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Questions for a Cycling Coach?(17 posts)

Questions for a Cycling Coach?skip work to ride
Aug 18, 2002 8:40 PM
I am thinking about using a cycling coach next season. I wanted to see what questions experienced racers think you should ask a potetinal candidate?

I am lucky in the fact that there are some local coaches. So I am limiting it to local coaches who by all accounts are at races and help with diet and position.

Any suggestions in what to look for/ask?
Yeah.......CARBON110
Aug 19, 2002 4:48 AM
Diet is important but that should not be your main concern. Position, for the most part, you can figure out over time. It may change as your body changes due to increased excercise. How a coach plans your year, and how you plan your year are more important. For instance, do you know what/when your events you want to peak for are? How does your coach build up to them. Does your coach start with your last peak and go back wards through the year or does your coach start with early events and take it month by month. Does your coach know anything about weight lifting, specific weight lifting workouts. How a bout specific training zones? Are you going to try and peak more than twice in your first year? You might think twice about that. Does your coach know how you will feel after falling off your first peak? Can a local coach tell you where to do your "easy" rides and where to do your sprints and climbing drills? How do they find out how many annual hours you should do? This will depend on your work/family. Is your coach familiar with Modern day racing as opposed to racing in the 70s or 80s? Are they familiar with reginial races you may be doing? Can they explain te benifit of doing certain drills ie hill repeats, how much time in the gym, riding twice in one day, cruise intervals, spinning drills, how often to go on hard group rides etc. Some of this you can determin after you become familiar with your body. Just some random questions that may or maynot help.Good luck!
one word: GOALSlonefrontranger
Aug 19, 2002 6:26 AM
The very first question you should be interested in, from both sides of the discussion:

What are your goals? - for next season, for the next five years, for your next race... Without this one key question, all that other stuff means nada. A good coach will ask you this, but you should be prepared to know how to feed them this information without prompting.

Also, to make a good fit, your goals should coincide. Ferinstance, if you are a young Cat 1 looking to go Euro-pro, you probably wouldn't pick up a coach who works with beginners. Correspondingly, if you have never done a bike race before, you probably wouldn't go straight to someone like Chris Carmichael. I firmly believe that riders can (and should) "outgrow" their coaches over time.

As far as other questions: position can be fixed at any decent LBS, often free of charge if you bought the bike there. A good coach will be able to help with this, but it shouldn't be the reason you hire them.

Diet is a big can of worms and since I've worked with women a lot, I've tended to skirt around this issue because most women, including women cyclists, have a vastly distorted self image that insists they need to lose weight when they actually don't; in those cases it's more of a psychology thing and less of a nutrition thing. Discuss your weight goals with your coach, and be realistic. Be prepared to make lists of everything you eat for a few weeks and be accountable for that. Often your diet recommendations will be a simple case of cleaning the "junk calories" out and replacing them with healthy "whole" foods. If you want real results, be prepared - a truly healthy diet requires a fair amount of time commitment, meaning it is a PITA to maintain for most time-crunched "average" Americans. It means an end to convenience foods; no more eating out of our favorite cans, jars, boxes and fast food containers.

Ask your coach how much time they plan to spend "hands-on" with you, and (most important) whether this "hands-on" time is part of their monthly fee or incurs an additional rate. How "in touch" are they? If they aren't actually present at an event, can you call on a weekend immediately after your event for a "debrief" session? What is the coach's level of commitment to you? If it's a local team coach, the commitment level can be high. If this is an Internet or private coach with many clients, your commitment level will be lower.

To sum up: In your initial interview with a prospective coach, start with a general "get-to-know-you" discussion, before you start "drilling down" to specifics. Get a feel for them personally before you start talking about their pet subjects. They may be very good at certain things, or great as a coach overall, but the bottom line is that if you don't get along with them as a person, you're not going to learn anything from them.

Hope that helps.
Riding, Racing Coaching and Winning - finding a balanceskip work to ride
Aug 19, 2002 9:06 AM
Here is some additional background: I am 29 and raced MTB for 4 years with success and not an overwhelming time commitment.

I work 45+ hours a week. I moved to the road this season (with little or no base miles). I have had some success in moving from CAT 5-4. But I would like to get to a CAT 3 next season. I know what the basics are to get ready for next season, but where I see a coach adding to my program is the mental side, the physical preperation side and working quality training into my hectic schedule.

Do I aspire to ride in Europe or make a Pro Team - NO! DO I want to win and move up the ranks to an even level of time and success - YES! I want a coach who can help find that balance but also accelerate the learning curve.

