How to Maximize the Athlete & Coach Relationship to Achieve Your Fitness/Race Goals

Athletes hire a coach to make lifer easier and to allow fitness gains to come more readily. However, most athletes make the process far more difficult on themselves and it usually results in not achieving their full potential. A coach is supposed to take the guess work out of your training and racing program for the entire season and blend your everyday life with the workouts and races, so you can have more free time and arrive at your goal event feeling fresh, fit and confident. In the following paragraphs I’ll lay out how every athlete can maximize their fitness potential by maximizing the relationship with their coach & the training plan that is developed specifically for you.


Everything begins with an athlete’s own expectations and goals for the future. Sometimes those goals are very lofty, sometime not. Having an honest conversation with your coach about your aspirations will go a long way in determining the master plan for a particular year, and beyond. Make sure that you take the time to look at your goals for the short-term (next 1-3 months), medium-term (6-12 months) & long-term (beyond the next year). Write them out so you can analyze the expectations you have set for yourself. Then take an honest assessment of your current status. You might even write this out next to your goals. The next step is to present this information to your coach so the two of you can have a conversation about 1) how realistic the goals are, 2) the timeline necessary to achieve those goals & 3) what the training plan and commitments would look like to realize those goals.


Once you and your coach have agreed upon your chosen events and the goals surrounding those races, a Master Training Plan is developed as a road map to guide the athlete towards success. However, it is up to the athlete to put in the time, energy and sacrifice necessary to make those objectives come to fruition. This is where 100% trust is needed in your coach to extract the most out of the program and out of yourself. Gains in fitness require hard work and dedication to achieve, yet so many athletes shoot themselves in the proverbial foot time and time again for a multitude of reasons. The process is quite simple:

  1. Complete the workouts

  2. Provide timely feedback & comments from your training sessions

  3. Recover from the workouts properly

  4. Repeat the process with the next workout on the plan


You’ve invested in the expertise of having a coach oversee your daily training to achieve your fitness and race goals. If you do not buy 100% into the plan that is being designed specifically for you, then it is either time to have a discussion with your coach about why that might be or move on. If you trust that your coach has developed a training program that is in your best interest, then follow it, do not deviate from it and do not alter it. That being said, if you have solid (IE frequent) communication with your coach about how your training is progressing, then timely alterations to the plan can be implemented to reflect your compliance with recent workouts & any potential conflicts from outside obligations (family/work/social/etc.). Your coach cannot read your mind or determine how your body is responding to the training overload. In order to fully understand the importance of plan compliance and how the athlete’s communication complement each other, let’s look at the topics, and subtopics, separately.

  1. Follow the Plan – This sounds very easy, and on the surface it is. You receive your workouts via email and/or by logging into the platform your coach utilizes to prescribe your workouts and you complete them. Easy, right? Well…yes, and no. As a coach, it is our objective to simplify your life by letting you know the ideal workout to complete on a particular day, so you can maximize your fitness gains. We also realize that life can get in the way of completing some of those sessions. Problems arise when athletes begin to deviate from their program without consulting their coach first. Or, even worse, simply trying to adlib their workouts on the fly. You pay for the expertise of your coach, so use it. To make your life simple, read your workouts in advance and complete the session prescribed for that day. No more, no less. Easy!

  2. Follow the Workouts – It is not enough to simply follow the macros of the plan your coach has spent so much time developing. You also need to read the “fine print” of each workout, more commonly referred to as the “Workout Details”. Many athletes are very good at following the macro of the plan, which is complying with the swim, bike, run or other discipline prescribed for that day’s training. Where some fail is in not following the details, which drive what the actual workout is going to look like & ultimately determines the physiological adaptations that will be realized from each session. As an example, you do not simply want to read that you have a 50-minute run on the plan and head out the door for 50 random minutes of exercise. That 50 minutes might contain detailed intervals that are strategically placed within training block to advance your fitness for your chosen race. The details of each session are as important as the prescribed time or distance.

  3. Communication – This two-way aspect of the coach/athlete relationship is critical to your overall success, or failure, of the goals set at the beginning of a season. Being consistent with your training is not the only key to achieving your goals, constant communication with your coach is what allows the data from all your hard work to be put into context. In addition, comments left after eachworkout ensures that the future workout sessions are appropriate and in line with the total volume & intensity. The sessions completed in the past drive the trainings you will be prescribed in the future. If there is little or no communication, then you will not get the maximum out of your available time to train for your events and meet the goals you have set for yourself.

  4. Comments – I know that this was mentioned under Communication above, but it is such a critical part of your overall success, that ignoring it will limit your progress. Thus, I have given it its own topic heading. In these days of rapidly advancing technology, there are few excuses that athletes have for not uploading data and providing the vital comments that keep your coach up to date on your health status AND how your body is responding to the training stimulus. Many of the current generation of GPS/HR devices are Bluetooth compatible and will automatically upload your data files to multiple, cloud-based platforms at once for keeping your coach in the loop on compliance with your workouts. Take the time to set up your technology and learn how to use it to streamline your data collection. You will save hours of time in the long run.

    Once the metrics of your training session have been sent to the cloud, take a moment to write in your comments about that particular workout while they are still fresh in your mind. Just like with the transfer of your data, imputing comments can often be completed on your smart phone from virtually anywhere, anytime. If you have time to post a video of drooling puppies or cats chasing lasers to Facebook, upload pictures of your next dinner to Instagram or re-Tweet something from your favorite celebrity, then you surely have time to add a few comments to the workout you just completed. Do not wait until the end of the week to comment. Our memories are short, and it will take you much longer to write on a week’s worth, or more, of training versus a single session at a time.

    Examples of questions that you can answer in your comments are, “How did I feel before the workout?” “Were there any difficulties with completing the session exactly as prescribed?” “Is there anything I could have done better/differently?” “Did the technology (HR, Power, Speed/pace) align with my Perceived Exertion?” “If I deviated from the workout details, why?” “How is my body feeling before & AFTER this workout?” For longer sessions, include the nutrition/hydration/electrolyte intake so you, and your coach, have a reference to help develop your race day plan.

    Remember that comments add dimension to the millions of data points recorded during your training. If you ignore commenting, then you are not getting the most out of your relationship with your coach or your fitness gains.

  5. Follow the Plan – Did I already mention this? Yes, I did! You see it hear again because this is the number one cause of athletes failing to achieve their goals. If you are having trouble keeping up with the workouts, or constantly find yourself doing a friend’s training, then have a discussion with your coach about making adjustments to your plan.

A good structured plan is only as good as the athlete’s adherence to that plan. Many athletes have goals that they can achieve if they only committed themselves to putting in the time and effort required to achieve them. In a world where our free time is getting ever more precious and harder to come by, allow your relationship with your coach to drive your training.  Stop second guessing about what to do next and keep your coach informed of what you are doing and how the training is impacting your body, so they can frequently alter the plan on the fly to meet your needs. This streamlines your training and leads to more efficient use of your time, but only if your coach knows how the training is stimulating your fitness. Let the coach figure out the “what” and you figure out the “do”!

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