How To Hire An Endurance Coach
Updated: Jan 25
Whether you’re new to the endurance sports world or a seasoned vet with loads of races under your belt, hiring an endurance coach is a big decision. In our last blog, we tackled the question, “how to know if you’re ready to hire an endurance coach.” If you’ve decided that you’re ready to work with a coach, that raises another question--how do you find the right one? A quick look online reveals hundreds (if not thousands) of options and it’s essential to find a coach that’s a great fit for your goals, expectations, and personality.
We’re here to help you understand what to look for and how to select an endurance coach that will fit your personality and help you accomplish your goals.
How To Hire an Endurance Coach
Choosing the right coach can feel an awful lot like playing a dating game. Whether you’re hiring a coach for the first time or you’re looking for a new coach, one of the biggest questions is where to start and how to select the right coach for you. Here are some things to consider to avoid a lot of the common pitfalls.
Start by knowing your own goals and objectives
Begin by making a list of your goals and what you’d like to accomplish for the upcoming season. This list can include races you’re training for as well as growth and improvement you’d like to enjoy. It may be as simple as “completing my first Half Marathon” or, more complex, “qualifying for 70.3 IRONMAN® World Championships”. Understanding what you want to accomplish will help you find a coach with the right specialties or experiences.
For example, if your goal is to win your age group at the next Dirty Kanza gravel bike race, a seasoned coach will certainly help you make improvements overall, but it might be better to find a coach with specific experience coaching endurance cyclists. A coach with those specialties can help you improve your racing tactics, gravel cycling skills, training and recovery techniques, and much more.
If you aren’t yet sure about your goals, consider scheduling a consultation with an endurance coach. A coach can help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and your overall knowledge and experience. This process will help you determine what’s important to you and, thus, what kind of coach you will benefit from the most.
How do you expect the relationship to look?
Of course, you’re looking for structured workouts, maybe some help with nutrition, a race strategy or two… but equally important to consider are questions like,
What type of communication do I expect to have with my coach?
What kind of coaching style and feedback do I respond to best?
Do I seem to connect better with one kind of coach versus another?
The real point here is that it’s important to do some honest self-assessment. Are you wanting to receive feedback on every workout? Or are you satisfied with a weekly review? Do you prefer communicating primarily by email and text? Or are you hoping for a regular phone call? Do you want the option of meeting in-person with your coach? Or are virtual meetings ok? Are you the kind of athlete who wants a cheerleader-coach or do you respond better to honest, “to-the-point” feedback?
None of these wants and needs are bad, but they might make or break your relationship with a coach. It’s important to be honest with yourself and any prospective coach about these kinds of hopes and expectations you’re bringing to the table.
Understanding the credentials, qualifications, and experience of a coach
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, try hiring an amateur.” It certainly applies to the endurance coaching world. Your body, your health, and your fitness goals deserve an attentive, experienced, knowledgeable coach.
Look at certificates and credentials from governing bodies:
The fitness and coaching industry is full of weekend courses and easy-to-get certificates that make any CV or resume look impressive. It’s important to understand the difference between a coach with quality education and years of professional experience from someone who’s spent a number of weekends sitting in continuing education and certification courses.
Trustworthy, knowledgeable coaches usually invest time and money to earn certificates and credentials from national governing bodies like USA Cycling or USA Triathlon. Ask to see any coach’s resume or list of certifications. This is one way to determine how much they know about coaching athletes like you to accomplish similar goals.
Look at their resume of athletes they’ve coached:
Of course, their CV is not the only form of qualification or way to determine a coach’s ability. Ask about other athletes they’ve coached who are similar to you. If they haven’t coached someone like you, that’s ok, provided you get a good feeling that they’re eager to learn and work with you.
If you’re an elite age-group triathlete with the hope of earning your Kona slot, choosing a coach who has helped other athletes get to Kona might be beneficial. If you’re a junior or masters athlete, you may be better off working with a coach who specializes in working with those categories of athletes. The same is true for beginners or para-athletes in any endurance sport.
