Coaching for Performance


Prior to my 40th birthday, I made myself a commitment: to complete a sprint triathlon. I trained five to six days a week for four months prior to the event. I’ve been a runner all of my life so that part (I thought) would be easy. I rode my bike, but not typically that many miles at one time, yet practice gave me confidence.

Swimming was a new sport to me, and I was a bit nervous about the learning curve.  I was out of breath and exhausted every time I practiced. My major challenge was breathing, how could I take a breath anytime I needed? Lightbulb moment……swim the backstroke! (I have to say it was unusual; most people swim freestyle.)

On the day of the event, the swim took more energy than I expected. As I got on my bike I recognized I was very tense, and my breathing was short and shallow. I needed to relax! I told myself over and over: “breathe in and out, in and out. Relax those shoulders, stay centered and focused on what is still a head. You’ve done this ride a dozen times. You can do it!”

When I transitioned to the run portion, I felt like I had cement blocks on my feet. I remember thinking; “What the heck’s happening?!  I can’t get my cadence or speed up! Why am I feeling like this? I’m in great shape. I should be feeling better, the running part is where I should breeze through!” I ended up barely shuffling through the 3.2 miles. I felt very sluggish and slow as I fought back the desire to vomit….but I made it to the finish line.

I learned later what I was experiencing has a name: Bonking.

I purchased a triathlon training “how to” workbook and thought I had enough sports knowledge, experience, and previous training from other sporting events to guide me through.

I was wrong and “bonking” was the result.

Funny thing is, even after feeling like I did, I was hooked. I wanted to do it again! I knew I could better, so I hired a coach. Her experience, knowledge and encouragement helped me shave 20-minutes off my next triathlon completion time, which is a HUGE improvement.

Because of her,  I was able to master the freestyle stroke and calm my breathing. I became not only a more efficient and effective swimmer, but a cyclist, AND runner through her coaching.

I experienced firsthand how coaching could help me get clear on what I wanted and needed to do to reach my goal. (Which was not bonking next time.) My coach provided learning guidelines and best practices of the sport, including nutrition and hydration tips to keep me fueled so I could finish strong and not bonk again. I not only performed much better, but my progression also gave me the drive to continue signing up for more events. As my confidence grew, I started participating in Olympic distance triathlons.

As I worked with my coach, I could see many comparisons to leadership coaching. Although sport coaching techniques and processes are quite different, there are similarities.  In both fields, coaches:

  • Are knowledgeable thought partners who encourage us to push ourselves in areas that are new, uncomfortable, even scary.
  • Help us understand limiting beliefs and what we value.
  • Help us to see our blind spots and how we are really showing up.
  • Are courage catalysts. They inspire action, freeing us to step up and do more.
  • Help us to practice new actions and behaviors and set actionable and achievable goals.
  • Hold us accountable to what we want (and need) to do.

As a result of working with a coach, we start to work better, stronger and smarter.  Our confidence increases and our performance improves. We start to grow into the person we want to become.

At BenchStrength Coaching we use sports as an analogy for leadership coaching because we believe leaders, like athletes, get better with coaching.  We also know that the team with the strongest bench wins.

Contact us if you are looking to build the talent on your leadership bench, we would love to talk to you about our programs.

Written by Christine Noffz