Coaching - measurability

So, I’m at the end of the 2nd year/MTB season into a 3 year period I said I invested in a Coach. In essence I’ve gone from 4 to 10 hours a week training on average, I’ve had some good results but I’ve not “jumped” up a level in my events. Generally I feel I have more muscle endurance I am in some way “fitter”, but also 7lbs heavier due to Carb increases to support the training and due to the periodised nature of things, more tired more times of the year. I’m a 47yo Vet with a professional career and 2 kids.

So as I look around at options such as a return to TR or continue with the cost of being coached how do I know there’s been an improvement? How have others seen or justified this? The only thing I’ve seen is a Watts Vs HR graph in the software we use, which shows about 5% more Watts across the board 2018 vs 2019.

Can anyone explain that with so many variables to training and racing how you’ve justified coaching?

Edit: sorry, I changed the title to add a little more meaning to my circumstance.

From a fitness perspective, I would make sure you have some Seasons created in your TR Career (or whatever you are using for analysis) and compare prior seasons of whatever training you did to the one(s) you did with the coach.

Have you increased your power personal records in any, all, or your desired areas of focus?

Look at your overall performance in any events.
Have you gotten better times on prior locations, races, or segments?
Have you gotten better finishing positions and such than prior training?

Essentially, you need to look at the internal changes (as manifested in your outward capability) and likely couple those with the hints on your day to day feelings above (not great, if I’m honest).

Is the coach one who provides a plan only, or do they offer other facilities (eg conversations and advice about strategy, recovery, nutrition, technique (maybe even hands on), choice of events, goal setting etc)? From a personal level, it’s the extras that would make the difference. I think I would benefit massively from a technical coach, but I don’t think that a coaching plan type coach would benefit me much more (enough to justify the cost) than TR.
In order to evaluate the value of something, you have to be realistic about the benefits. If accountability is crucial to your improvement, maybe that alone is enough to justify a coach.


Thanks for your honesty, that’s what I’m after.

  • It’s MTB Marathon I’m talking about, and with some many variables such as weather, who else’s does or doesn’t turn up etc., it’s hard to tell I feel I’m a little faster but that’s subjective.
  • Locally, yes but like everyone I have good days and bad days. The problem with periodised training is, how do you know when your affected by fatigues or last weeks Strava PR was wind assisted to a small degree.
  • Worse for non-target XC which I’d put down to fatigue, slightly better for XCM.

Good stuff.

Adding to that, what was the main goal (or goals) of moving to use a coach vs continuing whatever was in place before?

Do you know what your FTP was prior to being coached vs. now? For example, in my case, my coach took me from 2.6 watts/kg to 3.7 watts/kg. I completed a tough 100 mile/15,000’ of climbing MTB event that I DNF’ed on before, took some podiums in local races, etc. The benefits seem to have been much more obvious in my case.

You mention having a lot of fatigue, and this is something your coach should be monitoring. Is your coach providing you ample time to recover? Is he or she giving you the same plan that they give to their 20 something clients?

Not all coaches work for everyone, and if you don’t feel an obvious improvement it may be time to consider moving on, or at least giving your coach more feedback about how you’re responding or not to the training so that it helps them change things up for you.

To answer Chad and Julie at once… My goal was to become a fitter and faster MTB racer. My problem - to use Julie’s first para as an example - is that my FTP has gone down by about 10w to 3.7w/KG, and my positions in racing have inconsistently varied yet in a way that can be explained by external factors. For example, In 2018 - my first year XCM - I was about 30th Vet in Marathons. In 2019 I finished 26 in the first marathon, I finished 16th in the second but the top end of the field wasn’t present due to foul weather, and in third I had a faulty tubeless valve and a preceding sore throat which lost me time and effort over the distance to finish 44th. Then, I entered a 12hr on a “social” basis and came 12th of 169 by accident, after deferring 2 x night laps and finding out (once I’d showered and had a beer in hand) that I was sitting in the top 10.

My FTP drop has been explained away as a deference to sustainable power - my climbing has indeed improved but to reverse-quote Julie, I’m not seeing regular sustainable performance increases that I can pin something to.

My coach is from a large well know organisation and although new (3yrs) is backed and mentored by some very experienced XC coaches. He’s a nutrition specialist, we’ve talked about time and stress affecting my races, he’s provided more taper this year and oriented my plans to greater VO2max and endurance.

So you see, I can’t spot a trend for improvement because there’s always been “something” that’s affected the measurability of my success.

I can’t help thinking that I’d save 70% of the cost for not much less performance by replicating what I’ve learn and using TR instead - which is why I’m asking.

Does that make sense? I appreciate its difficult to answer.

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I think what I’m looking for is a measure of success that justifies coaching that isn’t FTP. I’m just not sure what that is.

Life and training are hard to mix. Unless you are a pro and can totally center your life around training, the variability you mention is inevitable.

We have to do our best to review our performance, with the training and any alterations / interruptions in mind. It’s all a bit of fuzzy math, and not as concrete as we’d like to have for making a decision like this.

My read: You are not seeing the “big improvement” you hoped or expected to see from a more direct and tailored program, and are looking for a more solid way to say “Nice as it may be, the coaching is not worth the added expense.” I freely admit that I may well be off on this guess.

Personally, considering the going rate for the coaching I have seen is at least 10 times the cost of something like TR, I can’t see any way it makes sense. That is particular to me and my training and goals.

I know there are other benefits (some may well be intangible) to having a coach. The accountability mentioned above is huge for many people. That or other reasons may well justify the cost.


