Heather took some time to interview Coach Lloyd Henry, Ironman athlete and owner of OnPoint Fitness, on how he went from couch potato to Ironman Athlete, and the idea of coaching to your weakest event.
First things first, tell us a little bit about how you got into triathlons?
I started doing tris in 2002 after college and starting to go work. I realized I was getting into a sedentary lifestyle and the idea of doing a triathlon challenged me to get back into shape. Doing three sports was going to be something new. I did my first sprint race in 2002. That snowballed into me doing longer races over the years.
You’ve come a long way since coach potato days. How many Ironman races have you completed now?
And how did you get into coaching?
I got into coaching in 2004. After I started to do triathlons, I started to look for ways to improve my own run, bike and swim. I researched various forms and techniques and tried them out on myself. After some of my friends saw me progress from a coach potato to marathoner and Ironman they realized there might be something to these techniques and they asked me to show them. All I knew was what I was taught and I started to show them. The more people who asked me the more I realized I wanted to go through formal training so I could properly help them improve different aspects of each disciple.
What do you love most about triathlons?
I love the variety, because you’re doing three disciplines in one sport, it keeps you on your toes; you’re never bored. Add into that cross-training to enhance performance and there’s even more things. There is always something new.
What do you like least?
Probably how expensive the fees are these days. Years ago when I first started the fees were relatively modest. Now it feels like they have quadrupled. Also, having to plan over a year in advance so you can get into a race before it closes. It never used to be that way.
Good point on having to plan ahead. Does that affect your ability to coach people?
Not too much. Most people when they start to train (convinced by a friend or coworker) come into a sport knowing they have to plan ahead. By the time they reach out to me, they have a goal already.
What about people who come to you with lofty goals (either ability or timeframe), how do you talk them down?
I try to encourage people to be very honest with themselves about their personal abilities, not compared to someone else, to get an idea of what they are truly capable of. Often times you can schedule different types of workouts so they can get a true idea of what their races numbers are going to look like. Some people you can explain it to, others have to experience something to convince them.
You train a lot of different athletes, what about those who are brand new to racing—how do you help them realize their potential from the other side?
Beginners generally want to do their best. That goes for people who don’t have an athletic background, or it’s been a long time since they consider themselves athletes. I try to make sure they have the right technique and form, and also make sure they are doing quality workouts rather than quantity. I also spell out how their progress will evolve over the season so they can set milestones and achieve them along the way. My goal is to give them the tools training and skill sets so as they do their swim bike and run workouts they approach them smartly.
Do you have a favorite success story with your coachees?
I have a lot of success stories. Over the years I’ve worked with a number of athletes who were coach potatoes who started with a couch to 5k program and then eventually did a marathon. I’ve had a number of athletes who were deathly afraid of the water who ended up doing triathlons, open water swims and then even half-iron man and ironman races.
Do you have a favorite success story for yourself?
It has to be my first sprint triathlon. I hadn’t swam, ridden a bike or ran since high school. I was coaching myself, trying to figure out my schedule, reading what I could find on the internet to create a program. After that first sprint it got much easier. I found techniques to help, as well as other groups of athletes to train with. It’s a lot easier to train with other people then by yourself. But that first race was all by myself. That is my best personal accomplishment.
On a separate note, my Ironman Brazil finish was the most emotional accomplishment that I’ve had. I tried to race that back in 2004 but I didn’t finish the race. I ran out of time on the swim. It is the only DNF that I received. 10 years later I went back and finished that entire race. It was a great experience to conquer a course that had beaten me 10 years previously.
How about Nation’s Triathlon? You’ve coached quite a few athlete’s who’ve done that race, myself included—any good stories?
One of the things I like most about the Nation’s is that it’s one of the earliest races that set up those large buoys on the swim. Other races have followed suit, but they were the first. I’ve trained a lot of athletes trying to do that event, and as a swim coach you train people to sight to stay on course. But at Nation’s Triathlon now you have to deliberately go off course because those buoys are so big and close together there’s no way to not stay on course.
I remember that first year they used those big buoys. I stood on the dock at the starting line with my athletes who were nervous about the swim and was able to help them with their anxiety by pointing out those giant buoys. Even if you’re not a strong swimmer you don’t have to worry as much about sighting as you do about other events. That’s one less thing you have to worry about on race day.
Tell us some about your coaching philosophy?
For me as, an athlete and a coach, I like to focus on quality versus quantity. I believe that most folks getting into multisport are doing it as a hobby rather than a job. You have to be selective about what workouts you do. I try to have my athletes balance training with personal lives. Because you have three sports to train it can take over your life if you think of each sport as separate and forget they can support one another.
Depending on how much time a client has on their training schedule I like to focus on the area that is most challenging for them. We all have a tendency to want to focus on the discipline we enjoy the most, however, for my clients I try to have them focus on their weakness first when planning their schedule. For example if I have a client who is a weak swimmer but enjoys running I’d have them schedule all their swim workouts so they know exactly when they’ll be swimming first, because if they really love running they’re going to find time to run one way another, whether it’s early morning, or late after the kids are in bed. If you schedule the workouts you like first, you probably won’t find the time to do the one you don’t like as much. It always comes down to scheduling.
Say more about scheduling and what is a typical program for say an Olympic distance event?
It is really client specific. You could have a run, bike or swim focused schedule depending on the area that needs the most work. In general you are looking for 5-6 days of training with 1-2 days of rest a week. For an OLY workouts can range 30-60 minutes but the weekend will have the longer run and bike rides.
That sounds very doable for a working person.
It should be. At the end of the day, we all get the same t-shirt and medal–unless you are a professional of course. You have gotta make sure there is a nice balance between your other responsibilities and your hobby.
Wise words. Any other last advice for the triathletes out there.
Find a group of people who have similar goals to yours and train with them. Look for people who are at or slightly above your own ability. You want to be surrounded by people who motivate and encourage you. You want to feel like you are part of the group and welcome, so it will enhance your experience.
Great advice, thank you Lloyd!
You can reach Coach Lloyd Henry through his website OnPointFitness.com .