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  1. #1
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    Personal coach or semi-customized 12 week plans?

    Talk to me about coaching for a bit. I have some questions/reservations about continuing with my coach that I used last year and was thinking about going "coachless" this next year. Not sure what to do.

    I'm working with a local guy, who is strong as hell, smart, but works a lot on FEEL. There is no evaluation of power data/hr data or anything like that. While training is based on HR Zones, it's "try to really stay in zone X", with no evaluation of the training other than "how did it feel". There is a LOT of "how did it feel" (which is great), but not "well based on your data, it couldn't have felt X,Y,Z". I'm a computer guy, a nerd, and a data nerd. I want charts, graphs, numbers. The more the better. "That line is my xyz and therefore I didn't feel as good even though I though I did"

    Not trying to knock it at all, and in fact, it was working great when I didn't care about the data as much, which was last year. It wasn't that expensive and also got me a lot of information such as race strategy, nutrition, bottle usage, etc etc. I felt it was money very well spent.

    So far this offseason, I've really bought into the CrossFit methodology and really like that to improve my cross training and work on strength. I've used it to fix my patella tracking issue and as such, I really am liking it. I plan on absolutely continuing this throughout my racing year, but will reduce it to 2 or 3 times a week, and go 80% on the efforts instead of 100% and also maybe switch to the "CrossFit Endurance" methodology for some of the workouts. Basically instead of other strength workouts, I shall be doing CrossFit.

    Having said that, CrossFit is going to cost $100 a month. I don't want to do another $X a month on top of that with a coach.

    So I was thinking about going with the 12 week internet plans. I talked to Lynda from LW Coaching and she set me up with a stacked plan setup. 12 week base plan followed by a 12 week 100 mile finisher plan and then a 12 week 100 mile PR plan. This works me into 2 peaks for 2 (A) races, along with including 2 more 100 mile (B) races into my training, along with local 6 hour races instead of the longer training rides. I already bought one of the 100 mile plans a while back, so total out of pocket for this is only $200 for the whole year.

    Also, I do have power on my road bike but not on the mountain bike. So this season I do want to dabble with power in the sense that I will have power numbers for all my road biking, which will include long distance tempo rides, FTP numbers, hill repeats, etc, but I will not be spending the $2500 on a MTB power sensor, so I don't yet want to incorporate a full "power training" coach. I think I might be ready for that for 2014 if everything goes well this year.

    Cliff Notes: So after this diarrhea of the mouth, my question is, do you guys think for a guy of my skill level (low) there is a benefit to a "real" coach, vs taking a generic training plan which has been customized to fit into my schedule?

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
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    If you aren't going for a contract, I say just ride your bike more. Seriously, that's some of the best advice I've heard on the matter. Make your hard efforts harder and your easy days easier.

    As for cross fit... I've seen many a person go down that road. Everyone of them has ended up slower. The problem is the Cross Fit is intense muscle based exercise. When you mix that with riding you have little chance to recover properly. But, working on your core (both offseason and while racing) is a great idea. It may sound stupid, but most of the serious racers I know do Yoga and Pilates for core work. It's excellent for developing balanced muscles and isn't high impact... so you can still do your hard riding efforts. Believe me... it will still kick your @ss plenty.

    If set on spending money, I would spend it on a coach before cross fit. You can do nearly all cross fit type things at home. Evaluation by a coach, not so much. Of course, if you have a power meter on your road bike... you can do a lot on your own. But, it takes dedication and a lot of work in analysis. Do you have the Training and Racing with a Power Meter book? If you don't.... buy it.

  3. #3
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    I can't just say "ride more". I know myself and will need to have a plan and have it structured.

    Interesting, in that it's a great view point. Don't spend the $$ on CrossFit instead but spend the $$ on the coach and I could cherry pick and do the CrossFit stuff myself. The CrossFit koolaid is strong though, vs Yoga/Pilates.

    I'm way more fit "overall" than I was just 2 months ago. I already know I won't be going for PR's and 100% intensity during the workouts, so really good point about just doing that on my own. Would only take a few bucks of equipment to do this at home (pull up bar, a few kettle bells, I already have adjustable dumbbells)

    -Tom
    Last edited by trhoppe; 10-31-2012 at 11:44 AM.

  4. #4
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    CrossFit koolaide is strong. Everyone I've know who has done is is certianlly more "overall fit", as you say. Just keep in mind that overall fit and riding your bike faster aren't necessarily linked together, especially if you bulk up too much up top and are so fried from the upside down pushups and god knows what else that you can't ride hard when the time comes

    Either way, your thinking about things and obviously care... that's half the battle!

  5. #5
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    My opinions.

