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Dispatches from Columbine — How You Can Benefit from a Coach

Photo credit: Eric Benjamin

By Rebecca Rusch

Coaches aren’t just for pros. They are for anyone who wants to be efficient and get the most benefit from their hard work. If you’re committed to racing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB or a qualifying event, why not do yourself a favor and get some help?

I’ve been an athlete for more than 20 years and have gone through periods where I had a coach and times where I was self-coached. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and, without doubt, I do my best work with a coach.

Here are some of the biggest reasons I benefit from working with a coach:

Accountability – The simple act of having someone to answer to is a huge motivator for me and for most people. Sometimes just knowing that my coach, Dean Golich, will look at my workout is the main reason I get out the door. It’s much harder to make excuses, cut a workout short or skip it when you know someone is watching.

Objectivity – We are often our worst enemy and negativity can cloud our thoughts. In simple terms, getting fit is the repeated act of breaking yourself down with hard work and then building up with recovery. It’s a delicate balance that requires an objective view to stay on task. A good coach will step in regularly with a voice of reason and objectively evaluate your progress and your performance. They will provide feedback that is unclouded by fatigue and stress.

Perspective – For athletes, the big picture encompasses events later in the season, the trajectory of your athletic career, the impact of your training on your relationships and job, and your overall happiness. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in the details of this week that you don’t see potential consequences waiting for you down the road. That’s not a failing on your part; it’s the nature of training. Your coach’s job is to help you focus both on right now and on the big picture so you can make decisions that are good for your performance, your relationships and your career.

Data Interpretation Yes, I know you have a TrainingPeaks account and have read a lot of training books. I have TurboTax and a bunch of finance books, but that doesn’t make me a CPA. I’m not saying you can’t analyze your data well, I’m saying coaches can interpret your data with more context and experience. They’re physiology nerds and they’ve looked at much more data over many more years from many more athletes. In most areas of your life you seek experience and expertise when it comes to analysis. Think about your choices in doctors, lawyers, accountants and even auto mechanics. Apply the same rationale to training, especially since it’s something you’re passionate about, invested in and spending a lot of time and money pursuing. The beauty of allowing my coach, Dean, to crunch data is that it allows me more time to unplug from my training devices and leave that part of the job to him.

Efficiency – Very simply put, having a coach allows me to waste less time doing ineffective workouts, interpreting power data and planning. For anyone who’s trying to manage life, family, work and training, being efficient is key to success in all areas of your life. I get more performance with a smaller time commitment by enlisting the help of a great coach.

Partnership and Teamwork – A coach is part of your team. They gain intimate knowledge of your job, your family, stressors in your life, what motivates you and what your goals are. By letting a coach in, the relationship flourishes and you are truly working towards the same goal together. As endurance athletes, we often train for many hours alone. A coach is invested in you and wants to see you succeed as much as you do. Being able to share the ups and downs with someone who is on your team elevates the experience dramatically. I remember my fourth Leadville win during my first year with Coach Dean. He was fresh off a disappointing Olympics where many of his athletes didn’t reach their potential and he was taking it pretty hard. I called him from Leadville and the joy in his voice nearly jumped through my phone. His exact words were, “I needed that!” We both celebrated that win together and I know I couldn’t have done it without him.

So, what are you waiting for? Commit to your goal and enlist the help of a fantastic coach. In a few short months, you will wonder why you waited so long to do this. You can thank me for the advice at the finish line in Leadville.

Written in collaboration with input from Jim Rutberg, CTS Pro Coach and co-author of The Time-Crunched Cyclist.

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