I’ve been largely self-coached, but have used a coach for two seasons, training plans for one or two seasons, TR a little bit, and have even coached some athletes. My answer to your question is: “It Depends”.
Coaching is about WAY more than the plan. There are thousands of competent plans out there that even a moderately experienced athlete can adapt to their own schedule and needs well enough to perform well. So where does a coach add value that TR (as an app… the forum can help with a little of this) doesn’t? My opinion:
- Analytics. If you don’t understand or want to understand your “numbers”, a coach can do that for you and adjust your training and race plans accordingly.
- Scheduling challenges. An experienced coach can modify your weekly or daily plans in such a way to fit lifestyle challenges such as work travel or vacations, illness, signs of overtraining, odd hours, etc., while ensuring adequate training and recovery time.
- Motivation. Many people want or need accountability to someone else. That, in itself, can be worth paying the coach… but it can also be filled by a training partner or by yourself if you’re self motivated.
- Technique and sports skills coaching - varies by coach and by arrangement. A local coach can help more with this, but many charge more for personal sessions or video analysis. If you’re a novice in one or more events, this is very valuable. If you’re pretty well schooled in all three and your transitions are on point, probably not so much. Also, some of this may be available to you for free at a good masters swim program or track club, et. al.
- Objective analysis. Outside of just numbers, a good coach can and will give you objective feedback that isn’t rooted in being emotionally tied to the outcome of your event. A good coach will push you to rest when you think you should train even more; and a good coach will push you to train through when you’re tired if the time and your performance dictate. Making those decisions optimally on your own is incredibly hard, even for the most experienced athletes.
I love analytics; I have a lot of experience dealing with my scheduling issues; I could use more swim technique coaching, but can get that cheaply at a masters swim club, and I’m very self-motivated. The biggest value my coach provided me was the objectivity in my plan and getting me to recognize that missing one workout because I was on vacation with my wife wasn’t going to derail my whole season. Since I’ve learned that lesson, and am older/wiser/more experienced, I no longer pay someone to coach me… but I also coach (and enjoy coaching) others so I’ve gotten better at detaching myself from my own training, and trying to look at things objectively as I do with anyone else.
A coach is always better than having no plan at all. But TR plans are really good and far more specific from a cycling perspective than most generic “book” plans because they also include the training engine. Whether your coach adds value is a decision only you can make, but those are my thoughts. What value do you think your coach is adding? How much is that worth to you?