A series of key bike races remain in the road season: for the pros we are looking at the Vuelta, Lombardia, and the World Championships, for the amateurs in northern California we have the Cal Cup.
While these races are an important part of the cycling season, invariably thoughts are beginning to turn toward the off-season. Part of the off-season activities that athletes go through should include a review of the season – what went right, what went wrong, and what changes need to be made so you can take your next step of growth.
This month I want to discuss how to select and partner with a coach to achieve your best. A good coach is many things to the athlete: an assessor, workout provider, motivator, psychologist, etc. Here are a few key attributes to consider when selecting a coach:
• Partnership – training and event success must be a team goal. Athletes must own the process and outcome of their achievements; however, a coach has to invest in each of their athlete’s success. Both parties must work together and trust each other that the plan setting and execution will ultimately lead to the best outcome possible.
• Experience and track record – Ideally a coach will have multiple athletes that can provide testimony to the success they have had working together. It takes a significant amount of time for a coach to build an applied body of knowledge that is tried and true.
• Willingness to listen and adjust – a plan is only the first step in a journey. Life happens and requires constant adjustments and accommodations. Illness, injury, fatigue, and unexpected events all can work to derail the path toward success. An athlete must communicate with the coach while experiencing these scenarios so that the coach can make the necessary adjustments.
• Understanding of physiology – coaches must have an operating knowledge of an athlete’s response (adaptation) to exercise, and this must be personalized. Each person is unique and will handle the mix of volume and intensity differently than another person. Coaches will need to monitor their athletes regularly to determine how to apply incremental load within the micro to achieve the macro. But, load is not the only consideration. Response to heat, life or work stress, and other stimuli that affect the ability to perform at one’s best must be considered in creating the plan.
• Building a network – a coach should be able to provide an athlete with all of the products and services required to be successful. If a coach does not directly provide a service they should have a trusted resource available for an athlete to rely on. These include; bike fitting, performance testing, nutrition planning, bike maintenance, massage and physical therapy, etc. Having a network of people available as needed will go a long way in an athlete’s preparation.
• Locality – while coaching certainly can be done remotely (and very successfully), there is no substitute for a brick-and-mortar operation that allows an athlete to come in for a face to face meeting. Selecting a coach in your area also provides opportunity for riding together and assessing some skills for change. Pedaling smoothness, standing and powering over rollers, knees and elbows in, positioning in the wind, etc. are all examples of specific items a local coach can watch and recommend changes when required.
• Communication – a good coach will ask for regular feedback from the athlete so that they can monitor and adjust. While unlimited access to a coach may be overkill, regular communication and discussion are vital to ensure the plan is working toward goal achievement. Limiting the ability to communicate may help lower the cost, however, consider the ramifications of only being able to convey issues on a sporadic basis.
• Intangibles – there are subtle tasks that a coach may be willing to help with that improve the experience. Downloading data, not charging for every minute spent together, etc. Coaches should be agreeable (within reason) to do those things that help their athlete’s succeed.
Though this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the key considerations when looking to partner with a coach. Remember that your success is paramount and selecting someone that will invest in you can enable you to grow in ways you could not do on your.
Ride safe, ride comfortable, ride strong!
Bruce Hendler is a USA Cycling Coach and owner of AthletiCamps in Northern California. For the past 14 years, he and his experienced team have helped athletes of all levels achieve their goals in the great sport of bike racing thru cycling training camps, cycling coaching and performance testing. To contact AthletiCamps, visit their website at www.athleticamps.com or follow them on Twitter.