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Thread: How many of you work with a coach?

  1. #1
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    Default How many of you work with a coach?

    Long post with some background, so bear with me...

    So, this will be my fourth season of racing. I know that for the majority of us weekend-warrior types may never see a podium and do it for various reasons, but I'm starting to feel a bit frustrated by lack of results.

    I'm usually getting 8-10 hours a week. For the first two years, I followed the structured plans in Carmichael's Time Crunched Cyclist book and saw some notable gains in fitness. At that point, I was racing about two months of back-to-back road races on weekends, and then transitioning into our summer weekly crit series. In my second year, I picked up CX and after doing all three series, realized that I didn't have much fun at road races and was burned out by November. At this point, I've decided that I'd be better off just sticking with crits and CX because of travel logistics and time commitment involved.

    I started with power last spring, still following some form of structure between TCC and some of the workouts listed in Zwift and Trainerroad. With the less-than-ideal weather the PNW has seen in the last two months, this season I feel like I'm lagging behind the guys who have spent all winter on Zwift indoors. I've spent the last six weeks or so trying to rebuild through tempo and threshold work and will start working on 1-min and 5-min efforts for the crit season that'll start mid-April.

    I have decent w/kg (>4). I feel like I've been doing this long enough to know the guys who show up every week, which are good wheels to follow, and where I need to be in the pack in the closing laps of a crit to be in the position to contend for the finish. I also know that part of why I don't always contend the sprint is because it's not worth risking my collarbone for a pack of gummi bears.

    How many of you currently (or formerly) have worked with a coach? What did you feel were the benefits or drawbacks? Any advice on what to consider in pondering this decision?
    My name is Hung | Instagram | Website/portfolio

  2. #2
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    Hiring a coach taught me a lot of things. Here are three big differences over doing it on your own with the approach you've used vs when I started with a coach. First, it instilled a new level of commitment to the training. It made me realize that by myself I could train hard, but I never trained hard consistently for multi-week blocks. It also tempered my training. Once I started with a coach you realize you rarely do monster workouts or centuries. You consistently do hard workouts, but they are sustainable for weeks on end. Finally, it taught me how hard you can push yourself when you feel like you are tired, and that you can still have good workouts even when your legs don't feel up to it. You learn to trust the training, not always what you feel.

    One flipside is that if you like doing a lot of group rides, you probably should take that into consideration. Doing a lot of group rides doesn't let you train like you should. You either end up going too hard or too easy. It is mainly solo riding to get the maximum effect.

    For me it was also important to have a coach I trusted that had the experience to get me to my specific goals, not just whatever coach CTS was going to give me (nothing against CTS, I did not use them so don't have any comments for or against)
     

  3. #3
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    I have worked with a coach. When I was a Cat IV my end goal was to get to the II's and call it a day. My coach (shameless plug Scott Blanchard) did a great job of 1)increasing my pain threshold 2)helping me understand just how hard cycling was/is. We had a great relationship and he dragged me kicking and screaming to a place that I never would have gotten without him.

    That said, I plateaued in the II's and we parted as friends. I now have the understanding of where my cycling is and what I need to do to keep it there.

    The most important thing to me would be a connection with the Coach and their program. If you are not 100% on board it will be hard to move higher. Obviously, cost is also a consideration as well. Lastly, where are you trying to go with your cycling and how will you know when you get there?
     

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    I have worked with a couple coaches and they all taught me different things that have helped build an understanding of how to train better.
    A coach will have a better understanding of when to push and when to rest, its almost impossible to have a clear view of this on your own. They can also really help set-up a season training a racing plan.
    Bottom line, I would highly recommend hiring a coach if your goal is to improve as a racer.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    I grew up swimming so I'm very used to having a coach, I operate pretty simply, if it's on the program I'll do it.

    When I got into cycling I was pretty timeless, plenty of pointless riding with no focus. The best part of riding with a coach is actually having purpose to what I do. It's made a huge improvement to my power and racing.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    I was a coach and have been coached.

    A coach does work when:
    You find a coach and you get along, they understand what you are trying to achieve, they have experience in that area, ...
    You are patient and let the plan work.

