Have you gotten a coach? Do *I* need a coach?

Hey, folks. Every now and then I poke my head into my local forum’s Competitive Racing thread, and ask “hey, how am I doing?” I always come away somewhat demoralized, as the answer is “meh, better, but not by much.”

This most recent time I was just looking to buy some aero wheels and the advice was (after looking at my training efforts and prior races) “I think you need a coach, you’re really not progressing very much.”

After sulking and pouting, I thought I would come in here and ask for advice. I’ve completed Mid-Volume SSB 1, am 4 weeks into SSB 2, and am considering whether I should go into General Build or Short Power Build. However, over the past two and a half months, my FTP has gone up all of 5 watts. Granted, I can tolerate time at sweet spot and threshold much better than I have before, and I feel stronger, but just looking at the numbers, I haven’t really changed.

Given that my goals are to get better at racing (I’m a terrible terrible Cat 5 crit racer) and also not get dropped on hills on my local club rides, I’m not really progressing towards those goals. Granted, this is a “Base” phase, and maybe I should wait until I get a ways into the Build phase … but I’m wondering if my progress is simply lagging behind where it should be.

Anyone else have experience with slow progress, little or no change in FTP, and self-doubt? Have you hired a coach? How did it go? Did they use TrainerRoad plans, use the workouts, or just set you off on your own? Any personal anecdotes or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, in advance, everyone.

There are good coaches and bad coaches…

The first thing a coach does is give you accountability and motivation if you lack it or suffer from it.

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The general consensus is that you will not get a massive FTP boost from SSBI to SSII. i would complete a build cycle and judge your progress from there before committing to a coach.

Have fun navigating these:

  • Cooking oil makes blood-cells stick together
  • “Gluten is poison”
  • Cult-diet garbage
  • Prayer (lol)
  • GMO foods alter your DNA
  • Amateur motivational speaker
  • Incorporating sport shooting into training

I had a dude offer a free session and he wanted to start with prayer, lol.

How is your consistency? How do your SS and aerobic workouts compare to those years prior? There is probably some measurable progress there. Good luck finding a coach with a firm grasp upon reality, science, and biology.

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There are plenty out there. I have at least two that I could immediately suggest and a large amount of others through friends that have coaches.

That being said, a coach is not a silver bullet and you have to go in with your eyes open about what you want to get out of the relationship. Each coach has their own skills and blind spots so you have to be aware of that.

I’ve used a coach in conjunction with TrainerRoad for the past several years and I’ve found it to be valuable, but I am in a different situation than you where I respond really well to training and am likely to overdo it in every area.

Can you post your career for us to look at and analyse?

Did you ask him if he was normally a spiritual person?

‘Hey, coach, are you trying to tell me something?’

:rofl::rofl::rofl:

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You get what you pay for IME.

A lot of coaches have a sliding scale of service levels. Pick the cheapest and it’s unlikely you’ll have much feedback apart from occasional emails (sometimes these are limited to one a week, or one Skype call a month, etc). It’ll just be about being given an assessment and a training plan.

If you want a real relationship with your coach, you either need one with no other clients (in which case, why doesn’t he have other athletes??), or you need to pay more.

You don’t need a coach but you could use a local buddy to help you navigate training and racing. Everyone when they start out can use a buddy!!

Almost everyone has self doubt at some point in this type of journey. So go ahead and put those feelings aside but know that they will come back from time to time and you’ll need to chase them away again.

Unpack your expectations and make micro and macro goals. A couple cycles of TR SSB training does not convert a low performing cat 5 into a cat 1 or a club ride stone cold killa. It takes training time and skills to perform well on the road and in races. Give yourself permission to take the time to do the training and to learn the skills. Also don’t believe all the guys on forums saying they went from an FTP of 150 to 350 with one round of training. There absolutely are mutants who do that, or dudes that go from cat 5 to cat 1 in a season. But most people progress much more slowly and over time. Time is years not weeks or months. It’s OK, enjoy the journey and being a healthier person for it.

Training: For a Cat 5 rider, assuming you are relatively new to this, it really dosen’t matter what program you do. Just do one and be consistent and keep doing it. Eddy Merckx famously said “RIDE LOTS”. He’s right. With Trainer Road we can ride smart but you still have to ride lots. I wish we would rename the “base” programs so that folks didn’t see them as something to progress through in 6-12 weeks in order to get to the good stuff, but rather as the long term foundational training they really provide. There would be nothing wrong with beginning riders taking a long period of SST (base) training and doing SSB2 or 3 over and over for several cycles. With some VO2 and some long outdoor rides mixed in.

Racing is about skills in addition to power. My FTP has not changed in years but my race results improve (Cat 3, I stink) by getting better at actually racing. Be it TT pacing, criterium, RRs. Skills matter.

