By Jim Rutberg, CTS Pro Coach & co-author of “The Time-Crunched Cyclist”
Look, the truth of the matter is that you’re a smart person and endurance training isn’t rocket science. And to be perfectly frank, you could probably figure out most subjects if you had the time and motivation to do so. So I understand if you’re looking at a bunch of training manuals, websites, and magazines and figuring you can handle this training thing on your own. But as good as you are on your own, here are 4 important things a coach is better at than you are.
#1 Holding You Accountable
Even the most self-motivated stickler for structure benefits from accountability. When someone like me is going to ask you why you skipped your workout or bailed on the last interval, you’re more likely to get it done. This shouldn’t be viewed punitively, but rather that we are in this together: I’m using my time and experience to design a pathway that will lead you to success. For it to work I need you to do your part, which means doing the workouts, eating right, going to sleep, and communicating with me.
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#2 Remaining Objective
The impact of training changes an athlete’s interpretation of the facts. In other words, being tired from training changes your outlook on what you should do tomorrow, next week, and next month. But your training doesn’t make me tired, so I can remain objective about what aspects or your training need – or don’t need – to be adjusted. Over the years I’ve seen – even with the advent of improved analysis tools – an unbelievable number of athletes derail their training just before they would have seen tremendous results. For endurance athletes, the most important time to stay the course is often the time when the urge to change course is greatest. A critical eye and an objective voice are incredibly valuable at that moment.
#3 Seeing the Big Picture
For athletes the Big Picture encompasses events later in the season, the trajectory of your athletic career, the impact of your training on your relationships and job, and your overall happiness. Your commitment to training and goal events is laudable, but sometimes you get so wrapped up in the details of this week that you don’t see potential consequences waiting for you down the road. That’s not a failing on your part; it’s the nature of training. I want you to be focused on right now and the details of the days ahead, and part of my job is to help you see the big picture so you can make decisions that are good for your performance, your relationships, and your career.
#4 Interpreting the data
Yes, I know you have a Trainingpeaks account and have read a lot of books. I have Turbotax and a bunch of finance books, but that doesn’t make me a CPA. I’m not saying you can’t analyze your data well, I’m saying my coaches and I can interpret your data with more context and experience. We’ve looked at a lot more data over a lot more years and encompassing a lot more athletes. In most areas of your life you seek experience and expertise when it comes to analysis. Think about your choices in doctors, lawyers, accountants, and even auto mechanics. Apply the same rationale to training, especially since it’s something you’re passionate about, invested in, and spending a lot of time and money pursuing.
Do you know the number one response we get from new athletes when we ask, “What made you decide to get a coach now?” They say something to the effect of, “I’ve thought about it several times, but never done anything about it. Now I’m ready to get started.” You’ve probably thought about it, too. It’s time to get off the fence and get started with a coach. If you’re like most of the athletes we work with, after about 60-90 days you’ll look back and wonder why you hadn’t done it sooner.