Swapping Corporate Life for the world of Coaching.

July 4th 2019, Independence Day and my American boss phoned to say my corporate role was being made redundant. Was I sad? No I was dancing on the desk and filled with excitement and a sense of adventure and up for a new challenge. After 13 years which saw me move from being an accountant to enjoying a global leadership role, it was time to dip my toe into something new. I’d always fancied having a go at contracting or something completely different but having a family and responsibilities, I always felt turning my back on a full-time well paid job would be very risky to choose.

The next day was Friday and Lucy and I were travelling to Holkham to race in the Outlaw Half. I remember one of the first things Lucy got me to do on the 3 hour journey to North Norfolk, was to list all the things that I wouldn’t miss about my old role. I think this was a great list and whenever times in future may get challenging, I can look at this list and it will motivate me to be more determined to succeed at coaching.

So I took some time out for a break, and had about 4 weeks to train, for Ironman Copenhagen in the August. The event went well and I knocked 40 minutes of my PB and was followed by travelling to Mallorca for Long Course Weekend before a couple of weeks in St Lucia.

By now it was November 2019 and it was time to start to think about the future. Between holidays I’d managed to squeeze in a weekend Level One Angling Coaching Course. This started off more as a hobby as fishing is something that I have been good at for many years and comes quite naturally. I am also lucky enough to be sponsored and have enjoyed a great relationship with Browning, my sponsors for over 20 years.

However after my angling course this sowed the seeds that maybe coaching was a direction that I would like to pursue so next on my list was my greatest passion; Triathlon. I discussed with Tri2O if they would help and support me and soon afterwards, I was booking my Level One Triathlon Course. 

One thing I have learned since going down the coaching route is that coaching courses can be difficult to get onto and it can be slow work getting Level One and Two passed, as you have to fit in with the courses on offer, which can be few and far between. For Triathlon most of the courses tend to be in the off-season months from November to April. Also, for most sports to be able to coach on your own, and write your own session plans, you tend to need to be Level Two qualified. If I had my time again, I think I would have tried to gain some of the qualifications whilst in full time work, so you can move faster when you make your career change.

In November, I was able to pass my Level One Triathlon Course over 3 classroom days and lots of coursework. I then threw myself straight into getting some coaching in, building up some confidence and putting into practice what I had learnt. I was lucky and grateful that Georgia took me under her wing and gave me the chance to coach with her on Sunday evenings, at the club swimming sessions at Leighton Park. I also booked my Level Two Course for February, March and May 2020, so I had a clear plan and agenda to get to Level Two. 

At the same time, I started to think more about building up a portfolio of coaching and I was soon registering for a Fitness Instructing Level Two Course and Personal Training Level Three Diploma. I also answered a cry for help from my running club Reading Roadrunners, who were looking for new coaches and working with them, I was able to register for a Leadership in Running Fitness Course (LiRF) in January. Things were starting to fall into place and a clear coaching journey was being plotted, although maybe I was biting off more than I could chew to concentrate on quite so many courses at once.

Unexpectedly, the last piece of the jigsaw came about in St Lucia, when Lucy and I holidayed at the same time as former Olympic swimming couple, Keri-anne Payne and David Carry, who were running a two-week swimming camp at our hotel. We were impressed by David and Keri-anne having enjoyed swimming with them, being coached by them and attending their beach fitness bootcamps on a number of mornings. I quickly knew that Open Water Swimming was another string I really wanted to add to my bow and it saw me registering for Keri-anne’s Level Two Open Water Swimming Coaching Qualification she teaches through STA (Swimming Teachers Association). I have really grown to love open water swimming and would love to help people share in the joy, in a safe and confident way.

So, the master plan for 2020 was to complete 

LiRF January 2020

Fitness Instructing February

PT April

Level Two Angling Mid-May

Level Two STA Open Water Swimming May 23rd

Level Two Triathlon May 24th 

Launch JW Coaching May 25th 2020.

Then Covid-19 happened……….!!!

Like most of us we all faced some challenges, delays and postponements.

I was lucky enough to get my LiRF out of the way in January and start some running coaching for Reading Roadrunners. I have also been able to complete my Level Two in Fitness Instructing, as some of it could be adapted to be completed online and with filming at home with a person you live with. Step up guinea pig Lucy!!

However Level Two Angling got postponed with no date advised as of yet and for Level Two Triathlon, frustratingly I was able to complete 4 of the 5 classroom days in February and March, before postponement set in, leaving me with 6 sessions to coach and a final assessment day to undertake; to complete the qualification. Hopefully soon, as things are starting to ‘come back’ I will be able to lead these 6 sessions and look for volunteers to be coached, in a similar way to Edwina recently.

As for PT this is 90% complete via online, zoom, home filming, willing guinea pig and video assessment, but marking is slow as some of the staff are on furlough.

For Open Water Swimming, thankfully Keri-anne was able to adapt her course and we did two classroom days via Zoom and then when swimming started to open up, we completed the course with a classroom and lake day at Shepperton Lake.

So, I’ve now started my own business and softly launched jw-coaching.co.uk and have been doing some Open Water Swimming Coaching and some Running Coaching, however my main focus for now is completing my PT and Triathlon Courses, before I launch my venture in a bigger way and chase the dream.

So why am I doing this? What is my Coaching philosophy?

I’m passionate about sport, I enjoy working and inspiring people and I love to help them on their sporting journey. For me, many years ago I went from the guy who struggled to run more than a mile, to having someone explain how to run two miles, this then led me to run 5K, which led to 5 miles, 10 miles, half a marathon and then a marathon. After that I needed a new challenge and discovered triathlon. I raced the Jenson Button Sprint Triathlon in late summer 2012, did some Olympics and a 70.3 in 2013; followed by the Outlaw Full in 2014.

Since then, I have gone on to complete 6 Ironman Triathlons, 2 Long Course Weekends, 22 Half Ironman Triathlons, 25 Marathons, 44 Half Marathons and 153 5K Runs.

Along the way on my journey, I have trained with many wonderful people and lots of great coaches, all of whom have taught me a lot. I have used everything I have learned and added it to my own desire, passion and mental strength to get to many finish lines. I have also experienced difficult moments, for example injury and disqualification in IM Barcelona, missing the bike cut off on the last mountain and coming back more determined and stronger. It’s this experience, passion, desire, strength, leadership and knowledge that I want to share with people on their journeys, coupled with technique, diet and training plans to help them be the best version of themselves they can be. I am a good listener and a good motivator. It’s lovely giving something back and seeing people improve and change positively. I feel because I am not a natural athlete and have never had it easy, or much natural ability I can relate to athletes of many abilities and stages in their journey, as I have had experience at many levels.

So, what’s next? I want to complete my PT and Triathlon Coaching and then prioritise my coaching activities. I have a number of possibilities that I am currently working on. It will be interesting with a diverse portfolio of coaching to draw on, but it would be lovely to have the chance to keep it varied. An ideal week may look like coaching for Tri2O, a few bootcamps, some open water swimming coaching, PT client 1-2-1’s, a day angling coaching, some bike training and some filming for my angling sponsors!!!

Whatever my week looks like, I will be successful and I will make it happen. Some things will work and some things won’t, but I am really looking forward to working with many people and helping them on their sporting journeys through my new coaching life. Perhaps I can help you as well, feel free to contact me through the web site   https://jw-coaching.co.uk/

or by email   jcmw@sky.com


About Justin Watkins - jw-coaching.co.uk

I am a sports coach who specialises in helping people start their fitness /sporting journey and making it happen. I coach, personal training, running, triathlon, open water swimming, angling and cycling.
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