guess yourself
It's hard to decipher what is right and wrong out of the information available
Easy to get it wrong
Time intensive since much of your time is spent reading, studying, and analyzing
Higher risk of injury or overtraining - lack of an outsiders perspective
Who should self-coach
Someone with plenty of experience training and racing, with good knowledge in and around the sport.
Someone with good perspective, who can zoom in and out, looking at the bigger picture as well as the finer details.
Who should NOT self-coach
Someone with a lack of experience
Someone lacking the time and mental capacity
Someone lacking decisiveness...
Training plans come in all shapes and sizes... the most basic form is a pdf training plan that you can download for free.
We are talking about training plans that tend to be downloaded, with you left to your own devices to execute. They are usually unspecific and generic, not tailored to you and your goals.
That does not, however, mean that there isn't a place for training plans, or that there aren't plans out there that are slightly tailored to you.
We provide plans that are tailored and monitored, just on a far less frequent basis than that of a personal coach, as we don't believe being left to your own devices / without supervision to execute a plan you've bought on the internet. It's meant as an intermediary between the expense of a personal coach, and a basic plan you get off the internet.
If you're looking for a plan, a good idea is to get one that can be put onto Training Peaks, an online platform for delivering, monitoring and tracking progress. Training peaks also have a library of plans you can purchase and upload yourself.
Here are a few other sources of training plans:
Cost-effective ... This comes with a caveat, that if you aren't able to stick to the plan, then what's the point. It's like having a gym membership, without turning up to the gym.
An informed structure and direction
There are good plans out there that help a lot of people
Plans are built by a knowledgeable and experienced coach... sometimes!
Not customizable or flexible to real life scenarios
Can't account for your day to day life, fatigue, and rate of improvement
Lack of accountability
No feedback, data analysis, or race planning
Who should buy a training plan
Someone new to sport who needs some direction
Someone with a good knowledge of the sport and their own personal needs, physiologically and personally.
Who should NOT buy a training plan
Someone who has an erratic schedule or travels a lot for work
Someone who tends to miss days or needs a bit of extra accountability
Someone interested in the data and feedback
Hire a Coach
Hiring a coach could be considered the most cost effective solution to training and racing. The expertise, accountability, flexibility and interest that they provide into your program is unparalleled in comparison to other options.
This, however, also comes with a word of warning. Finding a good coach can be difficult. If we are talking about online coaches, the best way is to get a referral from someone already coached by a company or coach. Do your research!
Get on the phone to different coaches can can be a very good idea to get a feel for who they are and whether they will be a good fit for you.
People can get caught up with the fact that a good coach can be expensive... and of course, it's not for everyone. The question I always consider is similar to the aforementioned gym membership scenario... If you're paying for a membership and you're unable to complete or do the training, then you're wasting your money.
The benefit of a good coach is that they are able to make your life easier to complete the training necessary to achieve your goal. It's not just down to you! You aren't alone with you work with a coach, and if you feel like you are, or you're unable to complete most of the program, then that's down to a poor coaching relationship that isn't adapting to the situation or environment you're in.
It's an integration of training into your lifestyle! Not an add on.
Other than ourselves (of course ;) ), here are some other companies that may be of interest:
Highest level of customizable training available
Can easily adapt and adjust training load or objectives in real-time
Advanced race planning and post-race analysis
Progression over long-term commitment (years not months)
Not all coaches are good
Who should hire a coach
Someone who has a busy schedule and needs to be able to optimize their time spent training
Someone whose performance has stagnated or who has big goals and aspirations in sport
Someone who communicates well and likes to ask questions
Someone who wants to use their coach as a resource
Someone who has long-term goals over many seasons and years
Someone who wants to race multiple events and disciplines in a season
Who should NOT hire a coach
Someone who isn’t able to follow through with the workouts a coach gives them
Someone on a very tight budget
If none of the above are for you, then think about joining a local club or meeting up with a friend to hold you accountable. Work towards those goals together... Either way, getting out and doing something rather than nothing is what we advise over anything else. Keep moving forward!