Who needs a coach anyway?

The cycling industry as a whole has seen a tremendous boom during the last decade. Cycling has been coined the “new golf” and the industry has seen over 100% growth in both participation and sales during the last 10 years. But our new golfers are not satisfied with only participating, they want to be competitive. Especially in South Africa, which has always been a nation obsessed with ultra endurance sport, our new golfers want to take on the world’s toughest mountain bike stage races and not only finish, but excel and beat their peers.

The boom in participation has gone hand in hand with a huge influx and growth of technology in cycling. For example, the number of athletes participating in the Kona Ironman World Championships racing with powermeters has increased more than 5 fold in the last 8 years. In 2008, less than 10% of bikes had a powermeter, whereas the most recent statistics show >50% of all bikes are being fitted with powermeters. Similar trends, albeit lower percentages, are now being seen in our local mountain bike stage races. The popularity of powermeters has resulted in an abundance of information available on the internet, social media, in books, podcasts, etc. Everywhere we look, there are so called professionals giving training advice. This abundance of freely available information is great, but often leads to confusion, resulting in athletes often over-training, performing and applying training principles incorrectly, which results in stagnated or decreases in performance.

 

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As a result, cyclists have begun seeking the help of professional coaches to help de-clutter the abundance of information available. However, not everyone understands the value of a coach or what to expect from a coaching relationship or experience. This leaves us with the questions; will you benefit from getting a coach, and when is the right time to seek the help of a professional coach? We will discuss and try and debunk some pre-conceived ideas about coaching.

 

What is coaching?


What seems to be a very simple question is in actual fact the exact question you need to ask yourself when seeking the help of a coach. In cycling terms it is hard to define, however the definitions provided by parallel fields provide useful insights, the international coaching federation (a federation for life coaches) defines coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”, and lifestyle or wellness coaching as “a professionally trained coach who acts as a motivator, educator and accountability partner to support individuals in making lasting lifestyle changes that improve their physical and mental wellbeing”. These definitions illustrate the complexity of a coaching relationship and that coaching is far more engaging than simply producing a training program for a client.

 

What should a good coach do?


It goes without saying that a good coach needs to provide a periodised training program, which is individualised to your ability and available time. But, what is too often not mentioned is the additional benefits of a coach and the extent of your relationship with your coach. When choosing a coach, you need to know what you want from the relationship. To us, there are four key roles of coaches. To ensure you are going to get the added benefit from a coach, he needs to be able to deliver the following tasks:

 

1) Translation of Science

 

With the abundance of information available, the role of the coach is to translate the science and to incorporate best practice into your training program. One of the fundamental problems with cycling training today is that traditional cycling training methods have become deeply entrenched in what many today believe are best practice. On several occasions recent scientific studies have debunked more traditional training principles. A properly designed periodised training program therefore needs to implement and translate the most recent scientific literature.

 

2) Motivation and accountability

 

We feel that these two facets; motivation and accountability, go hand in hand and are critically important. For these to be properly implemented you do however need to ensure that you invest in a more interactive training plan. Coaches normally have a few tiers or packages of coaching and provide anything from monthly interaction with four weeks of individualised training (what we call category 3 coaching) to a very interactive relationship with analysis of session data and monitoring (what we call category 1). The latter category of coaching would be essential if motivation and accountability are required. We all know how hard it is to drag oneself out of bed on a cold winter morning. Knowing that you are going to have to answer to your coach is certainly a very undervalued benefit. Further, we all have times when training and life simply gets tough. Your coach is there for support when times gets tough and may be your outlet, which is often required to get you back on the road and focussed on your training goal.

 

3) Eliminate uncertainty

 

Our experiences have taught us that a successful athlete is a highly driven athlete. A highly driven athlete always tends to try and do too much, train too hard and always feels as if he has not done enough or trained hard enough. A coach is there to eliminate this uncertainty and help guide the athlete and remind the athlete of the greater goal. In the age where there is an abundance of self-proclaimed experts around trying to impart their wisdom, especially when we see our competitors and friends post their rides on Strava as soon as they are done, it is only natural to start doubting what you are doing and feel as if you are not doing enough. It is when this doubt creeps in that we tend to deviate from our original plan. It is this uncertainty that a coach helps you eliminate.

 

4) Objective feedback

 

The process of training requires careful monitoring across a season, but also monitoring and analysis of specific key training sessions. The problem when looking at your own training is the large level of subjectivity. Athletes tend to be very harsh with themselves due to being extremely driven. A good session will never be good enough, which will eventually lead to the athlete feeling that they need to do more – resulting in over-training and a decrease in performance. The benefit of a coach is that your coach will objectively analyse key sessions (if included in your package as mentioned above). This again is a huge benefit to eliminate doubt and ensure progression.

