Keen to reach the next level? Consider getting a coach.

We can spend thousands of pounds on equipment, position and nutrition in the eternal pursuit of increased speed. We are willing to spend big money on training camps and racing abroad. However, I would argue that money spent on a coach has got to be one of the most valuable investments going.

The obvious benefit of having a coach is the provision of structured day to day training which takes away planning time and should, if done correctly, help you get faster. I know it’s slightly weird but I get really excited login into Training Peaks to see what my coach has in store for me over the coming days. Even weirder still, I’m really pleased to see a massive session in there that will push me to the limit. I know I’m not alone in this view! In short, a good coach will know how to get the best out of you and aid your physical development.

However, it’s the mental side of things that a coach can prove invaluable for. Physiology is obviously the key aspect for any athlete but the mental side of training and racing is often overlooked. Whilst downloading a training programme from the net is a great thing to do and will yield significant gains, these do not provide the person to person interaction that I believe is the major game changer.

My coach is very well known for calling a spade a spade. He doesn’t mince his words. That’s why many of us love him and several others don’t! Too many people like to hear what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. If you can’t take constructive criticism then you don’t have what it takes to get the best out of yourself. So there’s no point spending money on a coach.

A good example of my coach’s no-nonsense approach was after the Ballbuster Duathlon. This is a big domestic duathlon that I am dead chuffed to have won several weeks ago (read the race report here). Afterwards, I was cooling down on the turbo – feeling pretty good about things – and sent my splits through to coach. I made it clear that I was hindered in the final run with a solid right quad and slight side pain in the early miles. Bearing in mind I’d already run 8 miles (200m vertical climbing) and cycled 24 miles (600m vertical climbing) and had therefore been smashing myself for close to 2 hours, I think this was pretty understandable. In the end, I held it together pretty well and put several minutes into the second place finisher who was no slouch (he had recently run a 2.28 marathon). After I had given him my minute mileing for the final run the text exchange went like this:

Me: Not great off the bike today with sore right quad and side but held it together OK

Coach: Yeah, bit sh*t. Thought you were ‘going to go hard’?

Me: I went as hard as my body would let me!

Coach: I doubt that. ALL Powerman races are brutal. And you will need to go harder in those.

A classic exchange! At the time I was a bit miffed. My bubble was burst a little. But looking at the splits now – completely objectively – he’s right, my final run wasn’t good enough and I need to go harder! He knows who I will be racing against in the elite Powerman races next year (starting in Majorca in February at Powerman Spain) and what level I need to be at to compete with the best. It would have been too easy for me to go away from the Ballbuster thinking I was going well and relax a little. He keeps my feet on the ground and my ego very much in check! As it was, I was massively pleased to win it but went away knowing I had much more work to do.

However, because he is a hard taskmaster, when he does pay a compliment or expresses real belief in you it goes a long way. That’s where a really good coach is worth their weight in gold: keeping your feet very much on the ground then throwing in the odd comment that gets you fired up, motivated and most importantly, believing in yourself. This happened recently when I was looking at the results from last year’s Elite European MD Duathlon Champs in Denmark. I came 8th and was just under 3 minutes from the podium (over 2 hours 43 mins of racing). I mentioned this to my coach and said that I reckoned – with a decent winter – that I could sneak on the podium. He told me that that was definitely our target. He went on to say that if a couple of the big names don’t turn up or have a bad day, I could be in the mix for the win. Whilst I take this with a pinch of salt – the top guys are full-time athletes or work part-time and put in mega training hours – this brief mention shows he has faith in my ability and potential. Why the hell should I not aim for the top?

He started coaching me in April 2017, just before the Elite Europeans in St Wendel, Germany. I placed 15th, over 13 minutes behind the winner, Felix Kohler. Last year, in the equivalent race as mentioned above in Denmark I was 8th, exactly 3 mins 36 seconds off the winner Soren Bystrup and even closer to Felix Kohler who was second. This is a major improvement and whilst I won’t be able to repeat that kind of gain, why can’t I get better still? He certainly believes I can. And that is worth a lot.

No matter what level you perform at if you want to give yourself the best chance of optimising your potential I would seriously consider investing in a coach. If you’re resilient enough and can face the straight-talking, why not get in touch with me on Instagram and I’ll pass you on my coach’s details. In his words, he’s now taking on ‘a small roster of serious, driven athletes, ready to punch 2019 in the face!’ I’m certainly hoping that with his help, I’ll be doing just that myself!

 

This week’s training:

Monday: AM – 30mins easy run. PM – 90mins turbo with 60mins Z2/3

Tuesday: PM – 12 miles running including 25x75secs [45secs recovery] on the track with the Cheltenham Harriers followed by an easy 30mins spin on the turbo

Wednesday: AM – 30mins easy run to work. PM – 60mins turbo with 3x6mins Z3 and 10mins Z4 followed by 22mins easy run home.

Thursday: AM – 10.5 miles running with 6x4mins at tempo pace (slightly slower than 10k pace) with 1min recoveries followed by an easy 30mins turbo

Friday: AM – 90mins turbo with 8x1mins Z4 and 4x6mins Z3/4

Saturday: 2+ hours turbo ‘Big Build 1’: 4x30s 115-120%, 4x2min 85-95%, 10x3min 110-115% – OUCH!

Sunday: Long run – 13miles+ (easy)

 

Ben Price is a duathlete who has represented GB at elite level over the past two years. He came to the sport in his late 20s and since then has progressed through the age group ranks until he was selected for the elite team in 2017. You can follow Ben’s training on Instagram through his daily posts.