Richard Laidlow Interview With Intelligent Triathlon Training
Richard Laidlow is a qualified British Triathlon and British Cycling coach and has been coaching triathletes professionally for over 10 years. From his triathlon training base Le Sancture des Sportifs in the South of France he provides Personal Coaching, Custom Training Plans and and Custom Triathlon Training Camps. He is also the head Coach of Triathlon Catalan.
As a former sports science lecturer and R.A.F. Physical Training Instructor, his training methodologies are based on proven scientific principles and vast personal experience, both as a coach and elite athlete himself (swimming and triathlon).
He was in the R.A.F. team who set the world record for the Belgium to England Channel crossing and still enjoys competing today finishing 6th overall in 2011 at the now infamous French “Altriman”, an altitude-based Ironman with 5800m of climbing on the bike and 1400m on the run (worth noting that he also exited first from the water ahead of 5 times Nice Champion Marcel Zamora!).
Richard runs Le Sancture des Sportifs with his wife Michelle (also a qualified Triathlon Coach (FFTRI). It is situated in the beautiful little French spa town of “Amelie-Les-Bains” in the Pyrénées-Orientales region of France, a great venue for triathlon training all year round.
There are many opportunities for open-water swimming in nearby lakes and the Mediterranean sea plus an outdoor 25m pool in Amelie and two 50m pools and an athletics track nearby.
The hundreds of forestry tracks provide for ample mountain biking and running, and for road cycling, there is a real plethora of well-surfaced roads and challenging climbs.
Richard Laidlow Interview
How did you get into triathlon coaching and setting up your own business?
In 1993 (having been an England schoolboy swimmer) I competed in the World Junior Triathlon Championships in Manchester. About 3 weeks later I became ill with a post-viral syndrome, this knocked me out for a number of years, but I was not ready to give up triathlon.
I was already a P.T.I. in the R.A.F so coaching triathlon seemed a natural progression. In the UK my wife and I both put a lot of time into our jobs and we were both in a position where we would have to move / change jobs/ our lifestyles to “Progress” further.
So we completely re-evaluated what we wanted out of life and where we wanted to be. Having discussed the options and our skill sets, we moved to France to set up our business, and the rest so they say is history!
What does a typical day look like (if there is such a thing!)?
Mmmm yes difficult to give you a “Typical Day” but if I had to it might be this:
Get up at 6.30am, see our two boys off to school, walk into Amelie, go to the fresh fruit and veg market and bread shop (coffee with friends if I have a chance), breakfast at 9am with the athletes we have in, then a good ride in the Pyrénées -Orientales (this varies from 40 – 220km! depending who we have here), then lunch, catch up with my athletes, answer questions, emails/skype calls, then an afternoon training session (again obviously dependent on who we have with us), so maybe a swim session in the lake/pool or run session, then back for dinner, relax with the family!
What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you as a coach?
When we first moved to France, I was asked to be the Head Coach for Triathlon Catalan – without being able to speak French! I was then invited to the AGM and when I arrived I had my own translator for the meeting.
After the meeting we sat down and had a meal with Jessica Harrison and Leanda Cave, it was such a change from any club I had ever been involved in in the UK.
Whilst at the table one of the older triathletes came over to our table and (having heard about my Channel swimming escapades) asked for my autograph! Needless to say we all found this highly amusing.
The evening continued well, until another French triathlete came up to me and said quite abruptly and in perfect English “You must speak French”.
Two weeks later at the end of a club swim session the same athlete, presented me with a box of wine from his parents’ Chateau, crediting me for my improvements in French and more importantly, my coaching. He then asked me to coach him!
Since these “formative” years in France our coaching business has gone from strength to strength, as have our ties with Triathlon Catalan (Michelle being the only ever English Club President in the Region).
You say on your website that you take a hands-on, supportive approach to coaching – how has your approach to coaching changed or developed over the years?
I have obviously matured as a person, as a coach and as an athlete, so my depth of knowledge and understanding has improved with every athlete I have had the pleasure of working with.
What is your proudest achievement as a coach?
Difficult because I really do have so many (which I guess is what motivates me on a daily basis). It may sound like a cliché but helping 95% of the athletes I coach to achieve or surpass their goals really does give me a buzz. Also I coach my eldest son Sam, and he makes me proud every time he races or comes out riding with us.
What do you think are qualities that make a good triathlon coach?
You should maybe ask the athletes I coach but I would say: Adaptability, being able to read each individual athlete and see what makes them tick/what kind of training motivates them; Patience; Enthusiasm in the sport of triathlon; Enthusiasm in each athletes goals; Practical experience, I enjoy racing all distances, and this gives me valuable inside experience; Oh and I am also conscientious and quite straight talking.
Coaching has been my full time job for 10 years now and I think my partner and I complement each other and can really provide a depth of service and support to all our athletes.
What would be the benefits for a triathlete in having a personal coach as opposed to being coached as part of a group through their club?
So this is a good question, as the race season has fast come to an end and athletes are naturally looking at ways that they could improve. Dreams are taking shape, goals are being set, races are being entered already (in some cases) and the desire to achieve our best occupies our thoughts.
