Who Needs a Coach?Written by Matt Russ
The athletes that are most hesitant to obtain a coach could often benefit most. A common perception is that coaching is for "serious" athletes only. In actuality, anyone who wants to work toward a physical goal, or reach their true potential can benefit greatly from coaching. A proper foundation for beginners is crucial so that bad form is not carried forward and made bad habit. Many athletes in hindsight wish they had benefit of coaching earlier in their career. How many times have you said "if I only knew then, what I know now…"
I was once asked a pointed question by a potential athlete; "what can a coach do for me that I can not find in a book?" The answer is specificity. A proper coaching program is personally specific to an athlete’s needs. The plan considers athlete’s individual strengths and weaknesses, skill, training history, injuries, lifestyle, equipment, fitness level, goals, diet, and a myriad of other data. It can be difference between buying a custom made suit versus randomly selecting one off rack.
The first step in building a coaching plan is evaluation. A coach may outline an entire year’s worth of training around specific goal events. They will ask you when you want to "peak" or be at your best. Field tests or metabolic testing may need to be performed to determine heart rate zones, and flexibility is tested for normal joint range of motion. The plan will be "periodized" with different training periods and work outs; each building off of previous. Training will move from general to specific as you approach your peak. Training near peak may even consider individual terrain and characteristics of race.
Strength, Speed, and Power Progression to PeakWritten by Matt Russ
Proper race peaking requires that you be at your best fitness level of season at precisely same time as your goal race(s). This means exact timing and performing right work outs at right time. Performing mostly high intensity work too early in season will slowly degrade your performance as season progresses and leave you burned physically and mentally. You should slowly progress towards your most intense training. It is last salvo before your peak. Conversely, performing too little high intensity work would leave you under trained and ill prepared for race intensities. Some athletes train at same intensities, yet wonder why they do not get faster. In order to get faster you must stress body in a way it is not used to. The body then compensates and acclimates to specific stress, and you can then apply still greater stress levels. Your strength and power training should follow this progression as well.
A proper training program moves from general to specific and lower intensity efforts to more high intensity efforts as season progresses. As you perform more short high speed efforts your overall training volume must be reduced to facilitate recovery from these harder work outs. Strength and especially power work should follow these guidelines.
The amount of time you spend working on strength or power will depend on your limiters as an athlete, your event type, and your level of experience. A smaller, underpowered athlete that is concentrating on sprint races will spend much time devoted to strength and power training, whereas a larger muscled athlete may need to devote more time to aerobic development. Generally, longer events require less time devoted to strength and power training.
Your strength work should start in gym after a brief transition period at seasons end. Strength training may last through entire base season and then proceed to maintenance work as more sport specific work is introduced. It is important to remember that purpose of strength training is to apply increase in strength to bike, run, or swim. Many athletes have a tough time giving up weight work even though it is degrading effectiveness of their other more specific work outs. Specificity is one of first rules of training. Performing heavy leg extensions will have little benefit to your cycling because muscles do not contract in that manner. I choose multi-joint strength exercises that mimic at least part of stride or spin. Towards end of base season I actually combine certain resistance routines with on bike and run training.
The first phase of on bike strength training involves low cadence, highly resisted intervals of 15-30 seconds, then proceeds to sustained intervals of 3-20 minutes at slightly higher cadences of 50-60 rpm. Although effort is great, there should be little heart rate reaction beyond an aerobic level which is important during base season. The next work out would be sustained efforts of 20 minutes to over 1 hour, still at an aerobic level, and at a cadence of 70-75 rpm. All these work outs train body to produce force aerobically and efficiently and acclimate body for higher intensity efforts to come.