A friend of mine is a classic example of why athletes seeking to improve cycling performance should hire a coach.
Each year towards the end of the December, my friend starts training in earnest. His program consists of hard efforts on the trainer, occasional lunchtime runs with his work colleagues and a strength training program that he has "designed" himself. During rare winter group rides afforded by the Northern New England climate, he shows up on his "fixie" and rides hard on the front. By February, he has all but abandoned his program, which really never was much of a program. By May when other riders are starting to come into early season race form, my pal is often found off the back of the group, struggling over the the last few miles just to make it home.
Where my friend began with good intentions - full of piss and vinegar - he did not know where to draw the line; he became fatigued; grew bored of the effort; life got in the way; and he soon fell out the good habits he struggled to develop. Enter the cycling coach.
The decision to hire a cycling coach is a commitment unto itself. The outlay of money to have someone advise you on how to improve your cycling performance suggests a level of seriousness not evident with the self-trained athletes. Only the rare athlete is able to develop, follow, monitor and adjust a training program that not only helps the athlete become faster on the bike, but to peak during key times of year for 'A' priority races.
So, what exactly does a cycling coach offer the serious cyclist?
- An experienced cycling coach knows cycling. The coach is a student of physiology and is credentialed by a recognized body such as USA Cycling.
- The coach understands the principles of overload and recovery. By working closely with you and understanding your response to certain training loads, the coach can meter out the training in a structured way that applies adequate training stress without creating an over trained effect.
- Likewise, a well-trained cycling coach knows when to tell an athlete to take a break. The coach is sensitive to early signs of overtraining syndromes and "forces" the eager athlete to recover.
- Interestingly, a good coach forces the athlete to work through a planned, heavy block of training, knowing that the appropriate load, followed by recovery creates higher levesl of fitness.
- The coach serves as a sounding board for the athlete who becomes discournaged by the results of a poor performance on an early season fitness test. The wise cycling coach also holds the athlete's ego in check when an unexpected breakout performance creates delusions of grandeur.
- A smart cycling coach emphasizes consistency, repeatability and specificity. The coach does not have you wasting time in the gym in April when you can be riding the bike.
- A good coach also respects your time by providing you with workouts designed for your goal events and focused. No junk miles here.
- Most importantly, the coach understands you as a person and as an athlete, helping you achieve the goals you have set out to do so that January's ambitions don't turn into being dropped in May in the local group ride.