A Coaching Philosophy

When I was working on my coaching certification one thing became clear. I was getting incorrect answers during the practices exams in the areas where my personal feelings and experiences, did not mesh with the conventional wisdom presented in the course sections. I knew that I would not fully agree 100% with everything I was going to read, so this was no real surprise, but I found that, like most things, I have a hard time putting my own beliefs aside in order to “answer the questions correctly” so when presented with a question I drift to what I believe to be true, and not necessarily the correct answer according to the curriculum.

This is a necessity in order to pass the course, which I did, but probably with a lower grade then I would have had if I had gone back and looked up the answers when I was confused (although I’d argue in a few spots that I was not the confused one). Since I was able to take the Part 1 Test twice, I figured I would answer them the first time without resorting to the “open book” and see how I did, then if needed take it again. Since I passed I had no need to go back, which means (1) I retained what was taught pretty well, and (2) most of what I feel to be true actually does match.

But what doesn’t?

Part of the course teaches that through your coaching career you will develop your own philosophy. Since my beliefs are based on what I have personally experienced in the 8 years I have been training and competing, and are focused on the types of people I want to coach, my philosophy is geared in that direction and doesn’t always jibe with the coaching principles outlined, which tend to be toward the elite age grouper. I will more than likely not coach many at that level of athlete. The people I will be coaching are probably going to look like me, or at least what I looked liked when I started.

So, as I worked through the final section, I started thinking more about what my philosophy is, and this is what I have come up with as of today. These may or may not change over the next years as I gain more experience.

The basis is the same as the mantra on the back of my shirts, and what we say in the Endurance for Everyone Podcast; Swim Calm, Bike Strong, and Run Steady. But what does this mean to me, and how do I express that to a coaching client. This is what I have in my head right now:

Swim Calm

  • The importance is placed on the mental aspect of the swim and developing form
  • Speed comes as the athlete becomes more comfortable with form and being in the water
  • Time in the pool builds confidence
  • Racing builds confidence
  • When at all possible get into the water at the race venue you are training for. This will calm anxiety once it becomes a “known” entity. No surprises on race day.
  • Do what is needed during a race to maintain calmness, including starting in the back and to the side and not getting in the middle of the scrum. Use the rules as you need to. If you need to stop and stand (if you’re able) then do it. If you need a rest, grab a kayak or buoy. You cannot win a triathlon in the swim, but if you go out too fast or get panicked, you can ruin the whole experience.

Bike Strong

  • Weekday training based on intense intervals over long rides
  • Longer rides on the weekend based on saddle time over speed, i.e. getting the body prepared for being in the saddle 4-7 hours.
  • Again, speed comes as endurance builds
  • Train the course of your “A” race. See #5 in the swim section. Familiarity breeds calmness and promotes confidence.

Run Steady

  • As heavy athletes, the run can be a painful experience.
  • Form over speed
  • Run/walk intervals, gradually increasing run sections over time as the body allows. Emphasize that walking is not defeated.
  • Zone 2 training on longer runs.
  • Brick sessions after all bike rides, even if it’s just a light ten-minute walk/jog
  • No runs over 70% of race distance. This is due to injury and recovery issue. As heavier, or older, athletes a long run of 20 miles can create a recovery need of 3-4 days afterward, which is 3-4 days of no training. By keeping training to a manageable distance the athlete is able to train to the plan and reduces injury occurrence.


This is the place I really deviate from what the course teaches. I do not believe in the high carb needs that are taught in the course. I believe we can train our bodies to be fat burners even during a race, by training in the same manner.

  • Fat adaption during training should result in the ability to race with minimal need for carb intake
  • Real food only
  • Nothing … NOTHING … processed … this includes gels, gu’s, etc.
  • As Dawn Blatner teaches, no C.R.A.P. This stands for no Chemicals in the ingredients, no Refined sugars or flour, nothing Artificial – including sweeteners, and no Preservatives. In other words … REAL FOOD

This is just a start, and I know some reading this are not going to agree. There are still proponents of calorie counting, calorie in-calorie out theory, 65-70% carb eating, etc. If that works for you, fine … have at it … but I know as a heavy athlete it doesn’t work this way, and most of the others I know in my same situation react the same.

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