As I sit here in a coffee shop sucking down a espresso and chowing a pastry I cannot help but reflect on my life as a coached person. Yes I said it – coached person! I do not consider myself to be a racer; I have raced maybe a dozen times in my life but I am more of a deeply passionate trail rider. Now the fact that I am not a racer doesn’t mean I’m not competitive or don’t push myself; I would actually consider myself to be fiercely competitive and tend to push myself to the rev limiter on a regular basis, but for one reason or another I never caught the racing bug.
Over the past 10 years or so I really started taking my riding more seriously and putting a lot more effort into it. I would ride at any chance I had and usually go as hard as I could because it would give me such a rewarding, positive feeling afterwards. After some years of that though I started to develop stress related injuries during peak times of riding and I was in hard denial about it being because of the riding. My internal feedback loop would go something like this: ride hard, and keep riding hard until I blow up and then take a couple days either off or slower than usual, then pound my body until it exploded again. Being someone that is obsessed with performance in all aspects of my life this sucked because it had to be probably the most counterproductive cycle I would ever find myself in. Finally after my last stress related issue (shingles) I knew I needed to change what I was doing and exchange it for something that would allow me to pursue the sport i love for a lifetime.
Knowing (after years of reinforcement) that I was not disciplined enough to not ride hard I reached out to one of the slowest guys I know, Neal Burton at MTB Burton Coaching, to get his secrets on how to ride mellow. Now, just to clarify, Neal is one of the strongest and fastest riders i know, he has been a top pro-XC racer in new england for as long as I can remember and now at the prime age of 42 he is still crushing it. What I really want is longevity in performance and health like he has and knew it was a combination of the right workouts at the right time, ample recovery and discipline, all of which I knew intellectually but not how to combine them to get the desired results.
So I reached out and explained my goals that started first and foremost with “not to blowing up”. Beyond that I put some cycling events and big rides that I wanted to do but none of which I knew if I could actually take the time to do, however it is always good to have targets. So after a chat about goals, cycling history and the amount of time I had to ride weekly, Neal crafted a specific plan for me that would keep me on track.
We use training peaks which is an awesome resource for coaches and athletes to plan and communicate. It shows me every day what I should or should not be doing and then allows me to upload my rides as well as give feedback to neal so that he can keep an eye on me.
In the first month with Neal I have not ridden so slow or mellow in as long as I can remember. When out with my usual cronies I would literally find them riding circles around me, to the top of the hill and looping back down to come back to me and then riding up again in the time that it takes me to get to the top of the hill now, and I am ok with that. I am ok with that because just after a month of sticking to my prescribed plan I have never felt more energized or excited to get back to riding hard again. I have found that motivation and energy again that I had back when I initially started taking riding seriously.
Now I know I am only about a month in but I can safely say that I am beyond ecstatic with the results thus far. Before starting this plan I was feeling seriously tired, demotivated and just bummed on my energy levels in general and now I feel like I have addressed those 3 things all while riding MORE than I was before, just smarter.
Now I am not saying that coaching is for everyone but what I am saying is that coaching can be for a lot more than just racers. Whether you ride a lot or a little having a good coach will help you ride smarter, not harder and be able to make cycling a lifelong pursuit.