Let's start with a personal trainer. I had the pleasure of working with a trainer for all of 2013 at a time when I knew virtually nothing about working out. She helped me establish a good routine, evaluated my trouble areas and taught me how to do many exercises. A trainer will work one on one with you for as many sessions per week that fit into your budget and schedule. They will give you guidance and also push you to increase weight and fitness. You can typically find a trainer at your local gym and picking one is a tough task. Focus first on personality because their teaching style should match your learning style. If you don't respond well to yelling then you need a trainer with a softer approach. Also take budget and cost per session into consideration then ask a lot of questions about their experience, schooling and passions. My trainer had running experience as well as many certificates. The gains that I made with my trainer and the friendship that we formed was an integral part in giving me the confidence to jump into triathlons. A trainer is helpful if you have trouble pushing yourself to get to the gym and need motivation to even step through the door. They will also be helpful if you don't have any idea how to strength train.
The question of, "Should I get a coach?" plagued me for many months even before I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga and essentially came down to an investment in myself. My total race fees for this year are slightly over $1,000 and at first I thought can I really justify more money every month for a coach but then I realized if I wanted the proper return on my race fee investment I needed to put the effort into locating a coach. There are many, MANY coaching options out there for triathlons some that live near you and some that are all virtual. Lucky for me I personally knew a USA Triathlon certified coach which made my selection process extremely easy but I'll go into why I felt it was a good fit.
Choosing a coach is an extremely important decision because they will be your life line and a big factor in your racing success. Personality is extremely important, you need a coach that will mesh with your personality, someone that you feel completely comfortable talking to and someone that provides guidance in a way that speaks to you. I knew I needed someone that I could see on a consistent basis which ruled out a virtual arrangement, however there are lots of people that use a virtual arrangement with great success. For me I wanted the benefits of the person getting to evaluate my skills in person and adjust my drills and workouts based off what they saw rather than what I told them. I am extremely self deprecating and also tend to push myself very hard so I knew I needed someone with a very calm style, who I respected and could be counted on to tell me when to sit down and not train to keep me from injury. Only you can evaluate your own personality needs to pick someone that is a compliment to you. Someone could be an excellent tri coach but not be the coach for you.
It is best to conduct some interviews and speak with the coach not only about the certifications and qualifications but find out their race schedule (will it conflict with yours, do they have first hand knowledge of a course you are doing), how they prefer to provide you work outs, will they meet you in person, their fees and what those fees specifically cover. An ideal coach saves you time because they will ensure your training schedule makes sense to keep you from over training as well as save you from having to do hours of research on what plan to use. Ask around in your triathlon group to see if they have recommendations, head to your local bike shop for some contact information, look on the USA Triathlon website or try google. There is no shortage of coaches in the country so you just have to make sure to pick the best fit for your personality, goals and budget.
I am already extremely happy with my decision to go with a coach as well as thrilled with my choice of coach. Happy 2015!