So you think you need a triathlon coach???
|This represents the bulk of my training, pre-coach|
y now, I think most everyone is at least passingly familiar with my triathlon coach, Anthony Bagnetto. Head coach at Anthony Bagnetto Fitness, long time friend, and very patiently tolerant of his nickname, The Sheriff. (Full story behind the nickname here, but basically he enforces my training, plus we were in Robin Hood together as children. Him as the Sheriff of Nottingham, me as his wife. It's funny. Go with it).
While I have only been a triathlete for a handful of months, Anthony has years of experience both as an athlete and USAT coach. Some highlights: Anthony was a competitive swimmer in high school, then moved to New York City after college in 2002 and became a strength coach & trainer. He was bit by the triathlon bug in 2006, and since has raced all distances - some of the highlights being 70.3 Montauk, Escape from Alcatraz, Ironman Wisconsin, and most recently USAT Age Group Nationals for the Olympic distance this year. This year he's already run the NYC Central Park Marathon and is taking on IM Lake Placid in July. He is a Level I USAT Coach, trains athletes of all levels, and was voted "One of NYC's 15 Nicest Instructors" on RateYourBurn.
|What my coach secretly thinks about me.|
Just kidding. I'm way too awesome and he's too nice.
After my big foot injury last fall, I gave in and admitted I was in way over my head. I needed help, both get back on the triathlon wagon (time trial?), but also to do so without further injury. Anthony agreed to coach me. I've since sent him endless emails (three so far today), angry texts from messed up races, questions, some cake pops and some girl scout cookies.
FTC disclaimer: Anthony coaches me for free. Or the joy of watching a crazy person fumble around. I'm still not quite sure. However all my opinions here are my own and are in no way influenced by this arrangement. Me being me, I would still say what I think.
Before I get into talking about my personal experience having a (totally knowledgeable, compassionate and awesome) USAT coach, let's do some Q&A with Anthony:
What do you love about coaching? Training and coaching are awesome and something that becomes more rewarding over time. As my clients get better, I get to watch them accomplish goals, fulfill dreams and in turn I become a better coach because of it.
What is the hardest part about coaching? The hardest part of the job is easily the shifting schedules and obligations of my clients and attempting to juggling those with their training and racing goals. Combining the two, in real time day to day and making the correct adjustments and decisions is very challenging.
Which sport is the hardest? For you, for your athletes? Generally, swimming is the biggest hurdle for the majority of my clients. Not just learning proper form and getting a feel for the water, but adjusting to the chaos of the swim start and learning not to panic around others. Luckily I came from a swimming background so that was not an issue for me. But I was just a naturally poor runner. I didn't enjoy it, I didn't want to do it. So of course, its what I ended up concentrating the most on and its where I have seen the most improvement.
What is the advantage of a coach over an out-of-the-box training plan? This is a great question and there are a handful of factors to address when considering one or the other. The largest and most obvious advantage is the ability to have someone who has more experience, depth of knowledge and vested interest in making you a better athlete, looking over every aspect of your training. Your coach is a dynamic resource you can use anytime you like for nearly any training related reason. Depending on your personality and experience in the sport, you can use their expertise in whatever way works best for you. This is often why coaches have different tiers of training. For those more experienced, time constrained athletes, a coach can simply be there to plug in workouts, make adjustments and do the heavy lifting so the athlete can concentrate on other things in their life. For a more inexperienced athlete, the coach can do all of the above and take on many more roles like confidant, guru, soundboard and above all, teacher. [CT here - I'm gonna add "marriage counselor and therapist" in here as well. See below]
An out of the box plan can, of course, be useful. But its very limited in the direction it gives you. It will attempt to adjust for different athlete abilities and an experienced racer can make those adjustments if they have the time, energy and inclination. Its not as easy for a beginner or time crunched client.
Is there a level/distance at which an athlete really needs a coach? Oly? HIM? IM? This is also a great question. And the quick answer is no. There are distances that require more knowledge, expertise and have less room for error (generally the longer ones) but a dedicated athlete with lots of time who is willing to endure lots of trial, error, and varying degrees of failure can self-train any distance. But, if you have bigger goals, less time, or simply want to make the transition into the sport smoother, than a coach at any distance will be recommended.
What are some of the most common mistakes you see relatively new athletes making? The most common class of mistakes I see new athletes making are usually intensity and volume based. Since this is a new and exciting endeavor, athletes are usually very excited to make huge gains as fast as possible at any cost. Their hard workouts are too hard, their easy workouts are too hard and their volume in the beginning is too much. This can last without consequence sometimes for weeks, but eventually one of two things happen: burnout or injury. Burnout can mean mental fatigue or physical breakdown with workouts becoming executed more and more poorly. And injury can happen anywhere in the kinetic chain where unknown weakness lie. [Me again. He's talking about me. And probably some other beginners, but... me.]
|At the finish of IM Wisconsin|
Furthermore, athletically I am actually doing really well. My overall run pace has dropped at least a minute since last year. I'm more comfortable and fast in the water. True, I attribute a lot of the latter to my Total Immersion class, but I give the Sheriff credit for making sure my lazy self gets suited up and into the pool twice a week. I'm 100% sure I would not be taking on my first half marathon in a week with as much confidence as I am without Anthony's coaching. Every workout I do now is targeted. Purposeful. Not just putting in the time or miles. The expense of a triathlon coach, in my mind, is completely worth it because of the increased efficiency and support you get out of your training experience.
So do you want some of this??
Anthony has kindly agreed to donate an hour's consultation to one of my readers. A $50 value - the purpose of this session would be to gather your information, training history, goals, and give overall advice and planning for your upcoming season. Session can be via phone, Skype, or whatever media you're comfortable with. This is a great opportunity to check in with a seasoned coach and make sure you're on the right path the season. You can also send him follow-up questions for anything not addressed. Enter below and good luck!! Also be sure to head over to Sheriff's website to peruse his options for ongoing coaching.
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