I was a tri coach for 2 seasons and then hung up that hat to focus on training and my work as a marketer. In the process of closing that up, people were still reaching out to me asking for help. I wrote 6 tips on looking for a tri coach for them, and now for you.
My tri coach history
From self-coaching thru 2 coaches and hiring a tri coach at BAM
When I did my first ironman in 2014, I first self-coached for 3 months. Then I met a tri coach and hired him for the last 3 months. It helped tremendously. I had no idea how much volume I need to lay down to be ready for the long distance. And by his prodding, I went and did a sprint 2 months before and a half the month before. I wouldn’t have thought to do that on my own.
After IMMD, I got another coach to focus on running speed. That worked off-and-on for awhile. Then life got nuts and I moved from Manhattan to Utah and focused on marathon. I worked my way through that the best I could … once again self-coaching.
At the end of that marathon year, I reached out to Wes Johnson, founder and head coach of Balanced Art Multisport (aka BAM). I had become FB friends with Wes and followed the progress and success of many of his clients. These were people making tons of a progress and some at the forefront going to Kona, filling local podiums, etc. We connected and I hired Andrew Stasinos, also a tri coach with BAM. That was late 2016. I’ve made so much more progress in this time than my first 4 years in triathlon.
Another element about selecting a coach that doesn’t show up in my 6 tips is the value of group workouts. You want the chance to workout with your coach. That’s a huge upside to working with a tri coach from BAM. There are coaches around the world that know the sport and are pretty good with science and will give you time and support. I mean, not every tri coach makes this cut but of course you can find them.
It’s a whole additional category to find a tri coach with all those skills who also has a fun, large, solid, active community of athletes so you get a good mix of working out solo and a group session 1-2 or more times a week.
On that note, I invite you to join Intermountain Tri — a open community of 400+ people who swim, bike or run on their way to living the good life. Loads of weekly workouts, monthly clinics and a smattering of discounts and resources from team partners. Sign up with just your email at www.intermountaintri.com
It REALLY makes the experience a lot better to develop relationships with other people while progressing as an athlete. You can definitely make progress working out solo, but it’s really nice to get group time in. And unless you can shell out mega $$ for regular 1:1 time in-person with a tri coach, attending group workouts where your coach is there … that’s a great way to get more face time with them in an economically viable structure for you and them. The #bamtrifam was also a clutch asset in why I reached out to Wes and continue to stick with Andrew.
So … a lot here and in the list below, and I hope you find it helpful. I highly recommend reaching out to Wes. He, Andrew or one of the other 8 coaches could be a great fit for you.
- my swim race paces dropped to 1:20/100y (was at 1:35-40/100y) in combination of being coached to swim more, swimming with faster people, and getting instruction and video analysis on basic stroke mechanics to correct
- Between my first FTP/lactate test on the bike Dec 2016 and re-testing Oct 2017, I gained 40 watts (16%); this follows doing BAM’s Power Program which I highly recommend
- I broke a 40-min 10k run in 2018, and even through 2017 I hadn’t broken 45
I mean, I had to do the work. But it was their guidance of how to smartly/reasonably/carefully go about all this without burning myself out, without triathlon taking over my life and without injury. On top of all that, I have never had more fun with triathlon and this is one of maybe 3 or 4 big pieces that has me very happy to have made the move to Utah.
Hire a Tri Coach: 6 Tips to Get it Right
I recommend every triathlete or one with more than a super casual interest in endurance sports get a tri coach.
Here’s how I suggest finding a tri coach that fits you for triathlon, cycling, swimming and endurance events:
 Before contacting any coaches, get your life priorities straight as they are for you.
Write them down. And understand before going into it that a coach most often falls into the realm of “physical/athletic performance.” This is distinct from you being personally responsible to maintain baseline wellness. If you’re hiring a coach to help you with baseline wellness and you don’t care about performance, tell them. My priorities (more on those here), for example:
- Core relationships (dating & romantic partners, people I live with, people I interact with 6-7 days a week)
- Baseline wellness (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual)
- Material safety (do honest work for honest pay to cover my necessary material costs: food, shelter, transportation)
- Athletic performance (speed, form, strength, competition)
- Career success (fulfillment, growth, profitability, ongoing growth and development)
 After looking at all that, decide how much monetarily on a monthly basis it’s worth it to you to have a tri coach to support you as a triathlete or endurance athlete.
Write that number down. That is your maximum. That number ought to be a little uncomfortable, but it should not disrupt or strain you. It shouldn’t disrupt you taking care of the priorities higher on your list. If it does, you will resent your training and your coach. You will be spending money on a lower priority that ought first to be spent on a higher priority. That simply won’t work long term.
 Shop the platforms, make a short list (Target: 3. Five is fine. MAX 10) of people to contact.
Lean toward people that you could, without great expense, visit in person. Most of your interactions will be virtual. Keep in mind it helps to have someone you can meet with so they can look at your form.
 Contact all of them.
Let them know you are interviewing coaches. Have a tops 30-minute conversation with them. Ask about their training philosophy. Before revealing your life priorities, listen to them and see if it sounds like / feels like they have similar priorities. You should at least sense they respect that they are coaching a PERSON with a LIFE. If they sound like they are coaching an ATHLETE whose life IS training, run. Unless you are a pro athlete, that is not the case for you . . .
Endurance training with a tri coach is a LUXURY to be used to increase the overall quality of your life.
I highly recommend that endurance training NOT become your life. Relationships and work that adds value to society and your community are far more important than you going to Worlds or Kona.
In this vein, but secondary to matching priorities and values: you’ll also want to ask them about people they have worked with and whether they have had . . .
- exposure and
. . . working with people similar to you. And in this case when I say “people” I mean “bodies”: age, injury, background of swim/bike/run and other sports, etc.).
There are so many variables, it certainly helps to have a tri coach who has familiarity helping people at whatever stage of the endurance sport journey you are at.
 Immediately rule out anyone whose price is above your # in .
If you really like them (they are a top 1-2 pick), say, “I got your price is X. When I started my search, I wrote down Y as my limit. To respect the work I did to look my priorities, I can’t go above that. And I respect your work as a professional, so I wouldn’t ask you to lower your number and diminish the value of your expertise. It’s OK if this doesn’t work between us right now. Are there any parts of your service that aren’t necessary, that you could cut or limit to make it work?” If so, cool. Figure it out. If not, cool … thank them for their time. Move on.
 Keep looking and then select.
Continue your tri coach search until you find a match for your priorities, what you’re looking for, healthy interaction where you feel respected and you feel you respect their expertise, and where their number is a match for yours.