I guess race results are always going to be dependent upon outside factors (like who shows up, mechanicals, etc.). Improvement over time on internal measures are probably better to go on. Besides FTP I guess you have other metrics on the power curve like 1-minute power or 5 minute power, etc. You can look at the gap between your 20 minute power and actual 1 hour power. i.e. maybe you are actually able to sustain power for longer, in which case a slight decrease in FTP test results does not matter that much?

It’s difficult, but like Chad said (replied while I was typing!) my gut tells me if your improvements are so subtle that you are unsure if they are actually improvements, it’s understandable to reconsider the expense. Credentials aren’t everything - sometimes it’s just a personal thing. A coach can work well for some and not others, I have seen it in my friends.

I assume you are able to complete all (or vast majority) of workouts prescribed. One value add of a live coach over a pre-canned training plan is that they should be able to figure out how to make the most out of the finite time and energy that you have available.

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At a minimum, you want to look at your power duration curve (watts vs time) and compare periods (e.g. this year vs last year). This will show you where you have improved and by how much and identify where you need to focus. If your best 5 minute power was 300 and now its 400, you improved. And hopefully you’ve made the biggest improvements in the parts of the curve that matter most in the type of racing you do.

Races are variable so results are not a great benchmark but in training you can recreate the same situations with repeatably. If you have a power meter you should be doing testing at various durations (or pull apart hard race or training efforts).

Not to sound too harsh, but if your coach is not doing this minimal level of analysis for you, you might as well just stick with TR. Anyone can write workouts and a plan. The only reason to hire a real coach is to get analysis and then customization of the plan based on your data.


Thats a good summary yes.

I assume you are able to complete all (or vast majority) of workouts prescribed. One value add of a live coach over a pre-canned training plan is that they should be able to figure out how to make the most out of the finite time and energy that you have available.

Yes, as per others the last intervals are always a challenge !

At a minimum, you want to look at your power duration curve (watts vs time) and compare periods (e.g. this year vs last year).

Fantastic - thank you for that pointer. I found one and its positive I think I’ve attached it (note my FTP tests are not in there which is why 20 mins shows my Sweet Spot watts).

We can all see now that particularly power on the right hand side - longer durations is up - Yes so something IS working! My peak power also went up to 1299w (an annoying number grrr), but you can see my traditional problem is that I’ve a relatively low power in the mid ranges - 30s, 1min - 5min for example which is typical.

Edit - ignore the fact the dates are all the same, its a reporting error.

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You have to start by defining what you regard as success. Serious training is all about aiming at specific things, not going along and seeing what happens.

Its sounds like the issue is you are asking the question at the end that you should of had answered for yourself at the beginning.

As for the “something” always coming up thing, even if your life is crazy and you can’t be super consistent in training, if that’s a known thing it needs to be built into the goals and the plan. A good coach can come up with a plan to get you to the best you can be under your circumstances and measure progress. A custom plan might be build based on an assumption you’re going to miss 5 workouts a month and you’re no good at dieting and your job is super stressful. You to just need to be honest with each other up front and realistic.

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Guilty as charged. I wanted to be “better” but didn’t specify a measure.

Actually my training is very consistent, I manage pretty much all scheduled sessions. Until I found that chart though I was comparing race performance and FTP. What I think I’m going to do now though is use that chart to know what target I’m seeking to improve prior to a session. For example, tomorrow I’m doing 6 min VO2max intervals so I’ll look to aim for a 5 min improvement. Thats really helped STP thank you.

And also, I have a period target of 200w for 3 hours in Z2 from my coach currently. Now I now why - my next Marathon event is 3hrs / 50km and that chart shows 180. Seeing as I typically race in Z3 he’s increasing my default endurance - lifting the floor.

You know when the light bulb moment happens…?!

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Just make sure you communicate with your coach about what each day’s workout goal is. Not every workout is a test session!

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I would say the coach is equally guilty. I would expect a good coach to get clarity from their clients on what their goals are when they start, and if that clarity is missing then they should be helping their clients to define some goals. They should also be communicating clearly how the training you’re doing is going to help achieve those goals. You shouldn’t be getting lightbulb moments about why your coach has you doing certain training by asking us lot! Their own reputation is at risk if they don’t do this, since without clearly defined goals it’s difficult to be sure they

Have to say the big picture isn’t great. You’ve increased training from 4 to 10 hours/week but seen FTP drop. Your coach is a nutrition specialist but you’ve put on 7lbs (this might be OK if you were too skinny before and there was a deliberate decision to put on a bit more weight in order to boost power, but if FTP has dropped that doesn’t seem to be the case). Your race results aren’t showing definitive improvement. And you’re tired all the time. I might be missing something of course, but from what you’ve said I’m really struggling to see any benefits.

Also not at all convinced that increasing sustainable power means dropping FTP. That hasn’t been my experience, if anything I’ve found the best way to increase the power I can put out for long durations is having a higher FTP so that I’m working at a lower percentage of it. If you’d been training at 10 hours/week for a few years and seen a plateau in FTP then making improvements in sustainable power might mean a drop. But going from 4 to 10 hours/week it should be possible to improve both numbers at the same time.

Understood. Please bear in mind i havent written down every single detail. Before instart the year i get a lactate test also. This show my lactate threshold increasing and usually ftp. Its only recently my ftp dropped to be fair and that was during my first ever TR ramp test whereas i usually test over 20 mins.

We do talk about my seasons goals. Im a poor climber (sprinter profile) so this year was about finding time on the longer climbs and improving my technical riding - the main goal though was to increase my z2 floor by eg to 220w.

Unfortunately my lifestyle sees me with little analysis time so maybe ive taken my eye off the ball.

I hear what your’re saying. After this block i have off-season and during then ill meet up for pre 2020 testing and ask some more specific questions that I can monitor the results of from home.

Does your coach work for TrainSharp?