Deciding whether to hire a coach or not can be a tricky dilemma for an athlete. Do you need one or are you better off training under your own steam?
Thankfully, coach Pav Bryan has written a guest blog to help answer the key question...
Do you need a coach?
It’s hard to answer this question without sounding biased, but it's a topic we can explore in more detail in this blog.
Can anyone benefit from a coach? Yes. Do you always need one? It really depends on what you want to achieve.
Granted, if you are just riding your bike around and have a target that you should achieve with ease, then probably not. However, as your targets grow (as do your expectations), your need for a coach might increase too.
Consider this. Presuming you’re not an electrician yourself, would you hire one to change a light bulb in your home? Not likely. But rewiring the house completely? Almost certainly.
The magnitude of what you need to achieve will dictate the answer to the title question.
What a good coach teaches you will help you improve in a way that most pieces of equipment, a new bike or anything you eat (that is legal!) can achieve. Those improvements, along with the knowledge the coach will impart upon you, will last a lot longer too.
Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons you might consider hiring a coach...
Knowledge and experience
Providing you pick the right coach, he or she will bring with them a lifetime of experience and knowledge.
They will have seen similarities between you and their previous clients. They can reference these past experiences and formulate plans to help you improve or break past obstacles. Good coaches will be qualified to use a wide variety of tools, including TrainingPeaks, WKO4, Best Bike Split, and many others.
A good coach will be able to fit you to your bike, offer you advice on mental aspects of performance and help with just about anything bike-related.
When something goes wrong - maybe sickness, injury, work or family, a bad race or any reason why you need/have to deviate from a training plan - your coach will use their knowledge and experience to adapt your training, give you exactly what you need and have you back on track in no time.
Again, we can use our electrician example to show real value here. Consider you could self-learn certain aspects of an electrician's job, how much do you think you could achieve on your own and how long before you gave yourself an electric shock?!
While not wanting to offend any electricians reading this, the human body is infinitely more complicated than the wiring of your home.
Accountability works in a few ways. Perhaps you don’t want to look bad in front of the coach or you want to impress them. Perhaps you want to ensure that you get your money's worth from your investment in coaching.
Having that person looking ‘over-your-shoulder’ at your training is another invaluable benefit to working with a coach. While your ego can be accused of many frustrating and annoying ‘chimp’-like behaviours [see The Chimp Paradox by Professor Stephen Peters for more on the 'ego' and 'chimp'], it can be harnessed to create motivation, drive and determination.
A coach with some mental fitness training will be able to unlock the positive aspects of your behaviours and have you chomping at the bit to succeed.
Unfortunately, you can’t be awesome all of the time.
Many self-coached athletes have a tendency to always want to be in top form. This isn’t really sustainable and is an unrealistic expectation of yourself.
The very nature of training ensures that you must get fatigued before you get fitter. By definition, if you’re not getting fatigued you’re not stressing your body enough through training. Like the jack of all trades, you end up being mediocre at best.
This is where a coach comes in. Having someone to question, someone to be your cheerleader, someone to give you that pep talk after a bad session or race is invaluable. You can’t always be awesome and sometimes you need reminding of that.
Much like a therapist, coaches have heard it all.
Whether it’s a bad day in the office or an argument with a spouse, your coach will be there to listen and comfort. While we don’t pretend to be qualified therapists, we do play a role in helping manage day-to-day life outside of cycling too.
After all, when your life runs smoothly, so does your training.
So, do YOU need a coach?
A simple way you can work out whether you need a coach is by using your knowledge of your goals and how difficult it will be for you to achieve them in order to answer the following question...
Out of 10, how hard will you find it to achieve your goals?
If you are at a 7 or higher, get a coach!
If you are at a 5 or higher, consider a coach. You might want to employ a coach as a 'luxury' part of your training.
If you scored less than 5, you might consider a coach to help in other areas, with general cycling or your longer term aspirations.