I am new to the sport but was just wondering as someone who might want to get into racing in the future, will you need a coach?, to be competitive.
I think it is a "it depends" question (or is that answer?).
What is your age, bodyfat, athletic background?
As someone new to the sport, getting fitter comes down to more hours on the bike and a year round plan - first couple of years you can see big gains in fitness - just get out and start riding.
As for myself, a coach would tell me to lean out a little more (3-5lbs maybe) and get more hours in - total training time 5-6 hours a week including a day of lifting - 3 days a week of riding.
Preparing for first MTB race of the season
I know 'elite' level riders who are very competitive locally who are 'self coached'. They also use power meters on their road and mtb's along with software to analyze data. Some high level guys say they 'just ride' .
But, on the other hand there are coaches that operate locally and nationally that can give (sell) you plans based on your fitness level, hours available per week, etc.
I hope I helped
Last edited by scottz123; 04-23-2013 at 05:11 AM.
As was said, there are many 'it depends' associated with that question.
I think most people agree, at the entry and intermediate levels of racing, you can improve substantially (and be competitive) by riding more and riding harder, but also listening to your body and balancing the process with periodic rest. Coaching certainly wouldn't hurt during this process, but since gains are made primarily through just increased volume and intensity, it probably is not as critical.
Once you start racing at the more advanced levels, the training becomes more scientific (not to say people still aren't fast with the ride more, ride harder philosophy), but for many the gains seen through this are less noticeable. This is when an experienced coach can be more valuable.
In my case, I did the more/harder approach, and I got faster, winning intermediate races, but found myself hitting a plateau. I decided on coaching this year.
There is a wealth of easily accessible information out there. You can become very well versed on the theories of training and as many high level athletes do, develop your own program. It just takes time to learn (and in many cases the experience of going through it).
For me, I had no interest taking the time to research the subject (and clearly hadn't made the effort previously as my training didn't get me to that next level). I learn by experience, so it's been very helpful having an experienced coach build a plan. I can see the philosophy being put into action through the season and correspondingly I an getting the positive feedback with the results (this teaching me more efficiently that anything I could read). I can also clearly see what I've been doing wrong, which is great feedback for long term! After this season I might have the knowledge to do it myself, maybe not. I might plateau again, and may not have the experience to know what will take me to the next level.
The second major benefit for me of having a coach is that I feel responsible to someone. Since the start of December, I have been riding 5-6 times per week. I have missed two work-outs when literally a perfect storm of weather and life kept me from riding. There have been many days when in the past when I wouldn't have gone out due to lazyness. This year I have no interest in putting that in my log and sending it away to my coach (and I've developed a far better mentality during this process that I want to get fast, so in reality, the coach is just a way for me to justify not disappointing myself). This is all just a big mental game, but you need to realize what motivates you and play to that.
So I think in the end, it comes down to
1) You need experience on endurance training. You can obtain this knowledge on your own, through time, or you can pay for someone else to guide you. Like everything else in life it's a balance of being an expert yourself, versus using the services of others.
2) Motivation. Some people don't need jack squat to motivate them, others do. You can motivate yourself, of maybe use the coach as a tool to help with it.
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you wet your pants.
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