    A coach doesn't work if:
    You don't follow their plan. (this sound dumb but it is all to common for athletes add extra)
    You don't have clear goal about what you are trying to achieve.
    You and coach don't communicate well.

    *One thing that a good coach will do is find out what you do for a living and other activities. The reason this is important is because if you a roofer, or have some other job that is very physically stressful, your coach needs to be aware of that and make adjustments. If they never ask you about the rest of your life then they are throwing a plan at you that may not be appropriate.
    This is on you to tell them and on them to ask. "Hey by the way...I play basketball 3 nights a week, build rock landscapes for a living, and have 3 kids under then age of 4..." The coach needs to take all that into account.
    Brian McLaughlin

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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    I've been considering talking to one as well. I've got myself to cat 2 (in CX) without one, and am learning a lot, I spend a fare amount of my time reading and and listening, but I know theres a lot I wont get. In the past I have got a lot out of asking stupid questions on here, but it might be about that time.
    --------------------
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    I've recently parted ways with my coach of 5+ years. Relationship was very solid for the duration and we are good friends. My life has changed and felt this was a good year to fully self-coach and take a bit of time away from prioritizing bike racing above all else.

    We had a back and forth approach to the training and I was highly involved with the plan and (obviously) the execution. To me the best parts of having a coach were:

    * Time management - I outsourced the macro and micro cycle planning to him.
    * The Push and Accountability - It is motivating to have someone helping you achieve goals. Coaches, mentors, guides all serve a purpose.
    * Race strategy and pacing - We introduced a lot of discipline to my time trialing which reaped big rewards.

    While my results steadily improved year on year it was not from big power gains but rather from developing a deeper depth of fitness and racing smarter. I entered the relationship fairly well trained and while we did make gains on CP20 / CP60 it was not huge. What changed was repeatability. For example my CP20 has been 270 for a long time. But some races I'd go 270, then 255, then 240 then back to 270. It wasn't consistent. Over the years of training well I eliminated a lot of the up and down and raced much better.

    Mention the latter because many athletes expect to switch coaches and gain X.X percent on their sprint, CP20, FTP. If you are already well trained there may be gains but don't expect magic.

    My take on coaching is that any plan will help a non-disciplined rider make gains. That is the first big job. The plan, encouragement, commitment and accountability accomplishes that. Book plans, TrainerRoad, etc all work pretty well in this phase. The next gains come from working together in an established relationship to strengthen weaknesses and consolidate gains. This phase is harder. Any good coach can help you with the first couple steps of improvement and that is a few years of work (often).

    Once through easy gains you are looking for smaller, and much harder to find, gains. This is where relationships can stall and you may need to switch things up, get a different stimulus, etc.

    Generalities:

    If you enter a coaching relationship commit to a reasonable period of time. At least a base-build-race cycle. Preferably a couple. Unless you absolutely are not getting on with the coach or simply hate the program. Take at least one "get to know me" session with F2F video or in person. Be honest about your time and goals. Give lots of feedback. Coaches cannot read minds. Send (upload) your data daily. Coaches want to see how you are doing and responding. Wear your heart monitor. Give good notes. Record weight, sensations, what you did well, what you did poorly.

    Basically, help your coach help you :-)

    It is perfectly fine to reach a point where your first, second, third coach cannot take you further. These are not life long commitments so when they get stale move on.

    Finally, I see a lot of incredibly overpriced mediocrity and a fair amount of low knowledge people hanging out coaching shingles. Look for someone with a track record who can tell you "why" and explain the macrocycles not someone who just sends workouts.

    $0.02 FWIW

    -Mark
     

  9. #9
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    My travel schedule pretty much drove all coach crazy.
     

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    Lionel - Same issue but with less travel than you I expect. Travel screws up the coaches formulaic approach and most don't know how to adjust. I ended up taking that into my own hands and would shift around the key workouts to fit my travel and work schedule. Worked well but coach never got that correct.

    For the thread - In reflection and IMO, most coaches today are simply power based plan providers. Many whom I've observed or consulted with "recycle" the same plan amongst many riders simply tuning the target power numbers. Many are just taking plans and workouts from a few of the common sources. I've found some value there as an outsource of periodicity planning.