Again, don’t let this be a disqualifier. If you like a coach and connect well with them, regardless of their experience with athletes exactly like you, they may be just the right fit.
A coach’s personal athletic accomplishments matter very little:
Performing as an athlete is very different from coaching an athlete to performance. Just because a coach has done it, doesn’t mean they can help you do it, too. Some of the very best endurance athletes have actually turned out to be very sub-par coaches… and conversely, some of the most “average” endurance athletes become the best, most passionate coaches.
It can, however, be a benefit to work with a coach who understands how it feels to commit to a goal and train hard for it.
Ask the coach how they continue to learn:
Does the coach have a mentor? Are there coaching groups that the coach participates with?? Do they have a favorite specific sports coach that they follow? Do they participate in camps, clinics or summits with other coaches? Do they teach or mentor other coaches? This is very important in a coach's development and may give valuable insight on they continue to learn
How do you and the coach assess progress?
Reasons you began participating in endurance sports (besides that fact that it's fun). Whether you measure that progress in sports performance, body fitness, increased self-confidence or overall lifestyle improvement, you’re hiring a coach to help you accomplish those goals.
Hopefully, you’re investing in a coach who assesses whether you’re improving or not, understands why and adjusts accordingly. How a coach measures improvement completely depends on the athlete, their goals and the coach. But the coach should be able to explain their methodology to you so that you can learn how to measure your progress as well.
In turn, you need to trust that it’s a process that does take time, effort, consistency and communication on your part. This is why it’s critical for you to find a coach you trust and understand. Having a method of measuring progress should help build that trust and provide evidence that the training program is effective.
How does the coach want you to learn?
Look for a coach who sees themselves as an educator as much as an endurance coach. A great coach wants their athletes to understand the “why” behind each training session and they take the time to explain these things.
A coach with your best interest in mind actually wants you to become more independent over time as you grow in knowledge, self-awareness, and confidence in yourself and the training process.
Interview several prospective coaches before hiring one
Take the time to research and interview several prospective coaches. You can learn a lot about their personality and whether you’ll “click” with each other based on a 30 to 60 minute phone call.
While you’re in that interview or consultation, pay attention to how the coach listens and speaks to you. Do they take time to ask questions and let you answer without interruption? Are they focused on really understanding you, your wants, and your goals? Or do they seem more focused on “selling” you a product or service?
9 Questions to consider asking when interviewing a coach:
___ Tell me about why you love coaching.
___ Have you worked with athletes in the past like me? If so, how did it go and what did you learn from that relationship? If not, how would you work with me?
___ What’s your coaching philosophy? (When they answer, do you understand what they said? Or does it sound like textbook jargon?)
___ How do you assess the progress of your athletes?
___ What kinds of tools or resources do you use or recommend your athletes use in your coaching? (scheduling platform, wearables, etc.) Will I need to pay for other services, subscriptions or hardware?
___ How do you communicate with your athletes? How frequently can I expect to hear from you or be able to contact you?
___ What is your vision for how you’d like your athletes to learn along the way? How do you communicate the “why” behind training sessions or plans?
___ Do you create opportunities for your athletes to meet and train together? (This may or may not be an important factor for you.)
___ What does your race week and race-day support look like for your athletes?
After meeting with several coaches, it’s ok to ask follow-up questions. A quality coach understands that this is a big decision, and they’ll help you through the process.
Once you’ve selected a coach, consider making a mental 3 to 6 month commitment. It takes time to adapt to a new training philosophy and begin to see progress. Be fair to yourself and your coach by giving adequate time to the process (unless, of course, major “red flags” arise).
Gregg Edelstein is a certified USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, an IRONMAN University Certified Coach and a USA Cycling Level 3 Coach based in the greater Boston area. Gregg offers his athletes insight on the principles of exercise, nutrition, sports psychology, and injury prevention, working to make them well-rounded and engaged athletes that share his passion for sport. Gregg can be reached at Gregg@TeamMPI.com