Q&A with Lauren Barnett: The Experience Of Choosing and Working With A Coach

HomeUncategorizedQ&A with Lauren Barnett: The Experience Of Choosing and Working With A Coach

_MG_2130This January, Mile High Multisport, LLC was proud to announce their sponsorship of professional triathlete Lauren Barnett for the 2014 race season. Lauren has been coached by MHM Coach Matt Smith for the past 3 years while living in the Dallas, Texas area. After having 3 very successful years of virtual training with MHM, we asked Lauren a few questions about what factors helped her choose a coaching service and what the experience has been like since then.

1. What made you decide to pursue a coaching company for your training?

Without really understanding what it was going to entail, I qualified for the Ironman World Championship-Kona at Buffalo Springs 70.3 in 2010. I had never done an Ironman, never trained my body for a race that covered 140.6 miles, and honestly didn’t even know where to start!

I knew that I was ready to take it to the next level, though, and wanted to show up prepared, knowledgeable, and confident. I had always just done whatever workout my friends had that day; I was flexible, I’d just do whatever it was they were doing so I could train with my friends anytime I wanted. It took me a while to realize that I had my own specific and individual needs – my body belonged to no one else and what was right for another person wouldn’t always be exactly what I needed in that space and time.

Hiring a coach, I realized, would help me learn more about my sport, myself as an athlete, and what it takes to break through previously established limits.

I’m pretty motivated on my own, so I didn’t hire a coach for motivation or accountability. But I truly needed an expert who knew the ins-and-outs of the human body, the mechanics of endurance sports, and what it takes to structure an entire season so that I’d be in peak form right when I needed to be.

2. What hesitations or worries did you have about hiring a coach?

I suppose I worried a little about losing some flexibility in my schedule – and also about the cost. But it turns out that having a coach allows me to think less about what type of workout I’m going to do and how and with whom…I just open my training peaks app on my iPhone, read the workout, and simply go do it. It takes a lot of the headache out of planning my schedule so I’m actually more efficient with my time. I still have plenty of flexibility because I dialogue so often with my coach; he lets me know when I can have some freedom to train with friends, but he is quick to tell me when I need to hit key workouts and shouldn’t stray from the plan.

As for cost – it’s definitely an investment. But it’s worth it to have an expert who is supporting me, guiding me, and making sure I stay injury free. I’d be more apt to go hard too often without having a coach versus resting too much, so my coach helps me know when I need to rest and when I should hit it hard. That way I don’t get injured or become overtrained and I can trust my training

3. What factors did you consider when choosing a specific coach?

  • Results – Has he/she helped other athletes succeed and reach their goals? A coach should certainly come with a solid endorsement from other triathletes.
  • Accessibility is key, too. It’s so helpful to have an open line of communication – never something I’d take advantage of, but I want to know I can pick up the phone and chat through anything with my coach – pre-race jitters, frustration after a tough workout, excitement about an accomplishment, and even guidance on planning out all of my races.
  • Credentials could be another consideration, and by that I mean how educated and experienced in our sport is the coach? Both are important.

4. What do you like best about having a coach?

The structure. There is always a big picture vision and then the detailed day-to-day goals that help me get there. And to accomplish those goals, I don’t have to think twice about what to do and when to do it. That’s what a coach is for! They’re the expert, and that helps me toe the line on race day confidently – I totally trust my training.

5. What is it like to train remotely with an out of state coach?

As long as I have a good fit, I couldn’t care less where my coach is located! It’s irrelevant for me. We dialogue frequently, he prescribes a solid plan based on those conversations about goals and dreams, and I get solid feedback. As triathletes, we are a pretty self-motivated and disciplined bunch. I don’t need to know I’ll see my coach to accomplish my goals. I just need to know that I have hired a person who can see the potential within me when I can’t – who has faith in me – who has provided me with the tools I need to become a better athlete every day.

6. What is it like to balance a full-time job, social life and a training schedule?

A little tiring! But it’s what I love so I always create the space for triathlon. Lucky for me, God blessed me with an amazing husband (we met at Age Group National Championship in Alabama) who also races at an elite level. So we train together all the time! And in a lot of ways, triathlon is my social life. I meet up with friends frequently for training as well as R&R – and we travel together a lot for races. It’s just about time management, knowing when to pump the breaks to make space for the right things, and planning out your week well. It truly is a lifestyle, so everything somehow just blends together.

7. What differences were you able to see after 6 months of working with the coach? After 12 months?

A ton. I mean really! Sometimes it’s just about having a new perspective. I made huge progress on the bike especially. My coach just had me doing things a little differently – very specific workouts and different amounts of time dedicated to the three sports based on my needs and fitness goals. When I started working with Matt Smith, I had just come off of a good year; I podium’d at every race I entered. But he knew what we needed to do to take it to the next level and created an execution plan. After six months, I had had an undefeated season as an elite amateur and after 12 months, I had several successful PRO races under my belt! What a trip it’s been and I have God to thank for introducing me to the right people and opening all the right doors – I couldn’t have asked for a better coach, mentor, and friend.

8. What advice or recommendations do you have for anyone who is considering hiring a coach for their training?

Don’t worry about where they are located! For me, it’s been wildly successful hiring a coach out of state, so don’t let geography prevent you from hiring the right coach for you. Check out their resume – what are their athletes saying about them? What coach specific training have they done? How long have they been involved in this sport? Are they affordable? Are they accessible in terms of communication? I’m biased of course, but I’d always recommend Mile High Multisport in Denver, Colorado. They know their stuff and I have full confidence in them!!

Want to know more about Lauren? Read our previous blog post “Meet Lauren ‘Lou’ Barnett.”

For more information on virtual coaching services from MHM, please email Pete at pete@milehighmultisport.com.

Written by

Pete Alfino is a level II USAT certified coach and the owner of Mile High Multisport. An accomplished triathlete who has completed 4 Ironman races, he has successfully coached triathletes of all ages and abilities from sprint to Ironman races. You may contact pete at Pete@milehighmultisport.com to learn more about the triathlon coaching services he provides via Mile high Multisport.