Is it really worth hiring a cycling coach?

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On the fence about hiring a coach? I certainly was.

At the end of 2013, the close of a great season in the cross country mountain biking Cat 2 Women’s field, I found that I wanted more.  I had this burning desire to be better, to be more, to be serious. I didn’t want to waste anymore time or energy on trendy workout plans scrounged up off the internet.

It was a big decision for me to acquire a coach at the beginning of 2014. Friends and fellow riders had made the suggestion that I get a coach for years, but I was afraid to take the leap. I was being silly, looking back at it now, but then again, in life, timing if everything.

I’ve been an athlete all my life, high school track & field, Nordic skiing & field hockey. I played Div III college field hockey. When I lived in Australia I joined the local town hockey club, was selected for the regional team (a Yank on a select Aussi squad was a feat in itself) and had the opportunity to take a clinic taught by the Australian Olympic Coach. Team sports come with a coach. I’ve seen quite a few coaches over the years and experienced a huge range of styles and personalities. But in the end, there’s no choosing – you get what you get and you don’t get upset.

Cycling is very different – coaches aren’t related to teams. Weird.

I thought long and hard about what it would mean to acquire a cycling coach. Part of it terrified me – having to be accountable and honest about every workout and every effort. Like letting the world read my personal diary. Yikes.

And I imagined the coach would no-doubt push me to get every gadget imaginable. Ugh… More importantly than the time and money I thought would be drained by these gadgets, I didn’t want who I was to become overshadowed by a matrix of numbers and zones to target and record – heart rate, watts, vo2 max, elevation, slope, cadence, speed, distance – and that’s the tip of the iceberg. I imagined a coach would stare endlessly into the streams of numbers unlocking the greater truth of my unseen universe like a fortuneteller reading tea leaves. I also didn’t want an automated set of workouts generated by software, even if the workouts were tailored to these so called data streams. I wanted a personal experience and I wanted who I am off the bike to be factored into my time on the bike.

I spoke with various athletes, getting recommendations for local coaches. Then I spoke with a number of coaches and peppered them with questions and comments. Some didn’t have the right answers, some didn’t have the type of personality that made me want to work hard. The whole process seemed like a bad round of speed dating.

Finally I sat down with a coach who’s response to my make it or break it baiting comment of, “I guess you’ll want me to get a heart rate monitor or something?”

“Nope.”

Huh. That’s not what I expected. In fact, most of things he said were not what I had expected.

Fast forward to a year later. I had the best season of my life.  (see my 2014 race results) I worked insanely hard on and off the bike, and I built a true friendship with my coach. All the steps I had taken to get to Jan 2014 were nano-steps compared to the changes I experience this past year. Goals I hadn’t let myself take seriously were becoming my reality.

If your on the fence about hiring a coach, or you’ve gotten the bug to race better, take the plunge & hire a coach. Talk to athletes — especially those you admire — ask them what their life looks like after hiring a coach, talk to coaches, find out about their coaching style. What’s their personality like? What fuels you to push yourself?

For me, picking a coach was a big decision. And, yes, if you don’ t like a coach, you can always fire them, but then you have to start from scratch, and who has time for that?

Photo credit Small Forest Photography

 

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On January 23, 2015
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