How do I improve? What can I do to change bad habits? What distance suits me best? How can I fit all my training around my family and work commitments?
For triathletes, each new season can be an exciting time, and these ambitions can be aided by the support of a good coach.
In reality if they are already part of a club they will already have access to coaches, but their time maybe limited and it is rare that club coaches are in a position to offer individualized programs as they are often trying to fit in their day jobs!
We often get asked the following kinds of questions: Would I benefit from a Triathlon coach?….What makes a good coach?…. How do I find the right coach for me?…. How much should it cost?… and here is what I would say in response.
So why do I need to hire a coach at all?
There is no need (in our age of easy, quick and affordable communication) to waste valuable training hours on wrong or simply uninformed training, when there is a wealth of very good coaching information available. If an athlete is currently self-coached, a good coach will help simplify and structure their life. Through constant feedback and support they will take care of their training and the details of their program in order to maximize the athletes performance from the limited time they have available, freeing them up to concentrate simply on the enjoyable bit, the actual training.
An experienced coach can offer athletes both his expertise and experience, helping them to fast track the learning process by sharing his knowledge with them.
They may have been a high level athlete themselves so can also provide a personal insight and an additional level of understanding. A good coach will motivate athletes to train, give a kick up the bum when needed and hold athletes accountable to their goals, training and racing.
A coach will teach them how to become a complete triathlete by bringing all the necessary components together at the right time.
They will teach them when and how to train, race and recover, give focus for goal setting and nutritional advice and support.
They will provide technical and analytical advice, help tune mental skills and provide clear programs, which work with the individuals lifestyle.
Tapering, planning and periodizing the plans for them. A coach can provide an objective viewpoint on both their racing and training and through constant feedback and support they will communicate in a constructive manner about what they see as strengths and weaknesses enabling individuals to become better athletes.
If all that fails, I say “remember you are paying for the coaching services, and someone is looking over you! That in itself may be enough to get you out the door”!
What makes a good coach?
A coach should be more than an IT wiz who uploads snazzy looking weekly training programs, or someone who stands at the side of the track or pool timing and counting laps.
They should be someone who is passionate about what they do and why they do it, a professional who is comfortable wearing many hats: training partner, teacher, mentor, role model, technician, facilitator, and without doubt someone the athlete can identify with as a friend, someone who is easy to communicate with. The relationship between a coach and their athletes should be open and two-way.
A good coach is often an experienced, knowledgeable and balanced individual, who naturally commands respect, so while formal coaching certifications and/or personal athletic achievement can be excellent qualities in a coach they do not automatically make an excellent coach.
A coach, who has continually worked with different levels of athlete across the different disciplines over the years, has pooled more experience and knowledge and should be better informed to bring out the best in individuals.
They will need to ask for key information about an athletes past and current fitness levels, racing history, future goals, plus a lifestyle audit to enable them to design a specific program.
A dedicated coach needs to have empathy and compassion, and understand what it is like to be an athlete (although not necessarily be a current or former professional athlete), but also be capable of applying the science and appreciating that each athlete is an individual, who responds differently to varying approaches.
They coach each athlete as an individual and are creative, knowing how to keep a training program interesting and enjoyable and how to integrate it into the life constraints of the athlete. This should be reflected in their enthusiasm for the sport and for coaching.
So how do you find the right coach for you?
Ultimately, they are looking to build a relationship over time with this person, so it is important that the coach they choose possess many of the qualities outlined above, plus others too that an athlete may feel they need specifically from a coach.
Is your coach approachable and can you get sound advice when you need it?
Do they offer camps where you can get individual attention at an affordable price?
Do you share similar values and philosophies as them? etc etc
How much should it cost?
There is of course a plethora of coaching options out there at incredibly varying prices. Fundamentally consideration needs to be given as to what services and programs a coach can offer suitable for the athletes level, lifestyle and budget at that point in time, this is one of the reasons I offer both Personal Coaching, and Custom Training Plans
A good coach should happily provide references from athletes whom he is/has coached. “Remember you are paying for a service and just like any other service you want to ensure that you are getting a good deal. So whatever the cost, ask yourself quite simply does it represent good value for money”?
Le Sancture des Sportifs is based in an ideal venue for triathlon training, why should triathletes consider going on training camps, and yours in particular?
Open all year round we offer athletes expertly coached and fully supported, tailor made triathlon training camps, at an affordable price.
Our established triathlon training base specializes in completely hassle-free, training holidays on dates suited to athletes needs.
We are also based in one of the most sunny, dry and breathtaking regions of Southern France.
We strive to provide, great food, great coaching, great climbs and great company (*incl. airport transfers, Wi-Fi, bike hire, and all food options on a flexible daily basis).
Plus, when athletes leave they also have the option of a custom triathlon training plan, or online coaching, by someone they now know and have a relationship with.
If you take a peek at our Clients Comments you will hopefully see that we achieve this.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about: Personal Coaching, Custom Training Plans or Custom Triathlon Training Camps.
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