    Crossfit is great for off season. I do it myself, with a few other of our local pros and experts. The only problem with crossfit is some of our cyclist are preferring that over riding their bikes. I think it is mainly because you feel healthier, it's pretty fun, and some enjoy being a bit stronger. But at the same time, there seems to be an inverse correlation between strength and bike performance. It seems like when I'm riding my best mid-summer, i could probably get beat up by a 9-year old girl.

    In your situation I would say get the 12 week plan. Just having a pre-written plan makes all the difference, even if you wrote the plan yourself. "Seat of your pants" training never really works, at least not for me. Those were always my worst seasons.

    And as briscolab says, "ride your bike more", which typically happens when I have a plan set out. Really look at your past weekly hours and procure (or create) a plan that turns that volume up a notch. My best seasons happened when I had a smart mixture of aerobic volume and intervals/group-rides/practice-races. Just using one element of those two won't maximize performance.
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  6. #6
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    It sounds like the coach you had wasn't a good fit for you. From personal experience, there is nothing better than hooking up with a coach that works with you to put together a long term plan. For me, having someone monitor my progress, even if infrequently, and keep me accountable was very beneficial. And while I've not done it for long, I've found that training with power has been much more effective than either RPE or HR.

    I haven't done the CrossFit thing, but I did ride the P90X/Insanity bandwagon for a long time. As others have said, it was fantastic for overall fitness and body shaping. Not so hot for improving my cycling. What has helped a lot was regular strength and core training with an eye specifically to cycling.

  7. #7
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    "Put the Crossfit down...now step away....slowly."

    I kid I kid... It depends on your ability to self motivate, be honest with yourself and be accountable. A personal coach helps here if you need it.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the opinions guys. Interesting point about "overall strength" and "on the bike performance" being inverse Makes sense though. I don't want to continue to build overall strength, but I don't want to lose what I have *right now*, so I guess it makes very much sense to support what I've built using simple things like calisthenics and other CrossFit movements, but not the fully intense interval classes I do now. Hmmmm...

    Buying a pull up bar, a couple of kettle bells, and then two of the 12-week plans would sure be my cheapest way out. As Poncharelli said, having a written plan is the most important part and that's what will make me do it. I guess CrossFit is the same in the sense that the workouts are there. The written plan says "Go do strength/core/etc for an hour today" and I can just turn to crossfit.com, pick up the WOD, modify slightly and go do it.

    -Tom

  9. #9
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    As others have said I do more aggressive resistance training in the off season (I've never done crossfit)

    Once I get strong again from weight training and cross training (running/eliptical etc.) I begin my cycling specific plan all over again and like ponch said in the middle of the summer a 9 year old girl can beat me down. During cycling season I do very minimal strength and core and load up on stretching/foam rolling/mobility exercises. In late fall I repeat it all over again. Today was one of my first real strength workouts.. deadlifts, stiff leg dealifts, bench press and pullups, core and a 20 minute run. Legs are toast but I feel awesome.

    As far as coaching I self coach by using mt bike training bible and a mix of time crunched cyclist plan-has worked good for me. I'm too cheap right now to hire a coach but I'm sure the input would be valuable if I can find a good one. I can design a very solid periodization plan ( I have several books that speak to this) but it's when I'm right in the middle of a training cycle when I need advice the most. For example.. knowing when to take a break or adjust intensity up or down. I tend to follow whatever plan I design for my self no matter what when I need to be flexible with it, this is where a coach would help.
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  10. #10
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    Ponch is 100% right. Strength and bike speed are total opposites. I dont touch weights anymore. Im down almost 30 pounds and faster than ever.

    Granted, sometimes I look into the mirror and ask my self "who the hell am I?" Im definitely not big, buff, and sexy like I used to be (relatively speaking).

    But then I look down at my Quads and tan lines and feel at peace.
    Raised in a Chicken-Coop by Chickens

  11. #11
    CB2
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    Going rate for coaching based on power with detailed analysis start @ $150 a month with a minimum 3 month commitment. I've seen it net huge results for the right individuals (others, not so much).

  12. #12
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    Thanks for all the advice.

    I ended up settling on the cheapest of all options. Having a half an empty garage, I picked up a couple of gym mats, olympic bar, some bumper plates, squat rack, kettle bells, olympic rings, and a pull up bar. $500 later, I've got a home crossfit gym that myself, couple of friends and the wife can use. Also decided on the semi-custom 12 week plans. I feel with those plans, and using the home gym for the strength workouts designated in the plans, I can get enough motivation to kick a lot of ass next season.

    -Tom

  13. #13
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    2fst4u mentions that he uses the "mtb training bible." i would also recommend reading this and the other books by joe friel. also look into bikejames.com.

  14. #14
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    +1 for preriodization and the Friel book

    I'm not sure i would say "strength and speed are opposites". You need to periodize your weight training and gear it towards endurance, but that implies a preparation and max strength phase beforehand. That being said, you probably won't need to lift weights during the biking season.

