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To inventory just what those tools are, I talked to two age group athletes who have figured out how to self-coach, achieve their goals, and stay sane in the process. Dave Schell
of Johnstown, Colorado has almost entirely self-coached for the past six years to numerous top 20 age group finishes in 70.3 and Ironman; and Shane Niemeyer
of Boulder, Colorado has self-coached to his first two Kona qualifications as well as his most recent age group win at 70.3 New Orleans. Both men race in the competitive 35-39 age group, juggle training with family and full-time jobs, and are also triathlon coaches themselves. (Disclosure: Schell is also my personal coach). Having that coaching perspective helps them to build in some safeguards against some common self-coaching pitfalls.
Here’s what you’ll want in your "toolbox" to self-coach effectively.
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Niemeyer also sketches out an annual training plan for each season. As the run is his limiter, he plans a large run block at the beginning of each season, and then schedules key assessments of his training plan 10, eight, and six weeks out from an Ironman to stay on top of his form. Knowing his body is on a three-week training cycle, he marks recovery weeks and races. From that point, he fills in the detailed training plan on a weekly basis, spending about an hour a week planning. Because his plan is structured with a long-term vision but also based on regular assessment of what's happening with his body and his life schedule, he is able to be close to 100 percent compliant.
A training log and a comprehensive set of training data
One of the biggest challenges to a self-coached athlete is in looking at your own training objectively. The most powerful antidote to subjectivity is data: a diligently kept training log, and a comprehensive set of devices to record your training and racing.
Schell, who trains with pace on the swim, power and heart rate on the bike, and pace and heart rate on the run, says, "Having a training log is huge because it allows you to actually measure progress...to know if your training is working or not. Otherwise you're just relying on races, and with different courses and distances in triathlon, it's hard to see that improvement unless you're doing the same race year after year. That's a long time to wait to see if you've improved or not."