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Eight things to think about when hiring a cycling coach

Want a coach but don't know who to choose? Here are eight key things to think about before signing up

If you’re considering getting a coach, it’s not just a case of looking online and settling on the first coach you come across. After all, it’s an investment and, as a result, important you find someone suited to your individual needs and goals, particularly with the number of coaches out there growing quickly.

Why might you want a coach in the first place? A coach can provide a outside perspective that isn’t always obvious when you’re riding your bike. A good coach can objectively plan and analyse your training to make sure you’re making the most of your time on the bike, and also use their expertise and knowledge to offer a fresh perspective on your riding.

While most top riders will have a coach, having someone to guide your training isn’t the preserve of professional riders. Just like gym goers can benefit from having a personal trainer, cyclists can benefit from having a coach – something I’ve experienced myself both as a rider having been coached, and as a coach myself having seen the progression of clients.

Are you thinking about getting a coach to take your training to the next level? (Pic: Antton Miettinen)

Of course, the prospect of having a coach isn’t appealing to everyone, but as if you have a goal you want to achieve on the bike, a good coach (and that’s the key here) will be able to help you. That goal doesn’t have to be to win an Olympic gold medal, but could to simply be stronger than your riding buddies.

If you’ve been thinking about hiring a coach, how do you find the right person for you? Before taking the plunge with any coach, it’s important to speak to them to better understand whether they’re the right person for the job.

With that in mind, here are eight key things you should consider being signing up with any coach.

Compatibility

The coach-rider relationship can be a complex one. A good coach can act as a mentor, a motivator and a coach, all at the same time.

The relationship between a rider and coach needs to be one of mutual respect and collaboration. I’d stress that you don’t have to be best mates with your coach – in fact, having a little distance in your relationship can give space for those honest truths that sometimes as an athlete you need to hear.

The most important thing is that you and your coach have a productive working relationship. You don’t always have to agree, you don’t always have to be friends but the goal of your relationship should always be working together to make you a better cyclist.

What discipline are you aiming for?

Chances are that you will have a preferred cycling discipline (or maybe even two). This is the case for most coaches as well.

Most coaches will have their own specialties and preferences, so find a coach whose expertise lies in the discipline in which you want to improve, and where your goals lie. For example, a specialist track coach may not have the in-depth knowledge of cyclo-cross needed for an elite ‘cross rider.

If you’re a cyclo-cross rider, then you should look for a coach who specialises in that discipline (Pic: Trek)

Emotional support

A good coach needs to be able to provide not only training sessions but also emotional support when things don’t quite go as planned.

A coach earns their money not when everything is going well and the results are flowing in, but when things aren’t quite as rosy. The skill of a good coach is to be able to identify the areas that are limiting performance and then put together a plan to address them.

A coach should be there to support you – but also provide honest feedback when required (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

Expectations

A good coach will be more than willing to chat about your goals before you sign up to any training programme. You should be clear with your prospective coach about your goals and expectations and let them come back to you with some ideas about how to achieve those goals.

If you like the ideas and direction your prospective coach wants to move in, that’s the time to sign up and start working together.

References

A personal reference from a friend, fellow club rider or team-mate is a great way of finding a coach.

Most people will give you a balanced opinion of their coach but if a personal reference isn’t available then a testimonial from a current client is a good a place to start.

A coach with a strong working relationship with their riders won’t have any issue putting you in contact with a current client – use this as an opportunity to really get to grips as to what the coach will offer and if they fit the bill for you.

A reference from a friend, fellow club rider, team-mate or current client is worth its weight in gold

Budget

While the relationship between coach and rider is key, budget is also an important consideration. You’ll find a wide range of coaching options out there, at a range of prices.

The amount you’ll pay will depend on, among other things, a coach’s expertise, level of qualification, and the amount of contact you will receive. It’s up to you to balance all these aspects but don’t be afraid to ask a prospective coach what you will be receiving for the money and what their hourly rate is.

I’d also strongly recommend you ask a coach how many other people they coach. This will give you a good idea of how important you will be to that coach and how much time and effort they are is likely to spend on you.

A good coach should be able to address your strengths and weaknesses (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix.com)

Amount of contact

As I’ve already mentioned, a coach’s price will be influenced by the amount of contact and experience, so let’s deal with the first of those now.

Before looking into your options, I would recommend making a list of things you want from your coach and one of the key factors to consider is how much contact you would like with them.

For example. if you have been riding for years and are just looking for a structured, general training plan, you won’t need the same amount of contact as someone moving into a new discipline who might need bespoke guidance and advice on a regular basis.

The same goes for how much feedback you want on individual sessions. If, for example, you’ve been riding with a power meter for a fair amount of time you might be accustomed to analysing your own files and learning from them, so you might not need as much feedback on each session.

However, if you want detailed feedback on each session to ensure you are doing everything correctly, or are unsure how to best analyse your training, then you need to look for a coach and a training plan that offers that. The value of a coach really comes into its own when analysing training and using that to adapt your programme to make sure you’re on the right track to best achieve your goals.

Do you need detailed, daily feedback or just a structured training plan? (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix.com)

Education and experience

Every coach will come with different qualifications and experience. When talking to a prospective coach, don’t be afraid to ask what their specific experience is and what qualifications they have. This will help determine whether their qualities are suited to what you’re after.

Going back to the discipline you’re looking to improve in, also ask about the other athletes they work with. If you really want to do your research, look for any articles they have written or media coverage which will also give you a better idea of the coach’s expertise and how they work.

Coaches also need to be covered by insurance. Most coaches will be affiliated to a professional body such as British Cycling and will therefore be insured through that organisation. However, it’s always worth asking a prospective coach whether they’re insured and where they hold their qualifications.

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