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Getting the Most out of Using a Coach

BY Tucker Olander

With so many coaches available, different services offered and a host of online plans, understanding how to capitalize on your coach’s knowledge and experience is vital. Here are 4 simple solutions for any athlete to maximize their coaching. 

Getting faster. It’s the simple goal of every endurance athlete. But the choices that athletes have to gain that extra speed- fad diets, new equipment innovations, interval crazes, etc.- has grown. With these innovations it can be easy to forget one time tested method that equates to being faster on the bike: a quality coach. With so many coaches available, different services offered and a host of online plans, understanding how to capitalize on your coach’s knowledge and experience is vital. Here are 4 simple solutions for any athlete to maximize their coaching:

1. Upload Files

In an increasingly data driven sport, quantifying numbers is crucial to the science of cycling. This will allow your coach to track performance and measure improvement. Without this data it cannot be verified that power/heart rate targets have been met and therefore training load cannot be accurately measured. Further, it’s nearly impossible to gauge what physiological systems need to be addressed in subsequent training blocks without pinpointing weaknesses that are seen in a data file. For example, your coach may notice that your sustained power is excellent but repeatability of race performance efforts needs to be trained.

Here at FasCat, we monitor training load with the Performance Management Chart. This chart uses your daily Training Stress Score® (TSS®) to accurately determine your fitness and fatigue over time. TSS is calculated off of the Intensity Factor® (percentage of Functional Threshold Power) and the duration of the ride. Without a complete data set, this model cannot be useful to your coach since it will underestimate both your fitness and fatigue.

2. Leave Feedback

While a power file is vital, so too are post-activity comments. In these comments let your coach know how you felt, how you liked the workout, any pain/soreness/fatigue, etc. These comments can often be even more valuable than the training file itself! For example, if you feel the onset of illness but don’t communicate this with your coach, they may only see missed targets for the day and misunderstand why you couldn’t complete the workout. I like to tell my athletes that the more “puzzle pieces” (information) they give me, the better picture (training plan) I can create for them!

This feedback, in conjunction with data files, will allow your coach to make appropriate adjustments to your training calendar downstream. Even though you may be hitting the power targets for every workout, the feedback completes the picture for your coach so they can make revisions as necessary.

3. Maintain Regular Communication

While different coaching plans afford varying levels of communication, your coach needs to be kept up with your life. We understand that other obligations arise and must be accounted for. Things such as surprise business trips, a sick child, a change in employment, and weather all have an effect on your ability to train effectively. Without access to this information the training cannot be tailored appropriately to your current situation.

An athlete should never be afraid to ask questions. I always say that the only silly question is the one that you have on the start line (a start line may include your driveway as you begin a training ride). Your coach is there to do more than just write a training plan for you- their job is to advise and coach you through training and racing. Whether you’d like clarification of expectations for a workout, want race day tactics, need nutritional suggestions, etc. ask away! Use your coach as a sounding board for your thoughts, ideas, and concerns. Whether it’s via email, phone call, in-person meeting or even a quick text message, regular communication with your coach is crucial to a successful coach-athlete relationship. Your coach needs to be informed of work stress, travel plans, family obligations, illness, etc. to make appropriate adjustments to your training calendar moving forward. Keep in mind that to every Plan A there is always a Plan B. With advance notice of other obligations, your coach can devise an alternative for you so the training is kept current with your situation and you’re able to reap maximal benefits! Remember, training is supposed to be fun! It should never become an additional stress for you.

4. Follow the Plan- Within Reason

This may sound obvious and silly, but the training has been custom designed for you around your goals, schedule, and ability level. With this, no two plans are ever the same. Even the best thought out training plans cannot be benefitted from if they’re not completed.

Though there are proven training principles, everyone has different physiology and will adapt to particular training stimuli differently. By completing the workouts your coach will have an opportunity to determine what works best for you and your physiology to dial in your training in subsequent training blocks. For example, your body may be slow at adapting to anaerobic efforts but excellent at improving and maintaining sub-threshold intensities. Workouts like these need to be accomplished and monitored to determine what needs to be addressed in the future.

Missing many workouts within a particular training block will stall the progression because you cannot move to the next phase in training without successfully accomplishing the previous block’s work. Each subsequent block is then based on the improvements seen in previous training bouts. That said, missed workouts happen and your coach understands this. We are here to craft a Plan B to cater to your current situation, which relates back to tip #3- maintaining regular communication! A simple text message can lead to plan alterations!

Your coach will also be monitoring your fatigue levels to properly periodize your training. A rest week cannot be justified if the training stress hasn’t been great enough leading to that point, for example. Again, your coach will be watching the Performance Management Chart with all of the files you’ve sent them- along with post-activity comments- to determine when rest is appropriate and required.

By loading your files, giving feedback, maintaining regular communication and following the plan you will maximize your coaching experience and capitalize on your coach’s knowledge and experience. Coaching is a two-way street to have an excellent working relationship. These 4 recommendations will improve your ability to maximize your coaching and, in turn, enable your coach to help you reach your goals!

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About Tucker Olander

With over a decade of racing experience and 8 years of coaching experience, Tucker brings a wealth of practical knowledge to the table. He has raced across the country, as well as in Europe, competing at the highest level as an amateur, which resulted in numerous state championships and several national championship podium appearances. Tucker owns’Ultreya Coaching‘in Boulder, Colorado and holds a BS in Health and Exercise Sciences with a concentration in Sports Medicine from Colorado State University. Whether it’s aiming for a local criterium or an international stage race, Tucker has the experience necessary to help anyone accomplish his or her goals!

Visit Tucker Olander's Coach Profile