oxygenaddict.com - a year on ...

It's been a year since I started the oxygenaddict.com coaching business. I thought I'd use today's piece to reflect on the last year and the lessons that I've learned.

So rewind a year - this time 12 months ago, I was sitting here trying to teach myself website design to get this site up and running. It was a time of considerable stress - I felt a lot of pressure (mainly self-created) to produce a functioning business in a short period of time. Although I felt I had plenty of experience coaching and writing training plans, I had very little experience of the business world and it was really a leap into the unknown to actually start a business.

I was surprised by how quickly the business picked up. I took on several jobs coaching triathlon club running swimming sessions, spending a lot of cold evenings through the winter standing trackside with a stopwatch in the snow! Through these sessions, and word of mouth, I filled my roster with athletes who hired me to provide personal coaching and write training plans. I was at capacity for most of the year - a very lucky position to be in.

Mindful of the fact we have our first child on the way, I made a concious decision to use my 'training time' as 'time to develop the coaching business.' Consequently I've spent a lot more time standing on the poolside rather than in the water, and a lot more time focussing on ways to improve my athletes' performances rather than my own. Impending fatherhood has a way of focussing the mind! 

I've watched the athletes I train gradually get faster (in a several cases, much faster than me) and I had to check my ego on more than one occasion when an an athlete totally smoked me during a shared workout. It wasn't always easy (noone who enjoys to race enjoys to get beaten!), but a subtle shift has gradually taken place within me during the year; I now find myself taking more pleasure from a good performance from one of my athletes than I think I ever did from one of my own. I've found it extremely rewarding to watch the athletes in my charge progress over the year. It's been great to work with athletes who dedicate themselves to turning up week in, week out; getting the work done consistently, and consistently improving.

So the next question is - where do I go next from here? How do I move the coaching business forward? It's something that I've been asking myself a lot over the last month. Here are some ideas I've come up with.

1) I'm going to use my time more efficiently. I've wasted a lot of time and effort over the last year on administrative tasks - typing out training plans, copying, filing, emailing, replying to emails. When I analysed it, most of my 'coaching time' wasn't really being used to 'coach' at all - it was wasted, being my own (inefficient) admin assistant. To address this, I've moved over to TrainingPeaks ( www.trainingpeaks.com ) as a way to really streamline the 'admin' side. It allows me to write a training plan in a tenth of the time it used to take me. My athletes have their own account, they see their plan as soon as I update it. They can update it with comments, upload heartrate, power and pace data for me to look over and analyse. It produces all the charts, graphs and analysis that used to take up my time. Best is, it's free for clients! I really think that this move alone will allow me to double the amount of athletes I can coach in the same amount of time, and mean that they all get a better standard of service from me.

2) I'm going to offer more affordable coaching. Not everyone can afford coaching, and I'd like to change that. I set my prices based on how much time I was spending on an athlete each week, multiplied by what I decided my time was worth. Writing a bespoke training plan each week for a private client is a top-end service, but it is time consuming; tweaking their plan for the next week based on this week is very time consuming. However, not everyone needs this level of service. I intend to trial a 'winter training plan' at a very affordable rate based around the very simple but important idea: 'At the end of this winter training plan, you will be a faster runner and cyclist.' 10 week and 20 week plans. Increase in threshold power on the bike, and threshold pace on the run. Start next season in much better shape than you started this one in. It'll be delivered to a TrainingPeaks account which will offer the same analysis tools, graphs and charts that my bespoke clients get. By reducing my admin time, I aim to offer my service to many more athletes. Contact me if you're interested.

3) Publicise my group training sessions. The guys and girls who come consistently to train with me on the track and the pool, week after week, get faster, week after week. The more people that come, the better the atmosphere, the more people push each other on, the more people improve. You're less likely to miss a session if you know that the gang will be giving you abuse on Twitter and Facebook. Train more, get faster! If you're based in Cheshire or Manchester and are looking for a group to train with, then contact me.

4) I'm going to increase the brand awareness. I'm going to have some fun, put some adverts out there, get some oxygenaddict.com cycling kit and tri kit made up. What could be better than using myself and my athletes as moving billboards everytime they train and race? :)

More info on all of this to follow. Watch this space!