I spend a lot of time away from other things training to be successful. I expect a coach to guide me in the best path to find success in that time window.

I am fortunate enough to find a local CAT 1/Pro who trains 25+ racers already. He has two pros (one women and male) but the rest are Cat 3 and up. He stresses a balance program of taking everything into consideration: training, sleep, diet, stress/worklife, etc...

I agree about Goals without them, you become another also ran...
I hired a coach for all of the same reasons as you...James OCLV
Aug 20, 2002 7:37 AM
I've only been using him for a little over a month, but already I have seen tremendous improvement.

I think that where he has helped me the most is to "up" the quality of my workouts. I, like you, have limited time to train. In the past, I spent a lot of time logging in "junk" miles. Now, every workout that I do has a purpose (even group rides).

Back when I coached myself, I always found myself coming into events "undertrained". I think that "overtraining" has become sort of a buzz word lately. There is so much written these days about how easy it is to become "overtrained" and the devestating effects that it can have. In the past, I would experience what I thought were symptoms of "overtraining" and back off too much. My coach has made me realize that the most likely cause of my sypmtoms was that I was just "overtired". Sure enough he was right, and where I would have simply backed off completely, I just took a little more rest and now I'm a lot stronger than I would have been.

A coach can really help you shorten the learning curve. Think of it this way - if you all of a sudden wanted to lear how to play the piano, would you go out and buy one and just start slamming the keys? Sure, over time, you'll learn to play this way but in all likelyhood you'll go out and take lessons. It's basically the same thing with cycling. You can get pretty far on your own (at the C4&5 level you can probably get pretty far just by riding alot), but if you want to improve from there and get the MOST out of your training a coach is invaluable.
Another good argument for a coach...James OCLV
Aug 20, 2002 7:54 AM
Another good thing about having a knowledgable coach is they provide a good resource to bounce questions off of.

While this board is also a great resource, and there are many knowledgable people here, I have often found that when I post a question on this board I get many conflicting responses that just add to my confusion. There is nothing better than having a direct line to a professional for getting your questions answered.
Thanks James OCLVskip work to ride
Aug 20, 2002 12:28 PM
I appreciate the perspective and reasoning. I think I have found a good coach, but like everything you can research anything to death, to the point you talk yourself out of it.
Thanks James OCLVJames OCLV
Aug 20, 2002 1:27 PM
Skip,

Good Luck! : )
I had a bad experienceDougSloan
Aug 19, 2002 9:41 AM
Ask questions about the coach's philosophies, methods, etc. I hired a coach after the 508 last fall, and he got me in to really bad shape in 3 months. His philosophy was to do nothing but mediocre intensity and duration rides all winter. Normally, I see some real improvement over the winter, but this time I hit February in awful condition. My point is, find out ahead of time, and don't be afraid to tell him/her what *you* want to do. If you are constantly doubting your coach, it won't work.

Doug
Question for Doug Sloan, et alJon Billheimer
Aug 19, 2002 12:16 PM
Doug,

How much intensity do you normally maintain during your off season? I'm beginning to question the periodization model. I'm thinking that it's designed for elite level athletes who maintain very heavy racing schedules during the competitive season. Your thoughts? Or anyone else who's a qualified coach and/or experienced racer, and who has given the subject some thought.
periodization not the main problemDougSloan
Aug 19, 2002 3:24 PM
I think periodization works, even more so if there are a few events during the year that you focus on.

But, for me it's more important to be in really good shape year round. My schedule makes it difficult to be assured of doing any specific events, short of something like the 508 last year. That being the case, I may decide to do an event at the last minute, or not do one if something comes up. If I have seriously periodized, then it's likely I'll peak at the wrong time.

Plus, I really enjoy being to hang on fast group rides, or doing relatively well in the occasional double century. If I've done nothing but base work for 2 months, I'll suck.

Nonetheless, I don't think periodization means that you must give up all intensity in the off season. This particular coach just took it way too far. Even Lance Armstrong, who is largly a one event a year guy, does a fair amount of intensity during the winter, according to some of his published workout schedules.

I just hate losing conditioning and starting over. I prefer to at least maintain 90% of my condition in the off season instead of dropping to 70% and then rebuilding. When you ride all year round every year, do you really need more "base?" Heck, hasn't my riding for the last several years been "base" enough?

So, I'll not allow a coach to talk me into doing something I know won't work for me again. I've been paying for it all this year.