But… If you don’t have enough power to hang with a Cat 5 field don’t waste your time racing just yet. Find some folks to help you with basic skills. How to draft, how to corner.

Once you are ready to race, make your first goal just to finish in the pack. You don’t ever have to pull, breakaways aren’t your thing yet. First learn to finish in the pack then go from there. You don’t need a coach so much as a friend who has already gone through this stage to help you out. It is not hard but it’s not obvious either.

FWIW, I taught my wife to race by going through exactly the progression described. We did rides together then group rides so she could learn basic road skills. We introduced training to a program and spent a couple years at it. When she started racing we taught basic tactics. Mostly what not to do but that is a different post. A few years of effort and focus culminated with a Cat 4 state championship in criterium. Not a huge deal but a nice personal accomplishment for a hobbiest level rider.

An aside, her race bike was an aluminum frame with box rim wheels. You don’t need equipment at the lower levels. Actually at any amateur level. It’s all about the legs and the skills. Folks get hung up on gear because it’s fun to ride nice stuff. But at lower levels it is not at all needed and can become a distraction.

Stick with it and in a year or two you’ll be a Cat 4 and old hat giving advice to the next guy going through the first steps.

-Mark

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5W from the first half of SSB2 isn’t too bad. The second half of SSB2 and the Build are the hardest bits of the plan, and the parts where most people seem to make most of the FTP gains. And improving your time at threshold and sweet spot should improve your ability to race, even without a change in your FTP.
You don’t say how long you have been using TR, or how long you have been racing. If you are new to TR, then I would stick with it all the way to the end of a Base-Build-Speciality cycle and see how you are going by the end. I don’t think that a coach is a requirement. Quite a few World Tour riders are self coached, and TR is a sort of halfway house. Coaching is really expensive if you get a significant amount of time (as you would expect - you are buying the time of someone who is hopefully a highly qualified individual).
Is your club active in the racing scene - if so are there people in the club you can ask for advice? If you are new to racing, you might find that some tuition of how to race would get you a much better racing experience without some giant spike in power.

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I had an awesome experience with my coach (Steve Campo and Barney King) way before TR was even a glimmer in Nate’s eye. They are top notch though so YMMV. The one big thing I learned was it’s all about raising CTL (basically the 6 week daily avg line on TR cal) as high as you can tolerate and at the right time. So simple yet so complex.

While I don’t think it’s necessary I think most would benefit from a good coach. If nothing else they would learn first hand to break through a plateau takes more time and effort most are willing to take.

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I was pretty much in the same place - doing TR plans but actually only selectively and missing days when I felt like it and never really progressing.

I had 15 months with a coach and it definitely made a difference. All my TT numbers improved on what I had hoped for and I was foussed on my training. Accountability makes a massive difference.

After that time I figured that there was no point in continuing as one year looks like another year in terms of coaching plans and I had the workouts and the history to work with.

If you have the spare cash then devote 6 months to working with a coach and see how it progresses. I totally agree that it is not necessary but it just might make a difference to you and that is definitely something worth having.

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While I advocate for personal coaches, and have coached myself, and intend to coach again in the future, I’d hate to see you drop coin on a coach at this stage. My advice:

  • Commit to TR for the season and get 100% compliance, or close to it.
  • Talk to your buddies in your local group, maybe especially the old guys who’ve raced, and get some tips on pack movement, tactics, where to ride in the Crit.
  • See if there are coaching or racing clinics available locally. Join one, get points and learn.

You need to build your basic fitness and TR is going to be the best solution for that. Supplementing a low volume plan with outdoor riding and asking questions and continuing to learn is your best value option.

I’ve had a coach. Kind of a budget option. It was OK but he largely provided the training plan and answered some questions. If I wanted more detailed guidance, it cost more. As others have said, you get what you’re willing to pay for.

A last option: find a coach who is breaking in and building their portfolio. It helps if you know the person… you might get a season for free or really cheap, and they’ll be motivated to help you out because they’re new, it’s novel, and they want to learn and develop their business too. Downside is they won’t have the same level of experience, obviously.

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There are some good comments here. I especially agree with @DarthShivious. Since you say:

The primary comment I would say here is: a coach may help some, but what you really need is help from your other racers. How supportive is your club? Are there other teammates you can talk with about their experiences? Most of the time, to become better at crit racing, you need to figure out HOW to race, rather than just improving power. If you get dropped after two laps because you just can’t ride at their pace, that’s a different problem. But I’m willing to bet you say you’re “terrible” because you are not efficient, you aren’t staying on the right wheels, and you haven’t figured out how to move up and stay up. There are a number of sayings about racing, repeated on the podcast; one of my favorite is “if you’re not moving forward you’re moving backward.” It really is like a washing machine–you move forward, you think you have good position, and then suddenly after the next corner you’re at the back again. Most of crit racing is about placement, and a coach isn’t going to help you much here. Pick a good wheel, stay on that wheel. Learn how to take a wheel. These are skills that you need to learn.

