Do you pay for coaching services? This is a common practice among cyclists, and one that I thought deserved a closer look here on the blog.
The last time I had a real coach was when I raced with the University of Minnesota Cycling Team as an undergraduate student. The team hired a coach (who is still a great friend of mine) to run indoor sessions and travel with us to races, providing strategy and training tips. As a beginning racer, I learned a lot from my coach, and I think it was a big part of why I decided to stick with cycling. As a former soccer player and cross country runner, I was used to the coach-athlete relationship, and I knew I trained better and harder with that guidance.
Out for a mountain bike ride with our UMCT coach, circa 2008. Go Gophers!
After I graduated, I continued to race, but seeing as I was now a graduate student (grad students are notoriously low on extra income to say, pay someone to coach them), I decided against seeking out a coach. Despite not having an official coach, my husband took it upon himself to do the research and provide both of us with individualized training plans, based largely on information from The Cyclist’s Training Bible. I jokingly told my friends and fellow cyclists that Jameson was my “coach,” which spawned some great humor about how hard it is to be married to the person who makes your training plan. Notably, it is difficult to skip workouts when you live with your coach, and your spouse knows better than anyone how to guilt trip you into doing a set of intervals when you’re feeling lazy.
Not only was I married to my “coach,” but for a while we sported matching sunglasses!
After using this training method for several years, I evolved one step further this year and simply adapted old training plans for myself, essentially becoming my own coach. Part of the motivation for this was that Jameson no longer had time, and the other part was the success of my season last year. I felt like I had really “dialed in” my training plan to the point where I had the best season of my life (the jury is still out on whether this plan will work two years in a row – I’ll let you know in a few months).
To summarize, I don’t feel like I need to pay someone to coach me for three main reasons: 1) I had a good foundation in training from the get-go, due to my UMCT coach; 2) I have developed a solid training plan that achieves the results I want; and 3) I’m highly self-motivated, and will hold myself accountable to hit all my workouts and hours.
Do you need a coach to achieve your training goals, or just a training plan and a lot of self-motivation?
I realize these reasons are not valid for everyone, so I emailed two friends/teammates who both hire (or have hired) coaches to get their take on the value of paying for these services. Both of them said that they liked having a coach, but for different reasons. One of them hired a coach when she “got serious about racing,” because she “didn’t even know what intervals were when [I] started with [my coach].” The other commented that she started with a professional coach “when I decided to start going for my Cat 2 [upgrade], and wanted to start doing some higher level racing.” She said that this decision coincided with a new job, where she knew she would need to decrease her training hours, “making efficiency extra important.” The one thing that both of these women said they appreciated about coaching was having an outside, objective view of your own training. “The extra perspective of a coach was very helpful at one point this past season,” said one. The other said that “[Having a coach] provides structure and guidance on and off the bike, as well as motivation to go after new goals or re-evaluate. Team dynamics can change over time, but having a coach keeps things in perspective for me as an individual rider.”
What do you think? Coach or no coach? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments, so leave some below!
-The Hungry Cyclists