 

When should I get the help of a professional coach?


Personally, we don’t believe there is a right or wrong time to utilise a coaching service. Coaching is for anyone from the individual who is simply trying to get more active and lose a few kilograms, to the professional cyclist. Personally, we have found that individuals who gain the most are those who have tried self-coaching and have failed or stagnated due to the reasons discussed above. We have some of our greatest successes and improvements from athletes who had stagnated for years despite training very hard (too much).

 

Is getting a coach the right option for me?


Important to note that no coach is going to be of any benefit to you if you are not able to listen and trust your coach 100%. You have to respect your coach and trust that she/he knows what is best for you. Any amount of doubt in your coach will nullify any potential benefit. Often athletes who come from self-coached backgrounds are still very stuck in their own ways and not always open-minded to change. Coaching is a two-way relationship and communication and trust are key elements of that relationship.

 

How long before I may start noticing benefits and how much will I improve?


You are not necessarily going to see immediate improvements. Any well-developed training program is periodised and includes all facets which contribute to your ability to ride faster. These then come together in a so-called ‘peak’ at the time of the event you are training for. That being said you should see small (<2%) session-to-session improvements when repeating the same training sessions. This should be monitored by coaches to ensure that there is progression, albeit small. However, there is no way to predict your personal ability and potential to improve. Genetically we are all different and therefore our ability to respond to training will be vastly different. We do, however, regularly see improvements of around 5% in peak power output from one year to the next.

 

Which category of coaching is best for me?


Over and above your personal budget you have to ask yourself why you have sought the help of a coach. To be able to choose the correct coaching package you have to review the four key roles of coaches highlighted above. Compare what you are expected to receive in each coaching package and compare it against the potential listed benefits. Only a very comprehensive package (what we call category 1) will give you all the potential benefits. Other important factors to consider are how structured your calendar is. For example, if you require your training program to be adjusted regularly to accommodate your ever-changing work commitments, a basic package (category 3) is going to be of little benefit to you. When you meet with you prospective coach for the first time, go with a list of expectations and let him guide you to the correct coaching package.

 


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About the author: Science to Sport

Science to Sport bridges the gap between scientific research and sports men and women in the field.

 

Utilising scientific tools and experience gained through research and practical involvement at the highest professional and scientific level, the experts at science to sport are able to provide athletes with scientifically validated methods and products which they can use to their advantage during training and competition.





243 Comments

Stricker, Oct 10 2016 12:36

I would love a coach ... but at R2500pm :thumbdown:  :thumbdown:

 

So instead I have dedicated the remainder of this year to learn/study and experiment.

GOOGLE ... :thumbup:  :thumbup: ...theHUB :thumbup:  :thumbup:

 

 

But as the article stated , Cycling the new golf so loads of cash to be spent and even more to be made... :clap:  :clap:

J Wakefield, Oct 10 2016 12:52

Stricker - not all coaching options on offer to athletes are that amount per month. If that is out your price range then looking for a cost monthly to suite your needs and budget is definitely a exercise worth doing. 

Stricker, Oct 10 2016 01:14

Stricker - not all coaching options on offer to athletes are that amount per month. If that is out your price range then looking for a cost monthly to suite your needs and budget is definitely a exercise worth doing. 

The thing is, its either everything or nothing: Don't understand how you can get a half coach?

 

My view on this is quite simple:

 

I need a Coach/Assistance , hence the reason why I get 1,

 

But cant afford the full package so go for cheaper?

So come coaching time I will receive the cheaper assistance ? Only partial?

Maybe its just me ...but how does 1 coach partial?

 

"No sir sorry, you only paid for the bronze package ...so you will only receive feedback on HR and not Power, or you will only get a training program and not a recovery and tapering program.. we will give you a program but wont be able to tell you if I really works as you didn't take full package, thus we cant systematically monitor stress and improvements.

 

So for me Its everything or nothing, but at R2500, just not justifiable.

nonky, Oct 10 2016 01:20

My view is that membership of a proper power studio @ R1,000 p/m is the best investment one can make in your riding (if budget and time are tight).

 

Alternatively, there are many books and, of course, the interwebs.  My problem is that Joe Friel-level coaching is completely greek to me.

NordicElf, Oct 10 2016 01:22

The thing is, its either everything or nothing: Don't understand how you can get a half coach?

 

My view on this is quite simple:

 

I need a Coach/Assistance , hence the reason why I get 1,

 

But cant afford the full package so go for cheaper?

So come coaching time I will receive the cheaper assistance ? Only partial?

Maybe its just me ...but how does 1 coach partial?