    There is far more value in coaches / mentors who can teach techniques and race strategy. At my advanced age I'm not making gains in power. But I can always improve as a bike racer and rider. The last few years all of my TT (that is time trial not Too Tall) PRs came from racing smarter and better tactically. Unfortunately there are very few "coaches" out there who can provide more than a power based plan and those who can tend to be extremely costly. That is a shame because as a collective we are producing stronger and stronger riders with less and less skills.

    Probably not what the OP was thinking but riding / racing a bike well is far more than fitness so something to consider when trying to improve.

    -Mark
     

  11. #11
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    It's interesting that you explain your results, at least partially, on your unwillingness to be injured. You've done a good job of coaching yourself and you're smart enough to put yourself in the right place to win. If you were prepared to take the risk.

    I'd think about fixing what's keeping you from winning. You really have two choices, based on what you've described. First, be able to break away and solo in. Second, gain confidence in your handling ability and/or your willingness to go down in a crash. The former is a hard way to do it; the second is not coaching in the usual sense but a matter of having experienced riders critique your tactics and bike handling and giving you the confidence to win.

    If you're in contention at the finish, and don't want to go down, it's usually about coming through in the lead on the last turn and staying there. Can you already do that or do you need a coach for more speed or more bike handling? That can decide whether you need a coach or what kind to get.

    I'm not arguing at all against getting a coach, only that you want to train your shortcomings and those may not actually be fitness. You're not unlike many riders who can get superbly fit but not win because you aren't in a position to take the risks that racing entails. There's no criticism in that -- we all have families and careers and quality of life that can be compromised by a bad accident and we're not exactly being paid to take the risk. There's nothing wrong with racing for fitness and community without actually contesting the finish. That podium is fun but you can also be a superb team player and get on a strong team with a couple clear leaders who you can support and be recognized for doing that. It's really just about what floats your boat. You've accomplished a lot to be in at the finish and you can find a lot of satisfaction in supporting a team leader and demonstrating the expertise and team orientation in supporting that leader. If anything, you can work even harder in a support role throughout a race, because an independent rider or a team leader will minimize effort until key strategic points. And you'll get your chance to win as well when the situation suits you. Just a thought.
    Lane DeCamp

  12. #12
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    In my last few years of racing on the road, I targeted several keys events throughout the year and focused on performing well in those, events like the state crit championships, masters sprints and kilo or 500m, State champ TTT etc. Everything else was preparation for the key events. This led to less risk taking, a very specific training plan and pretty good results in what mattered to me. You might consider something similar.


    Good coaches can be very helpful if they know and care about you, if you trust them, and if you listen to your own body above all else.
     

  13. #13
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    Quote Originally Posted by twowheels View Post
    Good coaches can be very helpful if they know and care about you, if you trust them, and if you listen to your own body above all else.
    Well said. The most important thing about coaching is that you still have to be able to evaluate your own capacity and level of performance. It doesn't relieve you of the responsibility for figuring out your own performance.
    Lane DeCamp

  14. #14
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    I am a coach, and I'm proud of the work I've done with others. I decided from the beginning not to offer a tiered system of plans because in the end that can leave everyone dissatisfied. I offer all-in coaching in terms of communication and adjustment to the plan. Being a cat 1 with 26 years of experience has helped me help others quite a bit on top of the current training methods with power, PMC modeling, and so on. Doing this has been a rewarding experience, and it's been a great learning opportunity for both myself and my riders.

    I have a coach because even an experienced athlete needs to have a second set of eyes to help them with the short, medium, and long term objectives. Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.
     

  15. #15
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    Quote Originally Posted by earlfoss View Post
    I have a coach because even an experienced athlete needs to have a second set of eyes to help them with the short, medium, and long term objectives. Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.
    Right. Even Roger Federer has a coach. Or two...
     

  16. #16
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    Default Re: How many of you work with a coach?

    Since I'm not a pro athlete I think it would be a waste of money to hire a coach. Although I am still racing I don't take seriously enough and my life won't be more enjoyable because I ride a wee bit faster, especially if it brings out some annoyances in the process.
    --
    T h o m a s

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