The Tide in Triathlon Coaching is Rising
Posted: Dec 10 2015
We think coaching is the perfect pairing with new triathlon clothing, so we're going to be running a series of posts on some of our favorite coaching programs. If you have one you'd like us to highlight, please let us know.
Today, we're visiting with an athlete, an adventure seeker, and an amazing coach. Meet Sonja Wieck. Founder of Rising Tide Coaching.
Coeur: First, congratulations on starting Rising Tide Coaching. What prompted you to begin coaching?
Sonja: Thanks for the congrats Coeur! That means a lot coming from your team, we bow down to what you have created in this sport and look to your team as role models in business!
I began coaching about 5 years ago at the insistence of my coach at the time, Chuckie. He kept telling me “Sonja you should coach, you’re such a sponge for this sport and you love people” and I kept telling him “I don’t know enough.” He offered to mentor me and advised me to start with 6 of the most different and diverse athletes I could find. Knowing I had someone to run things by and bounce things off of I decided to go for it. I announced it on my blog, received some very brave requests and chose 6 athletes I thought would teach me the most. Of those original 6, I still work with 3 of them 5+ years later! They are family now, and continue to post PRs as they have learned and grown right along with me. I always kept my coaching low profile back then, no structure, no kits, no logo, just working with athletes one on one.
After Kona in 2014 I knew I wanted to use 2015 to build an official coaching business. That’s where my heart lies, so I took my training hours down a bit, and used that adjustment to build what I had always desired for a coaching company. It feels good to type that.
Coeur: In addition to being an amazing athlete, you’re also a very thoughtful and gifted writer (we love your blog), so we’re assuming that quite a bit of thought went into the name of the company. What’s the story behind the name?
Sonja: Gifted writer…oh dear!! I have a degree in Mathematics and never thought of myself as a writer, but I LOVE telling stories, so my writing ability had to catch up along the way, so that I had a voice to talk about my experiences.
Rising Tide... ahhh, a name... It’s hard to name a coaching company but here’s where I landed. We all know triathlon is about swimming, biking, and running and how strong you are in those disciplines. Through my coaching the last 5 years I watched athletes trip themselves up on lots of the NON swim bike run aspects of the sport, the nutrition, the mind game, the instability in their body. I think of swim, bike, run as your three boats floating in the bay. Your swim might be a rowboat, your bike resembles a sailboat, and maybe your run is a yacht, but if the tide is low, all your boats are in the mud. As they say a Rising Tide Lifts all boats and we work on the aspects of sport that support all three disciplines, as well as helping you to upgrade that row boat to a yacht with consistent training and patience.
Coeur: We know you as an incredibly unique individual and would love to know about your coaching Philosophy?
Sonja: Awesome, here’s how we roll. Bottom line…we believe in health, really, at our core (errr coeur?). We cringe when we hear about people making sacrifices to the detriment of their families, their jobs and their body to chase that next triathlon goal. At RTTC all of our coaches believe deeply that when you are super healthy at both the physical and emotional level, you will fly on the race course. It’s what we see over and over again, and when on the odd occasion, an athlete doesn’t fly, they handle it with grace, laughter, and perspective. We focus on the process, and health, and having fun, so that athletes remain in harmony with the many aspects of their awesome life.
AND….from a training perspective we take a MAF based approach with the intention to get you as fit as possible within the HR and power ranges you will be capable of maintaining on race day. So we slow people down a lot, ask them to integrate training into their life rather than the other way around, and then we support the heck out them along the way.
Coeur: What sports will be covered in the program? Is it triathlon specific or will you coach runners and other endurance athletes?
We built the business for triathletes, and honestly our wheel house is 70.3 and Iron distance racing. Most our athletes have Ironman on their mind, weather that's 1, 2, or 3 years out. We love working with all speeds and backgrounds of athlete. We have the Kona focused athletes and we have some who are taking on their first 70.3. We treat everyone the same, because the complexity of our journeys isn’t speed dependent.
Coeur: We know that one size never fits all, so can you tell us about the different coaching packages that you‘ll offer?
Sonja: As a business woman, you can’t create a business that works for everyone. You have to understand your market and then fight tooth and nail to design products that they want, need and deserve. We survey extensively. We ask lots of triathletes to tell us what pains them in the sport and what they love. Then we intersected that with what we are good at.
From this feedback we created a program called IronTide. Instead of the typical one on one coaching, we created periodized coaching fees where you are able to move between block schedules, weekly schedules, or no schedule dependent on where you are in the season. Coaching fees match where you are at, and you remain under our wing with access to all our fun extras through the whole process.
We also found out that athletes felt like their past coaches don’t customize schedules, and are inconsistent in their communication. We know as coaches that custom and unique are two different things, and there are times when more or less contact with an athletes is necessary. So within Irontide, all schedules are written to the athletes individual data and life commitments with ample opportunity for revision, they are custom. There is a clear communication plan in place with weekly office hours, closed Facebook group, email and calls. All workouts get review and comments from multiple coaches. Again, we aimed to put plans in place around the areas where our athletes have been frustrated with other programs.
Coeur: Who are the other coaches that will be working with you and how will you split up responsibilities?
Our athletes in IronTide are coached by all of our coaches to some extent. Mikki writes all the schedules. She has PhD in Geology, is a research scientist, and data junkie. I review/approve schedules, give pep talks, webinars and have all the athlete meetings. Audra writes strength programs and tends to our athletes muscular imbalances, and we have a few coaches helping with nutrition right now (exciting stuff coming here). Lastly, we have our Rising Tide mama bear Andrea who nurtures all us coaches and athletes, helps us stay organized, and picks up the balls we occasionally drop. It’s a feminine, communal, approach to coaching, rather than a hierarchy top down situation, and we are looking to add the right women to our team in 2016 as we grow.
Coeur: Who is your target market?
Sonja: We work best with men or women that are interested in taking an integrated approach to their training and racing, meaning that they are willing to give up the concept of constant sacrifice and lean into more joy and harmony in their triathlon experience. We love athletes with big goals and a willingness to take a patient approach. We like to say we fun our way to fast.
Coeur: How do people apply for coaching?
Sonja: So we do things a little differently than most coaching companies. We open up enrollment for a very short window of time several times a year. Right now enrollment is open from December 10-15th at http://www.risingtidetri.com/. After that we close it down for 3-6 months and we work directly on supporting and coaching our athletes like a mama bear with her cubs. Outside of the enrollment window we don’t take on new athletes, and inside of the enrollment window, we take anyone and everyone who signs up. None of this “we interview you and say yes or no”.
Coeur: How many athletes will you be bringing on-board.
Sonja: During this enrollment period we will take whoever signs up between Dec 10-15th! The universe and our marketing will send us the right athletes and the right number of athletes. Sometimes you gotta lean in, and trust that what is supposed to happen….will! The universe will provide, plus, it’s more fun this way!
Coeur: Thank you so much for chatting with us. Is there anything else you’d like to share about Rising Tide Coaching?
Sonja: Yes, two things actually! One, we can’t wait for our Rising Tide Coeur kits to arrive (no pressure). Our athletes are EXCITED about them!
And two... We recently ran a 10-day challenge, open to anyone, to help athletes create routines for inevitable success. It was a total blast, full of fun. We did this because our surveys were telling us that athletes needed our help with “confidence". So we built a challenge to take a systematic approach to developing whatever intention you desire. Guess what the number two intention people set in the challenge was? COURAGE!!!!! I thought you all might like to know that, being that you all are experts in that area! Thanks Coeur for this opportunity! Big hugs!