 

"No sir sorry, you only paid for the bronze package ...so you will only receive feedback on HR and not Power, or you will only get a training program and not a recovery and tapering program.. we will give you a program but wont be able to tell you if I really works as you didn't take full package, thus we cant systematically monitor stress and improvements.

 

So for me Its everything or nothing, but at R2500, just not justifiable.

 

 

You get other just as qualified coaches where you get the premium level service at a third of that price. 

Schnavel, Oct 10 2016 01:25

You get other just as qualified coaches where you get the premium level service at a third of that price. 

 

Agreed, I get full time coaching with reviewing of data, planning etc. for a third of that cost

Jewbacca, Oct 10 2016 01:27

Doesn't it all depend on your outlook?

 

What is the end goal?

 

To do races or race races?

 

Most of us will never grace the top 20 at Epic or win the Attakwas, but doing the race briskly? No, a coach is not required.

 

Discipline, hard work and maintaining the passion to enjoy your riding are probably a good balance and starting point.

 

I only 'race' i race a year, Expedition Africa. All the others I am there for the gees, the beer afterwards and trying to beat my mates.

 

If we are to believe we all need to 'improve' go and do some skills clinics.

 

I think the attitude of cyclists is warped... faster, harder, scooter! One does not need to go faster and post pictures of you doing intervals on the interwebs to enjoy riding and be reasonably fast at it. Same as a coach.... but our obsession with racing in this country is out of hand... It will not change and hat is why so many bog average cyclists have full time coaches.

 

But good on them... Supply/demand. Personally I would rather spend that money on my family and take myself less seriously.

SciencetoSport, Oct 10 2016 01:46

Thank you for your comments Stricker. We agree that an "all in" (category 1) coaching package is expensive and a big commitment both in time and cost from the athlete. Category 1 coaching is also a big time commitment from a coach and therefore not a service that can be offered any cheaper. I think one of the primary messages, which probably didn't come across clear enough is exactly what comprises coaching. Anyone can download a training program and follow it and yes that should not put you out of pocket, that is not coaching. So yes, coaching is not for everyone, but from our experiences, athletes are extremely happy once they experience coaching.  

DehanL, Oct 10 2016 01:57

 "Any amount of doubt in your coach will nullify any potential benefit." Is that not a very bold thing to say?

z@z@, Oct 10 2016 02:02

if all the elites would share there secrets  :drool:

SciencetoSport, Oct 10 2016 02:05

@DehanL - Yes that is a bold statement and glad to be stimulating discussions. Remember that we are talking about "coaching" here. Not following a training program (not coaching). If you are paying someone to coach you, and you don't trust what they are saying, there will be no benefit to your interaction with them.  A coach listen's to your problem's and works with you to resolve the problem / situation. 

eddy, Oct 10 2016 02:07

The thing is, its either everything or nothing: Don't understand how you can get a half coach?

 

My view on this is quite simple:

 

I need a Coach/Assistance , hence the reason why I get 1,

 

But cant afford the full package so go for cheaper?

So come coaching time I will receive the cheaper assistance ? Only partial?

Maybe its just me ...but how does 1 coach partial?

 

 

 

 

 

It is not as simple as you make it out to be

 

Some coaches are relatively inexperienced and coach at junior or provincial level and some are vastly experienced and coach at international level.

 

Clearly the latter is able to charge more for the same work, given that it is further enhanced by his/her expertise.

 

Let me give you an example: Johan Ackerman is a relatively inexperienced rugby coach whilst Allister Coetzee a vastly experienced international rugby coach.

 

It just makes sense that one would pay more for his expertise. :whistling:  :whistling:

Bloukrans, Oct 10 2016 02:08

I will stick to Sven Lauer :ph34r: 

VicanZA, Oct 10 2016 02:09

just ride ur bike, not like u gonna win a car or make a living from it. Maybe if u need to get 1 over on ur mates go or it..... but if that is ur motivation then you have bigger problems than the boks.. 

Stricker, Oct 10 2016 02:31

Come I ask this. What do I get for my 30k, say I sign up for  year?

What type of gains can I expect if I follow your program to a T?

Lets make it in %?

 

 

Stricker, Oct 10 2016 02:41

just ride ur bike, not like u gonna win a car or make a living from it. Maybe if u need to get 1 over on ur mates go or it..... but if that is ur motivation then you have bigger problems than the boks.. 

For me its a hobby and never about winning a car, if I do ..... BONUS.

This biggest thing that keeps me going in cycling is the improvements, power ,speed  etc etc  

 

The biggest motivation is beating myself, so when you start loosing to yourself ...then it time to get help, but unfortunately no Ghost Busters ....only coaches :clap: :clap:

Meezo, Oct 10 2016 02:42

just ride ur bike, not like u gonna win a car or make a living from it. Maybe if u need to get 1 over on ur mates go or it..... but if that is ur motivation then you have bigger problems than the boks.. 

