Whether you're an occasional century rider or a seasoned criterium racer, a good cycling coach can help you to take your cycling to the next level when it may be hard to do so on your own. But in order to reap all of the benefits, you'll have to find the right coach—and one that fits all of your individual needs.
A coach wears many hats: He or she will be an assessor, a workout provider, a motivator, a psychologist and a teacher. But there are other qualities that you'll need to consider before you can find the perfect coach for you. Is he or she a good personality fit? Is he flexible with your schedule, and invested in your success?
Look for these key attributes that every good coach should have before you decide to sign up.
1. Partnership: Training and event success must be a team goal. Cyclists 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 so that the plan setting and execution will ultimately lead to the best outcome possible.
2. 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. Without a history, a successful partnership will be risky.
3. Willingness to listen and adjust: A plan is only the first step. 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. A good coach must be flexible enough to accommodate unexpected circumstances.
4. 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. Coaches need to monitor their athletes regularly to determine how to adjust or increase training volume to reach long-term success. Volume though, 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.
5. 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 doesn't directly provide a service, he or she should have a trusted resource available for an athlete to rely on. This includes a bike-fit specialist, performance testing, nutrition planning, bike maintenance, massage and physical therapy and other well-known health professionals. Having a network of people available is vital to an athlete's preparation toward race day.
6. Locality: Coaching certainly can be done remotely (and very successfully), but 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 provides opportunity to ride together and assess areas or skills of your ability that need improvement. Pedaling technique, standing on climbs and positioning in the wind, etc. are all examples of specific ways a local coach can watch and recommend changes to improve your performance.
7. Communication: A good coach will ask for regular feedback from the athlete so that they can monitor and adjust the plan. While unlimited access to a coach may be overkill, regular communication and discussion are vital to goal achievement. Limiting the frequency of communication may help lower the cost, but consider the ramifications of only being able to convey problems that arise on a sporadic basis.
8. Intangibles: There are subtle tasks that a coach may be willing to help with that improve the experience such as 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. Teaching and sharing his or her knowledge that's been accumulated over the years should fall into this category as well.
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 accomplish on your own.
Ready to ride? Search for a cycling event.