To coach or not to coach? It seems like a simple question, but the truth is, the decision to hire a coach is a lot harder than it seems at first.
If you’ve been thinking about it, but aren’t sure, keep on reading for our advice, and some advice and wisdom from female coaches.
So why hire a coach? If you have a specific training goal in mind, a coach can be a great way to help you achieve that goal, and keep you on track in a healthy and constructive way. Whether it’s a long distance event a few months away, weight loss / maintenance, or general strength building, a coach is an expert on the right riding and fitness regime to get you to your goals, within the limits of what you can do.
Many think a coach is only for a professional athlete, someone who has 5 hours a day to ride every day, but, a good coach will work to your schedule and your working life, with all goals attainable. They can normally also be hired for set amounts of time, say 10 weeks, if you have a specific goal in mind on a short term basis.
Laura Gallardo is a coach based in Girona, Spain who coaches all disciplines of cycling, and had prepared the training plan for the NGNM Ven-Top Challenge last spring on Zwift. We asked her what makes coaching women different or unique:
“I do train women for cycling, but the way I approach training is completely personalised to every single person and their situation and lifestyle, so they are able to meet their goals. In the case of women, I take in consideration how their menstrual cycle affects them, so their training plan is flexible on these days.
It is very important for me to maintain constant feedback with the athlete, as their emotional state is one of the most important piece of data I have to optimise their progress.”
Of course, yes for many women their hormonal fluctuations can have an effect on their training load each month, and knowledge of this is a great reason to work with a coach that understands this.
Deena Blacking, an Irish coach who writes for Cycling Weekly echoed Laura’s sentiments and explained a bit more:
“Speaking candidly, I think it’s less about female or male and more about catering to the individual, whoever they are. However, I do also think there is more to be done for female athletes and supporting them in a way that maximises their potential. Physiologically, female athletes tend to experience more hormonal fluctuations and have different strengths and weaknesses than the typical male athlete. A coach needs to recognise the differences, particularly when younger athletes are going through puberty. Talking openly about women’s health and the menstrual cycle is crucial to ensuring female athletes can thrive and be comfortable in the sport. For example, sitting on a saddle shouldn’t be uncomfortable but, unfortunately, for many female athletes, it can be. The more a coach can normalise discussions about female health, the more we can support women to thrive in the sport.”
If you are thinking about signing up a coach, try to plan in advance for the goals. A coach will probably need 2-3 months to get you perfectly ready for your event, or fitness goal, and you might need a few weeks to find the right fit for you! Don’t be scared to contact coaches and see if you gel before committing. You want to get along with your coach, and have a good synergy and positive vibes, otherwise you won’t get everything out of it you could!
Laura thinks it’s important to work with a professional if you are indeed looking for advice and improvements: "I believe it is very important for us as women to feel empowered to be better athletes, to be more competitive and to have a certified professional who will be able to make your cycling journey more efficient, who will motivate you and help you get to your 100%.”
Deena is always keen as a coach to fit the needs of her clients across the board. “Psychologically, female athletes often want a more engaging athlete-coach relationship, placing more explicit value on a coach who cares about how they are feeling as well as how they are performing. However, there are many male athletes who also value this – a good coach will recognise and appreciate the individuality of the athlete, whoever they are.”
So where to start? We suggest with a pen and paper: write out your goals (or top three goals) for your cycling in three stages: 3 months, 6 months and one year. Then write out what you think you need to do to achieve these goals.
If you think you need some help or guidance with this, take your list and get in contact with a coach to see what they think about your planning and how they can help! Of course, you can also try it solo, and there is no harm in that, and remember it’s never too late to make your fitness dream a reality.
Laura Gallardo runs laucycle.com coaching and can be found at @laucyclecoach on IG.
Deena Blacking runs drivetrain.cc coaching @drivetrain.cc on IG.