Doug
Question for Doug Sloan, et alJames OCLV
Aug 20, 2002 7:01 AM
Generally, anerobic fitness improves at the expense of aerobic fitness. This is why a strong base is recommended before moving on to anerobic work, and why anerobic work can't be carried on indefinately. Basically, after 6 weeks or so of anerobic work, "base" needs to be re-established. The idea is that when it comes time to re-establish your "base" (usually over the winter months), even though it has deminished slightly it is still at a higher level than before. This happens year over hear. So when you go to re-establish your base at the end of this season, it is already alot deeper than last year. When you start your "quality" work next year, since your base is deeper your peak should be stronger and last longer. Hope this helps!
Good explanation...RockyMountainRacer
Aug 20, 2002 7:50 AM
I will rephrase it like this: Each week, you only have so much energy to expend on your bike before you get exhausted. During the race season, the primary focus is of course being ready for the weekends race and then recovering from it. During the week, you also obviously have to do at least one intensity interval day/hard group ride, whatever, to keep your race fitness up. You don't have the time or energy to go on those really long endurance rides too often. But these are very valuable because they make you skinny, increase your aerobic adaptations, increase endurace, and will make you much faster when you do your intensity work on top of these aerobic miles. So in the off-season, when you are not racing, these aerobic miles should be your main focus.

But I agree that they shouldn't be all you do. You can't let your top end atrophy completely. LeMond recommends doing sprints all year round on Tuesdays. Borysewicz recommends that you do at least one hard day of Cyclocross/Mountain biking all winter long. Friel says you should lift weights to maintain strength and power. Coach Carl says for every week of winter training, 25% of your miles should be intensity miles--whatever kind you feel like doing.

The bottom line is that you should do some intensity to maintain your gains from the previous race season. But the intensity should NOT be in the form of structured interval work, i.e. go climb a steep hill and don't wear your heart rate monitor! The focus of the off-season should be on aerobic development, since the focus of the on-season is on speed and race-performance.
Good explanation...Jon Billheimer
Aug 20, 2002 8:01 AM
Coach Carl's 25% rule for off-season intensity is interesting, and quite contrary to mainstream coaching science! 25% of time spent at threshold or above is generally about the maximum that most controlled studies done to improve VO2 max or vVO2 max recommend for elite athletes training to peak. 15% is more the norm. But several of you answered my question and confirmed my bias, that some intensity needs to be maintained in the off season. Thanks.
Good explanation...James OCLV
Aug 20, 2002 8:23 AM
I think that the key is in the offseason, while some intensity is needed, like RockyMountainRacer said it should not come in the form of "structured" intervals. It should be more haphazard. The base of your off-season training should be at or below your LT, with more work towards your LT as you get closer to your race season.
long, partly hard ridesDougSloan
Aug 20, 2002 8:24 AM
The seasons before I rode 85-100 mile weekend rides with some racers over the winter. We typically would push hard on the hills (lots around here), regroup and ride easy the rest of the time. This certainly built good base, but also retained or even improved threshold by pushing it on the hills (especially if you are the slow one of the bunch). I found vast improvement this way.

On the other hand, going a whole winter with never pushing it just got me in horrible shape, and made improvement in the spring very, very difficult. Not only that, and maybe more importantly for most of us, it made riding no fun, as I lost so much fitness and could not keep up with riders I had previously been able to beat or at least ride with.

So, I firmly believe that there needs to be some intensity in the off season, if for no other reason than to keep riding fun.

Doug
long, partly hard ridesJon Billheimer
Aug 20, 2002 8:43 AM
Doug, in one sense you live in an ideal world where you can a)ride outside all winter long and b) you have hilly terrain to boot to automatically provide you with some intensity training. I'm envious! I think the perfect combo for nurturing off-season fitness would be to do back-to-back long rides on weekends--as Merckx suggested a while back--with a few hills or sprints thrown in. As Jim Martin pointed out years ago in old Bicyclist articles, that kind of riding develops the aerobic system and additionally, due to the fatigue of the back-to-back rides, recruits and modifies the Type IIA mixed fibres, increasing their aerobic properties. As a result, he claimed, come spring you'd have virtually tireless legs even when your heart rate is going through the roof.

This winter, FWIW, I'm planning on doing one long-interval session per week on the trainer and then joining some of our local trackies for a weekly session of sprint repeats on the rollers. The rest of the time will be spent at base-intensity. Hopefully, that'll keep me from getting too fat and slow over the winter!