 

not forgetting the boks probably need a coach too

Icycling, Oct 10 2016 02:42

I just watched Stefan de Bod finish 11th at the world U23 TT championships - what a fine performance - well done. I have known Stefan for a number of year and watched his progress since he was U14. He has come to be where he is by hard work and solid advise and help predominately by his club / fellow cyclist in Stellenbosch as a youngster and his commitment / coaching from his father. His father has been seen often taking him motor pacing / encouraging during his training ride even while on holidays in December.

So possibly the answer to the question is we all need coaches / advisor / people to bounce idea off. But the reality is the best advise is normally for free. Yes you may pay a consultant a bit for a Vo2 max test - like one may pay for an IQ test - whether you should know the result of you Vo2 max test like an IQ test is debatable like most things in life. But really should one be paying monthly for “coaching programs?” Recently noticed by other Hub’ers as been copies and pasted programs!

 

When the coach is spending time with you on a 1 on 1 level (discussing your recent power files if that what they using/ training plan etc) / small group level in the field - then possible an hourly wage should be paid. But most of what is call coaching in RSA cycling these days and charged accordingly seems far from what is really coaching - well that's my opinion.

 

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andydude, Oct 10 2016 02:44

Come I ask this. What do I get for my 30k, say I sign up for year?
What type of gains can I expect if I follow your program to a T?
Lets make it in %?

You are asking the "cheaper option" question and will get a cheaper reply. No offense to cheaper packages; all have their place. Your question kind of gives away your lack of knowledge, but please, it's not an insult!

The expensive question would start with YOUR situation, your details, e.g. age, current condition, threshold, heart rates, your plans going forward, what you want to achieve, etc., etc. And then remember, everybody is different therefore the same program will have different results to different athletes.

Please reread your question and think how it can never be answered without a lot more information.

Slowbee, Oct 10 2016 02:46

Great article.

 

Two things stick out for me:

 

"Coaching is for anyone from the individual who is simply trying to get more active and lose a few kilograms, to the professional cyclist."

 

There is just so much information out there from great advice all the way down to down right crazy stupid. Using a coach just brings all that info together in one person who is helps and motivates. Guys pay coaches to help then in the gym. A cycling coach to help you achieve something is great.

 

"Over and above your personal budget you have to ask yourself why you have sought the help of a coach."

 

this is a great line, if you have to seek out a coach, you should have an idea of what you want to achieve.

Slowbee, Oct 10 2016 02:48

@stricker, I have not read all your posts - but in the one above I get the impression you dont see the benefit of a coach ?

 

EDIT:  not trying to start a flame war, fight or whatever, just trying to understand your point of view. Is it the cost ? Or you see no need ?

SciencetoSport, Oct 10 2016 02:48

Stricker, any coach which is able to give you the % answer you are looking for would be lying to you. There was a recent very large genetic study (The Heritage Family Study) published investigating nearly 1000 participants' response to aerobic training. What you can see from the figure (click on link below) is that responses vary hugely among individuals. Some individuals even get worse with training. So it really is impossible to tell an individual how much they are going to improve by. You can however do everything in your power to ensure that you improve to the best of your ability. 

 

 http://3.bp.blogspot...uchard Data.png

Stricker, Oct 10 2016 02:56

@stricker, I have not read all your posts - but in the one above I get the impression you dont see the benefit of a coach ?

 

EDIT:  not trying to start a flame war, fight or whatever, just trying to understand your point of view. Is it the cost ? Or you see no need ?

Go read the other post :devil:  :devil:  :clap:

 

Not about the coach ...I need 1 is about the different packages and also cost justification

Slowbee, Oct 10 2016 03:07

Go read the other post :devil:  :devil:  :clap:

 

Not about the coach ...I need 1 is about the different packages and also cost justification

Just made my afternoon tea and had a read.

 

So you want one a coach, but cannot afford a coach. Got it.

andydude, Oct 10 2016 03:14

Stricker, any coach which is able to give you the % answer you are looking for would be lying to you. There was a recent very large genetic study (The Heritage Family Study) published investigating nearly 1000 participants' response to aerobic training. What you can see from the figure (click on link below) is that responses vary hugely among individuals. Some individuals even get worse with training. So it really is impossible to tell an individual how much they are going to improve by. You can however do everything in your power to ensure that you improve to the best of your ability.

http://3.bp.blogspot...uchard Data.png

Very interesting study, thanks! Do you perhaps have a link to the full study?

Would be interesting to know whether they controlled any other variables except exercise.