Can cyclists self coach?

I was captivated by a comment Lizze Armitstead made in an interview pre winning the#RVV for women for her team Boels-Dolmans.She said she relys on self coaching “out of necessity” and this both struck and intrigued me.The article on made for fascinating reading and an insight into the mind-set of a world champion.

How could a world champion not have a coach? Then how could any pro-cyclist not have a coach.The weekend cyclists pay for coaching to see an improvement in their chosen sport or they seek advice from other experienced riders in their clubs.Do we all need a structured and directed programme or can we use DIY coaching? Then again I have not been born with the genes or a brilliant engine to make me a pro-cyclist even in my dreams.Maybe we all need “something” to improve?

But as a hobby cyclist,what could you do? I would like to explore a few thoughts on the fitness rider and their needs for coaching.Can you gain improvements as a rider by using DIY coaching or do you need a professional ? Can you be your own coach?

Where do you honestly start? Cycling over the years has become a very personal sport.We dont all live in the team camps and have to face a team manager every morning on or before a training session.The urge and need to ride the bike is a self-motivated and self directed tool that we need to have to achieve any degree of success,be our goals just losing a few kgs or competing in a sportive.The setting of goals is essential for us to succeed.I ask can it be done and done well as a fitness cyclist?

As with fitness we need to establish a baseline of knowledge and experience.This requires openness to changing our previous behaviour and bad habits.This appears to be a need that has to be established to form a pattern for succeed at any level on the road.The acquired knowledge is essential to enforce change within ourselves and have the motivational powers to step to a higher level.The ability to push ourselves up that hill in even our lower gears is appealing.

The gathering of of knowledge is very accessible.The availibility of evident based knowledge is easy to find and can help in changing our cycling practise.The training manuels are a must have on the shelf for any rider.An example of this is “The Cyclists Training Bible” from Joe Friel.It is the classic example of a manuel done very well.It allows discussion and reflection for a day on a bike and allows you to plan a structure into your ride time.I also like to read “The Time Crunched Cyclists” from “Carmichael and Rutberg” for a few tips and discussion.We are always hunting time.But even reading a chapter of one of these books,you will be ensured of picking up a tip that will help your cycling.The internet almost every day has an article about fitness and nutrition and then another.The web can be your information heaven or your hell.The seperation from the good and bad is the key.

Cycling is a new hobby for many and you can go and spend your money on a brilliant shiny carbon framed bike and all the lovely shiny gear and you go for a ride.But you can't buy fitness off the shelf.Now you really want to go faster and the racing bug starts,and self coaching is the start of your cycling journey.And you invest the time and energy accessing the plans,the structure and the time in making improvements to yourself.At this stage its easy to hit a full stop after an opening period of enthusaism.The winter would come and the the rides would became harder and and a performance plateau would have been reached.

The personality type in some of us will allow the passing of our cycling needs to a coach.We get plans and we get wisdom and experience.We all need to improve and we look towards the coach as our gateway to the next level.

Then we have other methods.We have the ability to look into the internet for training plans and pick up cycling fitness tips,look through the plans that are given away freely and on association websites for great and inspiring events of 100miles and multi-day sportives over the best roads in the world, but its still down to us how we use this information.We see so many plans and conflicting information out there its actually mind blowing and our analysis power to detect what actually might work for us is lost in a sea of information.It then becomes dis-information.We dont know where to turn.

So what can we trust? Can we trust one plan over the other?Are we actually doing it right? We might never really know until maybe its too late.Its about trial and error.And the roads can become harder and harder.

As we are fitness cyclists we need to ask ourselves have we got enough knowledge to make informed choices about out training?Are we able to set realistic goals to keep us happy and motivated? Can we be objective about our training and our results? With the use of data,modern cycling is in a better place to help us to to keep fit and keep active as data overtakes personal bias and “feel”.Then again the bias can be used as a motivational tool to spur onto that next challenge.We have to be safe using this information.

The understanding of training is of important value to fitness cyclists.The internet and books again are a treasure throve of information for us and this research leads to a better and more skilled understanding of our riding and training structure.Whatever the weekend warrior status,this information and structure is your power as a rider.The use of a simple heart rate monitor is a great training aid and its sometimes undervalued in this era where power metres are more easily available to the gadget weekend warriors.But how can the fitness cyclist benefit if the data can't be understood? This might show a very negative picture for a self-coached cyclist but learning about your craft takes time.The use of both HR and power for the weekend warriors is a winning combination according to Joe Friel.

With and similar programmes so easily avalible for training programmes its easy to gather and share our training information and have a training diary for ease and access.This information will always be essential as mistakes will be made but this may well point to the errors of our ways and allow patterns to be identified at a later date.

The great riders of the world will always have a coach but the greater good for us is getting on the road and getting a much time as we can spare with our busy lives.It serves as the greater and the essential no1 on the to-do list.Having a coach can absolve you from any mistakes and it can become a shared responsibility,a sounding board to achieve your next target and a coach is of amazing value when your legs feel that any road is now easy!Because they got you there!Getting your way on the road is something you can find on your own and we know cycling is a journey into the greater unknown roads and thats why we like it.We have battles with it somedays that we care to forget.

Can we coach ourselves? I believe we can.

Can we do it right? That I don't know.It all depends on what we want and how quickly.But let caution be shown.Experience is needed.

As with everything in cycling,there is something for everyone once we find it.