Shifting Gears: Why I, a seasoned fitness coach, hired a coach for a mountain bike race.

I’ve been riding bikes my whole life, working out since I was a teenager, and have been coaching fitness for 15 years. Though when I signed up for a 50 mile mountain bike race, I knew I needed to hire a coach to help me prepare.

I could have relied on my fitness and the fact that I know how to ride a bike to get me through it, but that’d be foolish.

I could have purchased a cheap general template online written for “mountain bike endurance races” for a 1 time fee and just followed along for 16 weeks. But what would I do if I had questions? What would I do if the program I bought seemed too hard, or too easy, or something else? How would I know if it was the best option for ME?

Unfortunately, all of these things happen regularly in the fitness industry. People try to go-it-alone and hope for the best, or copy some stuff they saw online and hope it fits their specific goals. Although some progress may be made this way, it leaves a lot to be desired. This is how people often end up at my gym, CrossFit Rampage. They’re not seeing progress at their 24 hour gym, and aren’t really sure if what they’re doing is best. And that, is why I hired a coach for my race. I needed someone to tell me exactly what I should be doing.

The cost of a coach

I’ll admit, when I saw the price of coaches, versus the price of a 1x online program, it made me stop and think for a bit. However, being a coach myself, I quickly snapped out of the “cheap is better” mindset because I knew it’d leave me dissatisfied come race day. Cheap = LOW VALUE. If you want true value, you gotta pay for it. This is the difference between a Personal Trainer and an all access gym. I wanted to be able to ask someone questions and get immediate feedback, from someone with real life experience. I wanted access to someone who would deliver knowledge on things I didn’t even know to ask. I needed someone who had years of experience and had done this with others before too.

I’ve written thousands of workouts, but I’ve never developed a 16 week plan to prepare an average mountain biker for a 50 mile race through the mountains of North Georgia. Trying to figure this out on my own would just be dumb! It only made sense to hire a coach to help me navigate this journey.

Things I’ve learned

At the moment of writing this, I’m 4 weeks out from my race, and here are some invaluable things I’ve had conversations about with my mountain bike coach, that I otherwise would’ve been lost on:

  • What type of nutrition do I need on race day?
    • How many carbs should I be eating? What type of foods should I get these carbs from?
    • How often?
    • What should I be drinking? How much, and when?
    • Am I supposed to carry it all with me?
    • Ok- so there are food “drop zones”… what are these and how’s it work?
  • Are these shoes ok? (Showed my coach what shoes I had on a Zoom Call)
    • Turns out, “flats” aren’t good for a long endurance race. She guided me towards getting some clipless shoes – the kind that connect to the pedals on your bike. I never would’ve even considered this.
  • About how long should it take to do a race of this length?
  • What type of mechanical issues should I prepare for with my bike?
  • What repair gear should I carry with me?
  • Why every training session isn’t going to feel the same, and when it’s ok to ease off.
  • Why training the “sweet spot” is so important for aerobic endurance on a bike.
  • What peaking and tapering for a cycling program looks like.

If I went back and replayed all of our zoom calls I’d find even more topics that we discussed that are going to be helpful on race day. Every one of these topics my coach was able to give me specific guidance on, from her years of doing it herself and coaching others. I would’ve been at a complete loss if I had opted for the cheap online program.

Along with all of the wisdom she’s shared with me, what’s been super helpful is her empathy and understanding of my current situation. When I signed up for this race, my wife was pregnant with our first child. I knew we’d be having our first kid about 3 months prior to the race, which is prime time for needing to train.

I was slightly worried that I’d let my coach down if I wasn’t able to do all of the workouts she assigned for me, due to the demands of being a new dad. I was pleased to find out that she was so kind when it came to my new schedule and what she could expect from me. She assured me that it’s fine if I can’t get all the workouts in and just to “do what I can.” She continually reminded me that she wanted me to put my wife and my daughter first, and training 2nd. This was nice to hear.

The value of guidance

This is the type of value that coaches provide that stretches way beyond the workouts. Whether it’s fitness, mountain bike racing, or any other sport, a great coach will be able to help you both physically, emotionally and mentally. They’ll serve as a mentor and be your guiding light towards the end result no matter the struggles you face along the way.

With my coach in my corner, I feel a level of preparation I never would’ve felt on my own, leading into race day. And that’s why I hired a mountain bike coach, and why I think you too should hire a coach for your fitness goals!

Feel free to follow me on instagram to see how my race goes on June 22nd.

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