Choosing a cycling coach is very important… and it can also feel very overwhelming! In my opinion, it’s as important as choosing a bike frame, wheelset, or drivetrain. A coach is someone who not only keeps you accountable, but works together with you to achieve your goals. If you choose to hire a coach, it is an investment so it is important to make sure you find the right person. There are also cyclists out there without a coach who are fast, so why do you need a coach? My answer whenever people say that is, “can you imagine what their potential could be if they did have a coach?” Oftentimes those athletes are overtrained or they spend too much time training one energy system. And for the athlete who never does intervals and just rides here and there having structure can help them see incredible improvements over a short period of time! The best news is that with a coach and an efficient training plan, you can get a lot of work done with low to medium volume weeks. There are so many coaches and coaching companies out there, so how do you find the right person?
1: Make a list of what is important to you
Do you want a coach you can periodically ride with? Do you want someone who is mostly positive or do you perform better when a coach is “tough” on you? Maybe a combination? Is it important to you that they also work with someone you know? There are truly no right or wrong answers here. When choosing a cycling coach, you have to decide what is important to you! I would suggest writing some of the key qualities in a Google Doc or on a piece of paper. This way as you look through coaches, you can check them against your list.
2: Do your research
When choosing a cycling coach, word of mouth referrals are a great way to learn about coaches. If you join group rides, you can ask around. If there is someone on social media that you follow that talks about their coach, DM them and ask questions. If you’re racing and lose a sprint to a competitor? Ask if they have a coach. From there, you can go to their website and check their credentials. I met my Source Endurance coach Adam Mills at the Belgian Waffle Ride pre-ride events. He wasn’t my coach, yet he took the time to give me tips, talk to me about the course, and encouraged me to get after it. I asked an athlete that I knew he worked with about his coaching and got excellent feedback. Then, I went to the Source Endurance website and researched the company and his palmares. A year and a half later, I am stoked to still be working with Adam! I can’t imagine having any other coach.
3: Make sure they are educated, qualified, and certified
Choosing a coach that has an appropriate background in order to give you a successful training plan and make necessary adaptations is incredibly important. At Source Endurance,all of the coaches have a multitude of graduate degrees in fields related to exercise science, physiology, nutrition, and humanities. They also are certified in applicable fields (USAC, Registered Dietician, etc.). Furthermore, Source Endurance has weekly collaboration meetings where coaches review best practices and discuss current research. Most athletes have full time jobs and that requires a coach to make changes to the schedule based on other life obligations. It’s important to have a work-life-bike balance and a good coach will understand that!
4: Schedule a time to talk
When you're choosing a cycling coach you'll hire remember that they will be working for you. You get to interview them! Conversely, a coach can decide if you are a good fit for them as well. I usually have a 15-20 minute conversation with potential clients to learn more about their goals and what they are looking for from a coach. I recently started working with a client who has never had a coach and so he asked me quite a few questions to get an idea of what it would be like. He is an ER doctor and his schedule varies so it was important to him to know that his workout schedule could be adaptable. Nearly a month in, and he is getting in great workouts and stoked to have structure! I can’t wait to see his improvements when he reaches the start line this spring.
5: Find someone who believes in you
To me, this is the most important step. Since working with Adam, I have made significant progress in many areas. I have put in a lot of hard work and many hours on the saddle, but I believe the biggest reason I have seen these gains is because he believes in me. If I doubt that I can do a workout, he assures me that I can hit the numbers (note: that does NOT mean it will be easy to hit the numbers). If I fail a workout, he reminds me that we fail forward. We make needed adjustments, then I do the workout again and eventually succeed. If I have a good workout, oftentimes he just laughs because he knew I could do the workout successfully. Whatever your goals are, having a coach who believes in you is key and it can do wonders! I have never felt so confident in myself as an athlete as I do working with my coach.
6: Hire a coach and start putting in the work!
You will know when you have found the right coach. If you take your time to find the right coach, it will be a very rewarding relationship. Training with structured overload and recovery takes commitment and diligence. When you have a good coach the hard work will also be fun and rewarding. When you make it to an “A” race and meet your goals, the feeling is hard to beat! The best part is you have a team, you and your coach, to celebrate your hard work and success. And then it is time to keep working towards that next goal!
Nikki Peterson has raced at the elite level since 2015 and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Human Food and Nutrition from the University of Wyoming in 2010. In 2019, she received her Master’s Degree in Teaching and Education. She is very passionate about cycling and helping people reach their goals while still having fun. She is also an avid reader and enjoys following the cycling industry as well as learning about exercise science. While Nikki does not currently compete competitively, she does coach at Source Endurance. Learn more about Nikki and Source Endurance.