For anyone still reading this blog, I have to apologize for having been a bit out of communication here over the last few months. Besides the busy holiday season, I had been heads down working through the Ironman University online coaching certification since September. This course pretty much consumed the majority of my free time from September until I submitted my final assessment a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
I have to say that the course was very well done, despite all the negative comments it generated from people in the triathlon community. The Ironman folks and the top-level coaches involved in it surely put a lot of time and effort into this online curriculum. The course was very thorough and it covered topics such as Exercise science, kinesiology of each sport, training plans, strength training, nutrition and even touched on the business side of coaching. My wife, who works in the Physical Therapy field, had walked past while I was taking the exercise science module and said “you are going to know more than me!”. I don’t know about that but, it was very definitive and provided solid core fundamentals about what your body is doing when you are performing.
I was also very impressed by the lack of sponsor influence in the nutrition module. Ironman is part of a corporation that has many corporate sponsors, so I figured the nutrition part of the course would be heavily influenced by these sponsors. Much to my surprise, it was not at all. The nutrition advice they gave was very sensible and based on the most current common sense nutrition concepts. I surely thought they would be pushing Chocolate Milk and Gatorade down my throat, but they did no such thing.
Another area that impressed me was the strength training module. I thought that they would be prescribing the traditional bodybuilding-style weight training which isolates specific muscles. Instead, they provide some good functional and stabilization movements that work the entire body, which I now know is most effective for endurance sports. Thanks to my strength coach Fernando Paredes. Several of the exercises they listed in their database were ones that my strength coach prescribes.
Overall, the course drove home many standard concepts that are used by many of the top coaches in the business. The coaches driving the course content were Troy Jacobson, Lance Watson, Matt Dixon, and Paula Newby-Fraser. Basically, the best in the business! They also identified some of the different philosophies that the master coaches so that you can have some alternative approaches to add to your coaching toolbox. In addition to the great course content, they also provided numerous handouts and worksheets that you can use and refer to later on as you work through developing training plans for your athletes.
The online program also worked pretty well the entire time. The only exception was the one time when it crashed on me, which just happened to be on question 35 of 50 during Part 1 of the final assessment test. AAAHHH!!! I was flipping out when that happened! I was quickly in touch with a support person for IMU and she gracefully calmed me down and helped me through it. Fortunately, the questions were pretty much the same the second time I went through it and I remembered my original answers. If you are thinking of taking this class, you may want to jot down your answers while taking the during the assessment portion.
The final assessment consists of a 50 question multiple choice online test for Part 1 and an offline, subjective, long answer style test in a MS Word Document for Part 2. The multiple choice portion was not an easy off-the-top-of-the-head type test. Many of the questions required me to dig back into my handouts and notes to derive the proper answers. The Part 2 assessment basically has you build the majority of a season training plan for a given athlete profile provided in a completed athlete questionnaire. This second part took me a relatively long time to complete due to looking things up and analyzing the athletes profile. You will surely need to know your stuff to complete this part. I was exhausted by the time I was done here. They do give you a second attempt at it if you don’t do well on the first try. I surely didn’t want to have to do that again. So, I was relieved when a week or so later I received an email indicating that I had passed!
I don’t know if I will ever actually coach anyone other than myself, but I believe the course was worth the $599 I paid just for all the knowledge I gained and the materials that I received. Hiring a coach can cost from $130/month and up. Multiply that by 6 months and you are already over $600. So if I only coach myself for another season I would have already broke even. Maybe if a friend decided to do a triathlon and they ask me to coach them I will, but I don’t know if I will put it out there to the general public. For now, I want to continue to learn and gain more information from other experienced coaches in the field.
If you are self-coached triathlete reading this and considering taking the Ironman Univeristy I would highly recommend this course just for the vast amount of knowledge it provides. I have to say it was not as easy as I thought it would be either. Although they do not require it, You really need to have some experience training and racing in triathlon to draw on for this class. If you don’t you will struggle a bit. This really came into play during Part II of the final assessment when you have to create the majority of a full season training plan for a given athlete. I spent an entire week on this alone and handed it in a few hours before my course deadline was reached.