I’ve had a few coaches. As others have said, your mileage may vary. I had one coach where my FTP basically stagnated and I think actually decreased. The one thing that she did for me that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own was that she basically forced me to go race a crit. I had always thought they were dangerous; she had me go do a few “training crits” through a Beginning Racer Program. That really opened my eyes to crit racing, and now I do a lot more crits than RRs. It’s hard to find a coach that really works for you. TR has great plans, and I’m not sure you’re going to get anything different out of just another training plan, at your point.

If you have trouble with accountability and motivation, find a training partner (maybe here?). The purpose would be to give each other a hard time if you’re not staying on schedule, to create the accountability.

As for self-doubt, this is definitely one area where you and I are well matched. Figuring out confidence is difficult. A coach can believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself, but you still need to gain the confidence YOURSELF. And, unless you find the right coach, that coach may not truly believe in you. You may just need to talk through a race and get some guidance for how to improve yourself. I think that this forum could be a good place for you to find a few people to go through what happens and work through different scenarios. And I agree again with @DarthShivious about setting microgoals. Those have been really helpful to improve my confidence.

For not getting dropped on your club rides, is it just a w/kg thing? Or are you getting dropped for the same reasons you get dropped in a crit? I used to get dropped at the start of every single club ride I’d try to join, because they’d go out of the parking lot like gangbusters and I’d get dropped on the first little hill that’s about 1.5 miles away. It wasn’t until I finally got a higher cadence and was able to stay in a paceline more easily that I realized I could go up that hill with a higher cadence and stay with them. But if it’s just a w/kg thing, then yes, improving FTP is important.

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God damn you guys are amazing. So many good replies. I’m actually at a bike fitting right now, but I’ll reply extensively when I get home!

HANDS DOWN, the TrainerRoad forum is the best coach. The community participation and support is second to none.

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Meeee…and I have a coach and I love working with him. While my ftp number doesn’t change (only tested at the beginning of base, in November), what does change is how I perform on the road. I’m not hitting high numbers, but I sure as heck have more “depth”. I can hold power for longer, recover from hard efforts faster, and generally feel ok when riding.

To answer the inevitable “why did you get a coach” question, it’s because I need the accountability.

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You have a coach! His name is Coach @Chad! Believe in the Coach Chad that believes in you! You pay for TR. Coach Chad is a licensed coach who does his homework and in his day could seriously throw down! The plans work, you have to commit to them, do the work, and wait patiently for the results.

However, over the past two and a half months, my FTP has gone up all of 5 watts.

Do not get hung up on the actual FTP number itself. Instead use it to set your workouts in TR. After your FTP test, do you think you could actually ride at that wattage for 45min-1hr? After doing SSB1 and SSB2, your FTP might not go up at all or only slightly (i.e., 5W) but you can probably ride at your FTP for a much longer time. Maybe originally, you could only hold your tested FTP for 30min, now you can hold it for 45min. Again, do the work, believe in the plan! Bigger gains come with the Build and Specialty cycles.

(I’m a terrible terrible Cat 5 crit racer)

Crit racing is very special. There is a lot of “race craft” in crit racing. You could be the strongest rider and still never podium if you lack said “race craft”. Obviously, you need to have a certain level of fitness, but crit skills are super important. Assuming you have the fitness, here are some things you can work on:

  • Stay near the front of the pack. NOT on the front. It is both safer and smoother (i.e., less yo-yo’ing)
  • Be smooth aka smoove :wink: Less on/off power. More soft pedal and less braking.
  • Do not let gaps open up in front of you. Stay smooth, on the wheels, and in the draft. If the guy in front of you looks like a liability, then get in front of him.
  • If you are losing spots or getting gapped in turns, then this needs to be corrected. Braking is done before you enter the turn. Accelerate a split second earlier to make sure you are not gapped coming out of the turn. Accelerating on your terms in advance feels much nicer than doing so later on someone else terms.

If you have not noticed, all of the above is about saving energy. Crit racing can sometimes be smooth but usually is a lot of accelerations/surging. Doing what you can to minimize that and save energy is HUGE! Build and Specialty will really help w/the addition of the higher intensity workouts. There is no better substitute for crit training than actually riding crits. If you have a local training crit (e.g., Tue night World Championships), get out there and practice. If you get dropped, jump back in on the next lap.

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In other words… You’ve started gaining a steady 2 watts a month. If you keep doing what you’re doing, by the end of July 2019 your FTP will have grown by a further 10 watts. And by July 2020, by another 25 watts. And by July 2021…

Follow the plans with some consistency and TrainerRoad WILL grow your FTP, you don’t need a coach for that.

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