We are often asked if it is actually necessary to employ the services of a coach and of course the answer to that is it really does depend on many individual factors. In this post we look at what some of those factors are and help you to make up your own mind regarding whether coaching is actually for you or not. We look at how coaching differs from a generic training plan that can be downloaded or purchased from the internet and help you to decide which works best for you.

What does a coach actually do?

At the simplest level coaches write workouts for athletes to follow and within those training sessions are only able to specify three variables, frequency, intensity and duration. The core of all coaching revolves around this triad, however a good coach will also help you to identify individual strengths and weaknesses along with helping to set (and hopefully achieve) realistic and specific goals. Every athlete is different and while some of our prospective clients might be aiming to have a career as a professional it is just as common to find an athlete who wants to have confidence of being able to complete a tough sportive or improve in a local time trial.

While progress can be made with generic training plans data driven coaching can help you to understand which events suit your physiology best and help you to formulate an event strategy to maximise your performance, be that time trialling, Strava KOM’s, road racing, triathlon, track sprinting or even finishing the Saturday club ride at the front rather than at the back. If you are fed up of being the one the club ride waits for at the top of every hill? A coach can help you with that.

What level of support do I need?

Experience working with many different athletes shows that different types of athletes require hugely different level of support to succeed. Those new to structured training and racing or those new to using a power meter generally need far more hands on assistance than those who have been training with these devices for many years. Make an honest appraisal of where you actually need help, for example when training with a power meter are you familiar with the basic terminology? Do you understand ATL, CTL and TSB metrics, What about the difference between average and normalised power? Intensity factor? Heart rate decoupling? The more knowledge an athlete has the better and a good coach will empower you to perform through a two way relationship with honest and open communication in both directions.

Some athletes are happy to execute the workouts with a minimum of interaction, others like to delve into every detail of every single training session. Are you happy to complete the sessions and leave the science of the what and why to your coach, or do you feel it benefits you to discuss each and every workout to help you understand and move forward? Obviously coaching takes time and time generally equals money, no one can escape this but ask yourself is it worth the extra monthly fee in order to improve both your performance and knowledge? Or are you operating on a limited budget?

Do you need regular performance testing or do you have the tools and will power to be able to test yourself using your own equipment? Are you only going to be happy when you’ve completed a blood lactate test or testing using a gas analyser?

What about body composition? Nutritional support?

What does it cost? What should I expect for my money?

Rather than create generic coaching services that attempt to appeal to masses of different clients and in reality actually fit the needs of none we prefer to create custom tailored packages on an athlete by athlete basis however we have chosen to use Training Peaks as a method to schedule sessions, gather data and provide feedback. This is the same software platform used by Team Sky and British Cycling and is common to all the athletes we work with.

Each athlete receives a training peaks account accessible by either the website or the mobile app and within that we maintain a calendar of workouts:-

A green workout is a completed session where the software was happy everything was completed as prescribed, a yellow workout is a session where something didn’t tie up, as we discussed earlier this can only really be intensity or duration.

Each workout contains a set of instructions around what is required, some sessions are more complex than others however all sessions can be downloaded to a compatible Garmin device which will guide the athlete through the session one section at a time:-

We use either Training Peaks or WKO5 to take a look at the data from each session, this gives access to speed, power, heart rate, cadence etc. More about this in a separate blog post.