If you have an upcoming race, you undoubtedly want to be in great shape when the gun goes off. The coveted peak—a state of optimal fitness—is often the goal, but seldom achieved.
To peak, you'll need to plan workouts and recovery with precision. You'll also need to adjust your plan when life gets in the way, and stress levels rise. A generic training plan is a good start, but it won't alter itself after your night with a crying newborn.
Great coaches do more than build great workouts. By tracking your performance, your coach will adjust your plan when necessary.
What A Generic Plan Won't Offer
Every athlete is unique. Your age, sex, and training history are only a few of the variables that differentiate you from others. As a result, you may have a different response to workouts than your training partner.
When things are going well, should you do more, or stick to the plan? If you add to your workouts, how much harder should you push yourself?
What if a hectic day at work or marital problems are causing stress? Should you take a day off, or stick to the plan? If you have a history of injury, should you do high-intensity intervals?
What Can Go Wrong
Doing workouts that aren't optimized for you might put you on the starting line in less than ideal shape. Also, training for a cycling event requires a lot of time. Knowing this, you'll want to make sure you are doing the best workouts possible.
Besides less than ideal fitness, athletes who push too hard can get injured, or overreach. Overreaching occurs when you aren't recovering enough between workouts. A common side effect of overreaching is feeling tired and sluggish.
Sluggish athletes often think they are losing fitness and push themselves harder. If an athlete pushes too far, their body can enter an overtrained state. Recovery from overtraining requires months of detraining.
How A Coach Can Help
Experienced coaches have spent years analyzing thousands of workout files. Metrics like heart rate and power give a coach a dashboard-like view of their athlete. During our podcast interview with coach Mike Schultz, he said, "not resting enough," is the number-one mistake athletes make. By analyzing an athlete's metrics, coach Mike knows when to push an athlete harder, and when they need rest.
Coaches also understand what workouts are best for different athletes. Athletes who are injury prone may need a slower increase in volume than those who are more durable.
Athletes can also work with coaches to better understand their metrics. If your heart rate spikes and you feel terrible with 11 miles to go, what should you do? Knowing the answer to this questions is invaluable during a race.
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What Else Should You Be Doing?
Aside from training, what else can we do to get faster? Should we practice yoga or foam rolling. What advice is a gimmick? Your coach can help you sort through the clutter and focus on what matters.
As an example, coach Mike believes strength and conditioning work is vital. When added to a training plan, coach Mike said it could add 7-10 watts to your FTP in one season.
Coaches are great for many athletes, but they do come with a premium price tag. And, communicating with your coach can take a fair amount of time.
If you don't have the budget for a personal coach, try TrainerRoad. While not as custom as working with a coach, their plans are much better than a generic option. In fact, it's one of our favorite training programs.