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The biggest downfalls of being a self-coached triathlete

Being your own coach. Why would you do that?

Some people wouldn’t even think about it, while others are able to train themselves to a world championship in Kona. Like the self-coached Lionel Sanders is currently doing.

The complete season of 2018 for me was focused on doing my first middle distance triathlon at the Challenge Almere-Amsterdam.

About 15 months before that I did my first ever 1/8 triathlon. During that first experience I was one of the latest coming out of the water. Luckily still had some historical bike power that helped me taking over a lot of people. And took me just under 30 minutes to get myself to the finish line using a full Iron Man run-walk strategy.

Not the best start of a new hobby so to say. And most people would not even start thinking about doing a middle distance triathlon anytime soon.

Or if you’d even think about it you would be horrified about the amount training you would need. First step to take must be calling a coach or trainer to help you get started.

Not for me. My first thought was that off course it would be possible. And no coach or trainer knows my body as good as I do.

So training myself to my first half triathlon should be done best by myself. No coach that has a long term vision on how to build your stamina and strength. No-one that would force me to do real long training rides that I can not fit in my daily schedule.

Especially since I became a father in October 2017 I would not be able to really structure my weekly schedule to a point where it is usable for a coach. And any changes in my planning due to unforeseen circumstances at home.

The only option left was to find the most flexible and forgiving coach to help me in my first full year of training.

The only one I could think of would be me, myself and I training hard to get me there as soon as possible.

How did I experience being my own trainer for a triathlon? Overall I’m pretty satisfied with finishing my first half triathlon in 6 hours and 4 minutes. Especially with a 2 hour and 26 minute half marathon. Read my complete race report here

Off course there are a lot of things I can think of that were very hard in coaching myself.  But what are the main downfalls that I experienced.

What things made it sometimes harder that what a real coach or trainer could have done for me.


No knowledge

First of all was the lack of knowledge. I knew totally nothing about triathlons or training for them.

All my training experience has been in martial arts for a lot of years ago. And afterwards I only did some recreational riding on my road or mountain bike.

No structured, or even unstructured training whatsoever. Luckily I’m the kind of person that loves to investigate and learn new stuff.

Soon my home-office was filled with training books of all kind and I was draining all the information I could find online.

I learn a hell of a lot about training in general, heart rate zones, technique, running, biking, swimming in a pool and in open water, nutrition during a triathlon, cycling power, setting up transition areas. And even a lot of more things that I can’t think of at the moment.

I’m probably one of the best self-educated triathletes out there.

That is one of the greatest risks of success: thinking you know it all.

Well, probably not. Although I did learn and research a lot, there is still so much more out there that I have no knowledge about.

Simply put: I can’t learn all there is in a short time period while training, working full-time and being a dad and husband in once.

I’m aware that there is a lot that I do not know. And that’s step one to get closer to real success.


No experience

Right after having no knowledge about training is having no experience.

Not only training experience for myself, but also no experience in how to structure anything. And there are a lot of ways to structure a training or a season.

I don’t know which work, and which don’t. Off course I can do a lot of testing over a couple of years.

Try to adjust things to find the optimal way of training for myself. But that will take up a lot of time. And I don’t want to see results in a couple of years. I want them now!

No time to waste in testing out everything. I want to get to a strong level sooner and than start testing how to fine-tune it even further.

Without any experience I have no clue what I’m doing. I can use any theoretical idea to define a training or my season.

In the long run I have no idea if that works for me, or maybe even against me.

A real coach or trainer can easily find the best way to train for me just based on their years of experience. If you choose the right coach that is off course.


No responsibilities

Yes, I´m a real self-motivator.

If my alarm clocks goes at 05:00 in the morning I jump out of bed to get into my running gear and head out for at least 60 minutes of doing some hard work.

Nobody has to ask me if I want to go to training, because I’d already be there working out.

This is true for some days.

Some other days I have to find my own motivation to get out there.

By not having any responsibilities for my training to anyone other than me it is so easy to skip a training.

Just because it doesn’t really fit in your schedule, or (more common) you just don’t feel like it that day.

Not wanting to run? Well let’s get my swim gear and take a plunge. Or you know what? Leave it as is and turn on the next season of House of Cards.

Who cares? Mainly my wife, but she is more happy if I don’t train then when I do.

Having someone that creates your training schedule will give you some feeling of responsibility. Because why pay someone if you are not going to use there input?


So despite a lot of benefits there are also a lot of downfalls of being your own coach. You can overcome them if you want. Some are a little harder than others, but it is do-able.

Spoiler alert; this year I started working with a real coach. What do I expect from him? I’ll get into that next time.

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