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Triathlon Coaching that is Fueled by Passion

Posted: Dec 11 2015

Once you meet her, you understand why she named the company as she did.  She's energetic, one heck of a competitor, a student of the sport, and a wealth of knowledge and experience.  We're continuing our series on our favorite coaching programs with a profile of Kim Schwabenbauer's coaching company called "Fuel Your Passion."

Fuel Your Passion

Coeur: Kim, thank you so much for chatting with us. Many people know of your exploits on the race course, but some people may not be aware that you also coach.  What prompted you to get into coaching?

Kim: I actually got into coaching because one of my athletes (still with me today six plus years later) forced me into it! We met through a mutual friend and he always thought I would be good at coaching. I was extremely PASSIONATE about it (get it, Fuel Your PASSION) and he kept asking me to coach him on a weekly basis. I finally decided to make it a formal relationship of coach and athlete despite my reservations that I wasn’t qualified enough and fears that I would screw things up.   I realized my love of coaching ran deep and the rest is history! Thank you Randy!

Kim Schwabenbauer

Coeur: Can you tell us a bit about your coaching philosophy?

Kim: My coaching philosophy revolves around building better athletes from the ground up with balance, mental fitness, overall physical health, smart training and sound nutrition. We look at the athlete as a whole including their life requirements, strengths and potential areas of improvement and develop a customized plan to fit their needs. No matter what we do, we bend over backward to make sure the communication is flawless and that we are teaching continually. By the time my athletes leave, they could almost coach themselves. It’s about empowerment!

Kim Schwabenbauer in class

Coeur: Which sports do you cover?

Kim: We have running specific openings for athletes from 5k to ultra-marathon, as well as, triathlon coaching availability from sprint to 140.6 distance.

Coeur: What type of individual is in your target market?  In other words, do you only coach elite athletes or will you take new entrants to the sport as well?

Kim: I have always loved working with the true beginner athlete. Some coaches feel they have worked their way to above that, but I absolutely enjoy seeing someone who has never ridden a bike before or swam a stroke accomplish their first workout. It’s exhilarating and humbling to work with true newbies to the sport. In addition, I’ve worked with elite level age group athletes who are on their way to the professional ranks as well. As someone who’s been through the entire gamut from not being able to swim 25 yards to a professional triathlete, I have a deep understanding of all levels from my experience over the last ten years and it has made all the difference.

Coeur: How many athletes do you take per year and how do people sign up?

Kim: I personally have very limited turn over and the number of athletes I take depends on my other responsibilities including speaking, teaching and going back to school. I’d say an average number is fifteen athletes on any given year. I have also just started working with coach Drew Sapp, who has three years of experience and is an exceptional swimmer. He really fills out our coaching team and the athletes that have worked with him have nothing but incredible things to say about his coaching style and relationship. To sign up, we have possible clients email me at kim@fuelyourpassion.net and request and interview.

Coeur: What should someone look for when they are selecting a coach?

Kim: The first thing to talk about is philosophy and identify if it resonates with your needs as an athlete. Looking for key words that aren’t canned and fit your specific areas of interest will help you narrow down the field relatively quickly.   In addition, thinking about the way you learn the best will determine if you hire someone local, virtual or a combination of both. My local athletes do see me on a more regular basis than those out of town and some like that personal interaction and instruction. Finally, a phone call to ask the pertinent questions such as accessibility, flexibility with the training program and individual workouts, logistical questions such as how does the program work, what do typical workouts look like etc. and to get a real feel for the “fit” between coach and athlete is beyond important. Often times, you’ll know within the first five minutes if the person is a match for your personality and style or not.

Coeur: We know that one size rarely fits all, so do you have different packages for athletes to select?

Kim: We realize one size does not fit all and what I’ve found works is that some months athletes are going to need a lot more interaction. For example, as we approach their first long course race, I may end up spending closer to twice the usual amount with them communicating and making sure they are mentally and physically ready to take on the challenge. Other months aren’t nearly as time consuming as a coach and I find everything balances out in the end. We give our athletes what they need to help them be the very best version of themselves as a person and athlete, so whatever that takes, is what we give.

Coeur: Do you consider coaching to be more art or science?

Kim: Both! That’s the easy answer, but it’s true! The numbers are always a critical piece and a must at the start of any new program. Setting a foundation based on science is important to keep people healthy and having a standardized protocol for how you will approach each new athlete keeps things consistent and helps you not to miss any areas that should be addressed. Once you get to a certain point with an athlete where you know them extremely well and have a history of what works and what does not, then you incorporate more of an art based approach that thinks outside the box and may not follow a traditional methodology.

Coeur: How is technology playing a role in coaching?  Will we all be wearing virtual reality glasses someday?

Kim: I hope we will! Technology has already changed the coaching landscape so much in that you can use it to assess everything from bike fits, swim strokes, run mechanics, distance and heart rate via GPS etc. It’s allowed coach and athlete to communicate on a metric level that we didn’t have access to fifteen years ago. However, it is always important, in my opinion to hear an athlete’s voice or see their face if possible. I get a real sense of how someone’s doing when I speak to them and we really connect. I can dig deeper into areas that an email or comments in their workouts may not cover. That’s something a training plan can never do. We coach people and people are complex. No program will ever replace my personal interaction with the clients.

Coeur: Now we know endurance athletes can be a bit...well...stubborn.  How do you make sure they are following the plan?

Kim: I actually have heard from my female athletes that when the salutation of my email starts with “MISSY!” they know I mean business! We communicate in a fun, playful way that all of my athletes know I truly care about their wellbeing or I wouldn’t be a stickler for the details. If run workouts go over by more than a minute or two, there will be an email. If heart rates aren’t followed on two to three workouts in a row, there will absolutely be an email and maybe it’s an issue of not understanding the purpose behind what we are doing in which case that’s my responsibility as a coach to clarify. First I ask questions to find out what was going on, but if they know better, then we will have a frank discussion on why things are working for us as coach and athlete or why they are not. If we have a goal together, we BOTH have to commit fully and do our best. That’s my job and that’s their job too!

Coeur: Fuel Your Passion sounds amazing.  Thank you so much for chatting with us!

Kim: Thank you so much, Coeur, for taking the time to CARE about these issues and helping others to get to know some of the wonderful coaching businesses available. We are very fortunate to have people like you who are advocates for the entire triathlon industry. Thanks for being a great partner!! We LOVE heart and courage at Fuel Your Passion!