Top 5 Mistakes Of The Self-Coached Athlete


Every so often at Source Endurance we get individualized consults done for the self-coached athletes or we get athletes signed on that have been self-coached and we get to see what they were up to before they signed on for coaching. There are a few patterns that we see with self-coached athletes along with patterns that we as coaches see when we coach ourselves vs others we would like to share.

Self-coaching is a great place to start for better fitness. There are a ton of highly educated self-coached athletes out there, this article is not meant to discredit hard work and good plans put together by self-coached athletes. Self-coaching from my perspective is like working on your car or painting your house. Maybe you want to do it yourself and you may do a great job, and it is your car or house, so you take extra time and care, but that service, when done by a professional, ensures quality and sustainability of services. Our clients have a much easier time gaining that fitness and reaching those goals without having to deal with the nitty-gritty of coaching outlined below. Here are some examples of how the profession of coaching can differ from the self-coached athlete.

Accountability

Even before we look at any sort of quality of training, we can see that athletes with higher workout completion have greater fitness gains and are more likely to meet their goals. If you are accountable to a coach, you have a higher workout completion rate. We all know people that are hard workers and self-starters and we know people that can follow directions really well but aren’t so good at getting it done when no one is looking. Having a coach means you’re accountable to two people. Yourself and your coach. A good coach can motivate athletes but training for cycling is a solo task a majority of the time. Being accountable to someone else can have a huge impact on motivation and workout completion.

Tools At Hand

Okay, you coach yourself, you’re saving that coaching fee per month. You will want to do it right for yourself. Get a TrainingPeaks account, $19 per month. Time away from work or other tasks to write workouts, what do you bill at? $30 an hour? That’s cheap. Do you want WKO metrics? $199. Assuming you are on a computer system that can handle that. Research articles, books, “training bibles” there are a few ways to obtain research but it’s not cheap. Exercise Physiology degree? You get the idea. Your coaching fee can seem like a high monthly cost, but if you look deeper at how much that coach is giving you per hour and all the expertise, relevant degrees, and coaching tools that professional coach has at hand to provide a coaching service to you, that fee becomes reasonable and hopefully your daily workouts, feedback, and TrainingPeaks metrics show you the value for your fee.

Objectivity

This is a fun and painful lesson to learn for the self-coached athlete. It’s rare that you will under prescribe fatigue to yourself. When writing your own training plan you’re thinking about getting that result and what it will take to out train your opponent so you can out ride them when the time comes. Your objectivity in what you can do as an athlete is not there. Setting realistic goals and reviewing all metrics takes experience and in most cases an objective viewpoint of your training and ability. For the self-coached athlete I’d recommend looking at your TrainingPeaks or WKO account, look at the PD curve for all workouts and start there. Don’t let yourself look at your historical 20-minute power and just assume that it’s lower than what you can do. Go out and self test, attempt to be objective and set objective goals.

Manic Training

Along the lines of Objectivity, it’s easy to be bipolar or manic in your training. You scroll Instagram and some frenemy is in warmer weather getting in big miles, next thing you know you’ve abandoned your objectively written training plan and you blow up 20 hours into an attempted 40 hour week. Then you get sick and have a week of downtime. The cycle worsens and there’s no one to call you and ask the hard questions “why did you do that?” Clients frequently call me in February when they are in the largest single gain of training load of the season and they get dropped from a local ride when they think they should be killing it. As a coach, I have to reassure them that the work is paying off and that they will be on form, just not right now. I can provide metrics to them to explain this fatigue process and periodization. It’s hard to talk yourself off a ledge as a self-coached athlete.

Volume Vs. Intensity

As there are more research studies coming out giving more weight intensity in training than pure volume, workout completion, prescribed intensity, and specify become more important in training plans. All the 4 points before this point lead into being able to correctly prescribe intensity vs. volume in a training plan. Self-coached athletes tend to overprescribe volume and doubly bad they over prescribe total workout time to what they have physical time in the day for. In general, our view of ourselves in many ways is better than our abilities. It’s best to have a coach look at your files for objectivity. A coach can prescribe testing, and look at the numbers and say things like “no you’ve never done an effort close to 340 watts for 20 minutes so how why is your threshold set at 350 watts” Most people’s eyes are bigger than their legs and everyone on Instagram is doing 50 hour training weeks so it’s easy to overtrain and overdo the volume.

Those of you that know me and my coaching situation specifically will now say to your computer screen “Zack, I know you coach yourself” and to that I say, I also change my own oil and paint my own house. Honestly, I think I could benefit from personalized coaching, and I have sought out help on a few occasions. I also overtrained myself for years to learn these hard lessons. It is still hard to get someone to provide you a service you provide professionally to others.

Source Endurance is open to one time consults or personalized coaching so please don’t hesitate to ask for help even if it’s just a second set of eyes on your training plan. Check out their full range of services here.

**This article was originally published on Your Group Ride but written by Zack Allison. Find the original publication.**

Zack Allison earned his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science at Colorado State University. As part of his education, he participated in many hands-on exercise science practicum and internships, coaching many types of athletes, specifically cyclists.

Zack’s affinity for cycling started at the early age of 14 racing on the east coast. He quickly moved up the amateur ranks to race on the elite national circuit. This level of competition sparked his interest in exercise science, taking him to Colorado State University. While racing for his alma-mater and on various amateur teams he saw many podiums at the Collegiate Championships and Pro/Am events. Zack is currently living in Fort Collins, Colorado and has raced for Elevate Pro Cycling and currently races for Clif Bar.

Growing up with great mentors and coaches, Zack has a goal of paying it forward. He hopes to use his education and racing experience to bring success to Source Endurance and his clients. Zack also owns and operated the Source Endurance Training Center of the Rockies, a training and bike fit studio in Fort Collins, CO.