article by Taylor Thomas
As a coach your primary responsibility is to prepare the athletes you work with to achieve their goals. That means everything from writing their training to helping them prepare mentally for a race. The build up to race day can be a stressful time for athletes at all levels. They’ve put so much time and energy into training and preparation, and then it all comes down to one performance. Coaches are there to lighten an athlete’s load and ease their mind. Here’s several tactics that you can use leading up to a race to help both you and your athlete be better prepared.
Make it a point to schedule breakthrough, or a key workout appropriately close to race day. These workouts should be ones that are close to race day effort and simulate the demands of the course. The objective is for the athlete to walk away from the workout feeling confident in their ability and their training. You can also use this workout as an opportunity to discuss race day preparedness and any weak spots the athlete may feel they have.
Discuss Race Day Strategy
Often thinking through how to actually execute a race is the most stressful part for athletes. Discuss race day strategy in detail with them. Breakdown specific portions of the course, and walk them through how they should handle hill climbs, sprint opportunities, the start, etc. Explain how they can use these parts of the race to their advantage, and when they may need to be conservative based on the weaknesses you’ve identified together.
Review Key Metrics
Reviewing critical performance indicators with athletes is always important, but it becomes even more relevant as they near the start line. Review the metrics that are most important to the athlete’s performance. Peak powers, CTL, and TSB are just a few that might help your athlete understand how their training has helped them prepare for the event.
Use the Tools You Have
WKO4 and TrainingPeaks are invaluable in allowing an athlete to visualize how their training has impacted both their fitness and race day readiness. More specifically, you can highlight in what ways they are uniquely prepared for their goal event(s). Creating custom charts in WKO4 and using the PMC in TrainingPeaks creates a well-rounded set of visuals to help athletes see how their efforts leading up to their race have helped them prepare.
Talk to Your Athletes
Often times athletes simply need a sounding board before a big race. As their coach your knowledge and experience can go a long way in calming nervous energy. Put their mind at ease by talking through what’s on their mind, and listening to their concerns. You’ve prepared for race day as a team, so talk through it as a team.
Communicate What You’re Thinking
Coaches spend their time helping athletes stay focused on their goals. Although, often overlooked, are the coaches goals for the event. What is your desired outcome? Let your athlete know what you’d like to see them accomplish. Whether it’s a win, a podium, a finish, or a chance to learn and grow in preparation for future races, communicating your goals can help your athlete to be more confident in their’s.
What Should They Expect
Many athletes, especially those that are new to racing, aren’t familiar with many of the logistical challenges that race day can present. How to time their pre-race nutrition, where to pin their number, and proper gear selection are all questions newer athletes may have. As a coach, it’s your job to walk them through the race start to finish. Helping your athletes check things off of their list can be a huge burden lifted from their shoulders, and also free up mental energy to focus on performance.
Improving on Past Performances
Is your athlete revisiting a race that they’ve competed in before? Many athletes go back to races season after season in hopes of improving each year. Take the time to critically review their past performances looking for any insight that you can convey to your athlete. Also, talk to the them about how they feel the race went, and what they need to do to improve. By combining both the qualitative and the quantitative you can develop a comprehensive race strategy to share with your athlete.
Racing can be both exciting and stressful. As a coach your job is to help your athletes prepare on a variety of fronts, as they near closer to race day. The goal should always be to use your experience, relationship with the athlete, and your understanding of their training to help them feel comfortable and confident. Coaches play an important role in the success of an athlete, and there’s no place that role is displayed better than on race day.
Taylor Thomas is a dedicated endurance athlete with over a decade of experience as a competitive cyclist. He’s been involved in all facets of the sport, from working professionally with top brands like Trek and Specialized, founding race teams, organizing events, and personally competing at all levels. His racing background includes road, cyclocross, triathlon and ultra endurance events that push both the mind and body to the limit.
As a USAC certified and Training Peaks level 2 coach he enjoys sharing what he’s learned with his athletes to help them achieve their goals. As a professional mountain biker and coach he’s intimately aquatinted with what it takes to be successful at any level. He knows what it’s like to balance family, work, life, and training. Taylor works closely with all of his athletes to ensure that the training they receive is designed to fit into their life.
Data is very powerful! Whether it’s TrainingPeaks, WKO4, or others, he uses a variety of tools to analyze each athlete’s progress individually. By understanding the data, and knowing how to apply it, every athlete receives a truly individualized approach to their training. These insights are also applied to writing customized workouts, training blocks and developing comprehensive race strategies for every athlete. Coach Taylor believes that understanding the science of coaching is vital in helping athletes of all levels achieve their goals.
When he’s not on his bike he can be found on long trail runs, rock climbing and skiing in the mountains with his wife and dogs.
Thomas Endurance Coaching
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