People who participate in triathlons come in all shapes and sizes and vary in age from children to senior citizens. It makes sense then that triathlon coaches also vary in their backgrounds and their approach to training. Still, there are certain things about which every triathlon coach should be knowledgeable, including:
- Nutrition for triathletes
- Exercise physiology
- Strength training
- Swimming techniques
- Cycling expertise
- Running skills
Triathlon coaching should also include economy training, a technique that prepares an athlete to endure the intense energy expenditure required during a triathlon [source: O'Toole]. This type of preparation can make or break a triathlete on race day. But perhaps the most important component of triathlon coaching is a good understanding of sports psychology. Knowing how to motivate people and help them to overcome their mental barriers to success is often the key to positive triathlon experiences for many athletes [source: USA Triathlon].
Coaching strategies will vary based on the type of athlete a coach is trained to help. Some specialize in coaching children or older runners, while others may focus on a particular type of triathlon course, such as Olympic or Ironman. Many beginners find that the swim portion of the race is the most difficult [source: Beginner Triathlon]. For this reason, they may decide to hire a coach to train for the swim event only. Some coaches may have expertise in only one or two of the three triathlon events, but there are many triathlon coaches who are qualified to train any athlete in all three events.
When it comes to particular methods of delivery training, some coaches may be quite specific. Certain coaches design intensive one-on-one programs that are individualized for each of their trainees. Others prefer to work with groups of people who share the same needs and goals. Still others may work exclusively in a virtual environment, offering their expertise to athletes via text message, e-mail, or various Web-based protocols. Finding a coach whose strategies align with your needs and goals can be challenging. In the next section, we offer tips for screening and hiring the right triathlon coach.