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Understand Remote Tri Coaching – And Make It Work For You

Your tri coach doesn't have to live by you. Remote tri coaches can help you achieve your goals—if you learn how to find one and how to get the most out of your relationship.

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It’s official: you want a coach. You’ve decided to up your tri goals and help is required. But what if you have no coaches locally, or maybe the coach you do know really isn’t your cup of tea?

Enter the world of remote coaching.

Thanks primarily to technology innovations, geographic location is no longer the limitation it once was. Today, getting an experienced coach who understands your goals and challenges, gets your fears, and has first-hand experience with the race you’re planning is possible from anywhere.

Remote coaches will plan your workouts, track and analyze your performance, and talk through race day strategy. They’ll prescribe strength training, analyze nutrition, and help you pivot when injury strikes—no matter where you live. What’s not to like?

How to find the best remote tri coach for you

Before you talk with a prospective coach, think about your goals and concerns. If you know your impediments and where you’re struggling, note those down. Remember, your remote coach hasn’t seen you swim, bike, or run. Be prepared to share!

Then think about what kind of coach you want to work with. Sure, all remote coaches can be expected to plan and upload workouts and offer feedback, but their personalities, styles, and additional services will vary immensely.  Will you thrive with a drill-sergeant type who pushes you when you lag, or would a cheerleader be better, helping you gain confidence in the sport? Are you tech-savvy and self-motivated, or do you want help understanding and using your performance metrics? If you’ve never worked closely with a coach before, think about the type of feedback that motivates you in other settings.

RELATED: How To Find the Right Triathlon Coach For You

When developing a list of coaches to contact, don’t short-sell yourself. “Some athletes will hesitate to talk to a coach because they think they – the athlete – aren’t good enough,” said Adam Zucco, head coach at Superfly Coaching and coach to Olympian Ben Kanute. “If you had to have surgery, would you say ‘I’m new to surgery. I don’t need the best’? Of course not! Many coaches take motivated athletes at all levels of ability. Ask them.”

Realize also what a remote coach cannot do. If you’ve been clocking great stats on a Peleton but never touched a road bike, or if you can’t quite put your face in the water, consider in-person help first. Remote coaching will bring significant improvements, but a basic fluency in all three disciplines is an important precursor.

RELATED: Coaches Share the Worst Triathlon Advice They’ve Heard

What to expect at a remote tri coach consultation

In this first consultation, be prepared to talk not just about your tri goals and experience, but also about your work, family and home life, sleep habits, nutrition, fears, self-discipline, and more. Matt Smith, foundation coach of North America SANSEGO, says that during that first talk he listens 75% of the time. “You’re really getting a feel for each other; you want an open, friendly conversation.” And Coach Zucco asks prospects to create an ideal avatar of themselves as athletes: What do you wish you were able to accomplish?

Mention what resources you have available: home gym, membership at the local YMCA, lake or ocean access, and so on. If you want extra help in a particular discipline, note that. If education about strength workouts or female-specific training plans is important, raise those as well.

Expect the coach to explain exactly what they offer. Most plans include individualized training plans, email/text availability, video consultations, guidance on race strategy, and nutrition advice, but packages vary widely, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Talk to more than one coach. Coach Mary Eggers, founder of Valor Triathlon Project, wants prospective athletes to talk to at least two other coaches before selecting her. She’ll even offer up contact info for a few competitors!

Finally, the best pairings result not just from formal credentials matched with goals, but when coach and athlete have chemistry that works. Ask yourself: “Am I excited to be working with this person?” You want an enthusiastic ‘yes!’

How to get the most out of your remote tri coaching experience

You’ve made your choice, signed up, synced all your devices, and you’re ready to go.  Now how to make this investment pay off?

Communicate. Nearly every coach will tell you that this is key. Be honest, open, and provide details. Just turning your run workout green in Training Peaks isn’t enough; tell your coach how it felt. Your data is necessary, but your comments are critical too.

Ask for help and be vulnerable – do not be afraid to ‘disappoint’ your coach! The best relationship—and your best results—will come from teamwork borne of candor and openness.

Trust your coach. Coaches expect you to provide them with the details on workouts and how you’re feeling—but then the best coaches will take it from there. Coach Zucco is adamant that figuring out what an athlete needs is his job. “Some athletes like humor, some like serious data analysis, some like mindset suggestions: a good coach should have the knowledge and temperament to figure determine what will help and then be able to motivate every individual athlete. That’s on the coach to figure out.”

Call in for outside help when appropriate. If you are struggling with something your remote coach can’t handle, discuss that. An injury or problems with a swim stroke, for example, might necessitate in-person help. Your coach should have suggestions and maybe even some contacts.

Let your coach know if you’re not getting what you need. As you approach your target race, don’t hesitate to ask for all the race day support you need. In the weeks leading up to race day, coaches can work with their athletes to develop detailed race nutrition plans, discuss race techniques, or calm your taper-week nerves.

Remote coaching: the choices are infinite and the benefits phenomenal; you might say it’s a great time to be an athlete.

RELATED: How do I Develop a Strong Athlete/Coach Relationship?