Investing in a cycling and fitness expert to guide and motivate your training progress could be the best bike purchase you’ve ever made.
Whether you’re aiming to ride a big British sportive or just want to take your cycling to the next level, hiring a coach is the single best thing you can do to help you achieve your goal. It’s surprisingly good value too. Six months of coaching will cost you less than half the price of a decent wheelset upgrade.
There’s nothing more motivating than having someone looking over your shoulder – especially if you’re paying them your hard-earned money to do it. This riding big brother will also help with your training discipline, as it’s much easier to stick to heart-rate and power zones if you know there’s a good reason and that you’ll get a ticking off if you stray. According to coach Ruth Eyles, “Most of us want reassurance that what we are doing is going to work, and once we have that our motivation grows.”
Finding the time to train is easy for a pro rider – it’s all they do. But for the rest of us, work and family can make training a real challenge. A coach will mould and adapt your training to your life and make sure the precious training time you’ve got is as productive as possible. What’s more, they’ll make sure that training is structured, progressive and focused on your end goal. It’ll also mean you’ll have someone to help modulate your training.
True to form, ex-pro rider Dave Lloyd is quick to point out that a coach still has to be tough and help the rider face up and focus on their weaknesses. It’s all too easy for the self-coached to only concentrate on what they’re good at rather than what needs improving. Working on your failings can be hard and not much fun but with a coach making you do it you’ll become a stronger and more rounded rider. “I make this the most important thing in the winter months and try to make the workouts as enjoyable as possible for each rider,” says Lloyd.
Training based on a generic programme in a book, magazine or online is a really good start but, for obvious reasons, it won’t be personal to you, your goals, your physiology or your constraints. “Not one of my athletes is the same,” says Lloyd, “they all have completely different personalities. Some need pushing and others need a bit of TLC. You can’t generalise.”
Here’s how to find a coach
During this first meeting you’ll discuss your goals and ambitions. You’ll also inform the coach about any injuries or illnesses and training history, and let him or her know how much time you can devote to training.
As well as testing height, weight and body composition, most coaches will perform physiological testing. This determines your fitness level and essential heart-rate and power zones. Many coaches will also examine positioning on the bike to look for any problems.
From the data gathered during the consultation and the testing, the coach will construct your training programme, working in distinct blocks and building towards your main objective. If they feel your goal is unrealistic or unsuited to you, a good coach will suggest options.
Contact, re-testing and evaluation
Look for a coach who offers at least weekly contact. On-going contact to discuss concerns or problems sticking to the prescribed programme is vital and what makes coaching worthwhile.
You can expect to pay anywhere between £30 per month for a very basic package with minimal contact right up to £120 per month for unlimited 24/7 support. You’ll often have to pay a one-off start-up fee for your initial consultation, testing and set-up meeting.
Finding a coach
The Association of British Cycling Coaches www.abbc.co.uk and British Cycling www.britishcycling.org.uk are the best starting points. Qualifications from either, or both, of these bodies are also what you should look for in a coach
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