    Crossfit is ok for cross-training from say, now till December. After that you'll be burning yourself out and won't be able to profit from more focused training.

    A year-round plan seems more adequate, built around your races, holidays, etc. The "ride more" advice is superfluous, as the hours you put in are dictated by your free time.

    To sum up:

    1. Read some books about periodization, get a gym pass.
    2. Do cross-training only in the preparation phase of your annual plan.
    3. Follow your plan religiously.
    4. Don't overtrain.

  15. #15
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    I echo the sentiments on cross fit and have dabbled with all the options you suggested, canned plan, personal coaching, doing Xfit while trying to train/race (cutting Xfit to 80% etc.). WIth crossfit, my downhilling improved a little bit but my cycling fitness and speed on the bike did not. Each box is different and has their own culture/mindset, as is each individual. With cross fit, I think it is imperative to know yourself, know your limitations, and be able to go easy when you need to.

    I got caught up in the intensity and didn't pay enough attention to the warning signs of over doing it. My shoulders are naturally bad, and the cumulative effect of pushups, kipping pull ups, push press, burpees, turkish get ups, overhead squats, and the other several Olympic style lifts that lead to overhead motions wreaked havoc on my shoulder. A bruise on my AC from landing the bar on it after 20-30 reps of some overhead thing was the impetus for starting some AC osteolysis. I finally got wise and stopped. Misdiagnosis let to months of PT that didn't do anything and finally the ortho identified it.

    It's taken the better part of 1.5 years for it to heal, thankfully without surgery. However I am very careful about anything leading to jerky overhead movements, bench press, and full push ups, which all put high stress on the AC joint.

    Regardless, being away from it and trying some new things had me asking, "Why didn't I ride, downhill better when doing crossfit". The last month I have focused intently on cycling specific core work and am amazed at the positive effect on my downhilling. I've adopted several core exercises from James's MTB strength and others along the way. You can see some of them here (Team MWC, FTJ, NGT: Core and other cycling specific workouts). My current focus is on posterior chain development.

    I am just amazed how well I am downhilling and back pain from long climbs and power climbs has diminished. I have also just started the first phase of the Morris plan periodized strength training which will couple with his oeriodized cycling specific training later in the year. I've been doing that for years and while it makes me a stronger rider, it didn't supercharge my technical skills like I've seen lately.

    Crossfit was like a drug, because you do feel and look pretty amazing, however I also found it was shortlived. Meaning that only two days away and my body felt like it was falling apart.

    With regards to coaching, I worked with Dave Morris for a few months. I paid for a consulting and then a customized plan for 3 months and then repeated. I did it only that once, but have used it as a template for many years. It was great bang for the buck to do that. Like someone else said, you have to find the right person who you click with.

    You're home gym sounds awesome. The key is developing the right workout for your goals. If mtb riding and racing is your ultimate goal then focus on that and do the workouts the target that. If overall body and functional strength is your goal than maybe cross fit type workout is for you. Look at the stuff that MTBjames has and there is another workout that Lance did
    Fitness-Lance Armstrong Full Body Workout Routine -Strength Training - YouTube

    two kettle bells, some resistance tubing bands, step up box/platform and maybe an ultimate sandbag and you've got everything you need.

    My personal opinion is that the training to failure and HIT philosophy of crossfit doesn't help your cycling.

    I also realized that when I stop lifting in early February, and don't do any maintenance lifting, that my body begins a steady decline. Sitting at a desk combined with sitting on a bike, leads to my whole body frame collapsing in. Rounded back, bad posture, rounded neck, loss of shoulder stability to hole the handlebars. It's a slow decline and don't really notice for a few months.

    This year, I want to make a concerted effort to do some sort of maintenance lifting at least every 3 days.
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  16. #16
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    Personally, I think you should stick to mainly road biking in the offseason. You like the numbers side of things, so plan out two routes, a flat speed route and climbing route. The speed route should be less power oriented and more based on keeping "X"km/hr. This should be almost purely endurance. The climbing route is where you want to see your max. power level going up over time. Pick a route with mixed shorter steeper climbs and longer drawn out ones if possible. This will give you the raw power as well as endurance for mountain biking. Then get out for one or two mountain bike rides a week on the most gnarly technical trails to keep your skills sharp. Practice cornering while maintaining speed, riding rough sections smoother and tight twisty stuff. All this together should make you a much stronger rider. I do my offseason training in peaks. At the beginning of the week I start off on an easier short ride. Then I progress to longer and harder difficulty until I reach the end of the week doing the longest ride. 10-15 miles on monday. then on the weekend 40-60 miles.

    Best of Luck!

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