Why You (I) Need a Coach
The New Year always marks a time of change, motivation, and progression. For some of you, that might be improving eating habits, investing in a new bike, hiring a dietitian, sleeping more, traveling more, reading more, spending less... the list of potential lifestyle improvements is endless... for me, it is to step out of my 'self training' comfort zone and hire a cycling coach. Read the full post to see what it took for me to dive in, and get my new coach's take on why everyone can benefit from a little outside coaching help.
Lori Nedescu, MS RDN LD
The Cadence Kitchen
Confession: I hate Zone 2. Really
When a fellow cyclists refuses to group ride due to a scheduled 'Zone 2' ride...I actually get very annoyed. Zone 2, What BS is that?! Ugh. I mean right?!
But here I am, changing my tune, or trying to change my Zone two-ne (hehe). Seriously though, after two years of serious road racing, I have round myself stuck. I'm entering my first seasons as a Cat 1 and am no longer confident that what I'm doing will get me any further in the sport, and I want to get further.
Honestly, I'm not sure why it took me so long to join the 'I have a coach' bandwagon. When I see someone struggling with their diet, I immediately say 'Hire a dietitian'! So hiring a coach was really the obvious choice. But it wasn't an easy process. After mentally convincing myself that this was a must, I set out browsing programs and chatting up different coaches.
Ultimately I settled on one that I can trust, communicate with, respect as an athlete, and that I expect to push my limits: George Ganoung. Pressure's on, George!
I'll keep you all posed on how my coaching is progressing. I'm nervous. Will I be a good athlete? Will I listen? Will I grit my teeth and Zone 2? Well, I better because now I'm paying for it and I need to be willing to do things I do not want to do, because, well, doing what I want to do just isn't working anymore.
So while I get started on this partnership of cycling progressions (training officially starts next week!), here's a little word from my new coach about why being coached matters and what a (good) coach can do for you as an athlete.
By: Coach George Ganoung
Ganoung has over 30 years of endurance sports experience as an athlete, director and coach and owns and operates Otterhaus Performance Coaching. If you are wondering, his primary focus is personalized high attention coaching for a small client base.
I was asked this question a few weeks ago, and it’s amazing how the most fundamental notions can sometimes kind of catch you off guard (why is the sky blue anyone?). At the risk of putting myself out of business, a coach is not really a “need”, but the right coach for the right situation can certainly help you out.
One of the wonderful things about endurance sports, is at their core they are simple. To participate, you only “need” some basic gear and the desire to get out the door and hit the road, trail, water or snow. But for many, as they practice their favorite activity more, just getting out the door is not enough. Goals begin to develop, maybe the desire to cover a particular distance, participate at a particular event, go a certain speed, improve a time or skill, or just generally get better! Pursuit of these goals generally requires some type of performance improvement either through better fitness, technique, preparation, tactics or all of the above. Many athletes might be able to get there on your own eventually, but some instruction and guidance on the way may get them there more quickly and help them to use their time a little more effectively and with less trial and error. This is where coaches come in.
Ideally an endurance sports coach has personal experience and/or education with training techniques and skills development and can apply it to help athletes meet their goals more effectively then they could on their own. Given that fitness is likely a big part of any improvement this is usually what we focus on when we think of coaching, but skills development, preparation and tactics are all be big factors to take into account as well.
In general, an endurance sports coach should consider your ability level, current state of fitness and time constraints and help you establish or fine tune realistic goals. Based on that, the coach would work to develop a training plan, including daily workouts, and then monitor feedback from completed training with an experienced eye through objective (power, hear rate, speed, distance etc.) and subjective means. Analyzing that feedback they should in turn tweak your training as needed to help you progress towards those goals as effectively as possible.
When looking at the range of coaching choices, generally coaches offering lower cost “basic” coaching packages focus primarily on fitness plans and prescribing a similar approach to all their clients. Larger companies may not even give the athlete a choice of the coach they are working with at the “basic” level. Tailoring to the clients specific needs is minimal and interaction with your coach is likely minimal as well. This is not a “dig” on this approach, for many folks this may work perfectly fine but it’s important to know what you are buying into.
In general, as prices increase, higher end coaches and coaching packages tend to incorporate work/life balance into your training routine and tailor the fitness side to work within an athlete’s time constraints and unique schedule. They also likely include the ability to make a lot of tweaks to your program as life intervenes and have more frequent and in depth communications with clients. Coaches who operate at this level may leverage different training approaches based on the situation recognizing their client’s time constraints may warrant different tactic. In addition, higher end coaches may provide individualized instruction on technique, tactics, skills, equipment, etc. and work with the athlete on pretty much any aspect of the sport as it pertains to their situation.
To use an analogy, the range is similar to education. At one end you have the seminar that is designed to be effective at a high level for a lot of people, but the students have minimal individual attention and little opportunity to interact with the instructor, although you might get to talk to a TA on occasion. At the other end, you have one on one tutoring where the student hires a specific individual, and gets individualized attention in the areas they specifically want help in. The tutor is selected because of their grasp of the specific topic and ability to interact with the student, its more individualized, but also usually costs more.
So if considering a coach, keep in mind that there are a lot of different coaches and approaches, and they can fill different niches based on what you are after. Before committing, think about what you need and what you are trying to accomplish by enlisting their help. I recommend taking some time to consider what is important to you as a client, jot down some questions to ask yourself (and the perspective coach) when looking at different options. How unique is your situation? What level of services do you need? Etc.