….. I started a TrainSharp coaching programme.

Why?

Because I’d just completed my first full season of time trialling, had some encouraging results and was curious what I could achieve with a proper training programme.

Not a total newbie

During the winters and springs of 2014 and 2015 I’d trained hard for the World and European Duathlon Championships so I was no stranger to dragging myself out on the dark to train, but a large proportion of my training was running. Cycle training was usually a long ride at the weekend plus a couple of turbo sessions a week – generally Sufferfest ‘favourites’ – the ones I knew could get through! But without a fan or power meter sessions were very sweaty and efforts inconsistent and unquantifiable.

It’s easy to find a cycle training programme but had no idea how to adapt one to get the best out of myself without over or under training. I hate talking about my age but suffice to say I’m over 45 so a late starter (my motto is ‘old enough to know better but still young enough to do it!) and I was pretty sure that Hunter and Allen hadn’t written Training and Racing with a Power Meter with a woman of my age in mind.

Why TrainSharp?

During the 2015 season I’d come across Chris McNamara, one of the coaches at TrainSharp, at various time trials (or perhaps it was his twin brother Simon as at that stage I couldn’t tell them apart). He was easy to talk to, knowledgeable and most importantly was out there doing it. Fast!

A friend was being coached by Chris and offered to take me through his training programme, various sessions, the data, athlete feedback, how Chris has helped him etc. I liked what I heard and saw. Plus it looked really well structured and organised and being a bit of a planning obsessive it ticked all the boxes.

Getting started

After a chat on the phone with Jon Sharples about my experience and goals a date was set for me to go to TrainSharp for testing, the essential starting point for any structured training.

Testing is a bit like flying long distance to go on holiday. A necessary evil you have to get through. Tests done, FTP calculated, training sessions uploaded in to Today’s Plan and the day of my first session arrived.

My first session was progressive simulated seated hill reps. Low cadence in a reasonably big gear. A pretty new training experience as it wasn’t one of my Sufferfest favourites!  For anyone unfamiliar with personalised sessions each activity within the session has:

  • a time
  • the training zone
  • a range for heart rate
  • a power range
  • cadence
  • intensity

At this point it’s worth pointing out that I’d only just got a power meter so was a total beginner to the physical and mental challenges of riding to power.

In those early sessions I’d aim for somewhere within the power range whilst alternating between watching the numbers flicker about on my Garmin,  the seconds tick by slowly and a film on my iPad. Initially I found I was either working at the bottom end of the power range or I’d start the session feeling great, do the first set towards the top of the power range then discover I’d gone to hard and my effort would tail off or I’d bail.

But, as I got stronger, and had a fantastic array of data I could use from the sessions I’d done I made the sessions more exciting by setting myself mini challenges.  I’d aim to build the power slightly in each set of repetitions which made the sessions more fun and more testing. When the season started I found it helped me with pacing and riding a negative splits time trials …. apart of course from those ‘A’ races when there’s a stonking head wind on the outward leg!

What I’ve achieved

Aside from some great results what I’ve benefitted from the most is improving two things:

  • my mental toughness, and
  • my focus

Training on the turbo can be physically and mentally tough. It can be boring and it’s lonely. We’re all busy, busy people and in sessions with say 3 x 16 minute low cadence efforts it’s easy to lose focus on the numbers on your Garmin and let your mind wander towards things you must get done when you’ve finished the session.  At best it means we don’t get the most out of the session and at worst we cut the session short.

There are all sorts of techniques and tricks you can use to stop your mind wandering and keep yourself focused. One of my is to apply the saying ‘Eat an elephant one bite at a time.’

Getting the most out of coaching

If you’re thinking of being coached, or have already signed up to a programme, there are lots of factors that will affect what you get out of it but I think these two are the most important:

  • Commitment – signing up then dipping in and out or not following the plan doesn’t get results and is frustrating for you and your coach.
  • Communication – coaches aren’t telepathic. They need to know what’s working, what’s not, whether you have concerns about training volume etc.
  • Planning – if it’s not in the diary it won’t happen. BUT do be realistic!
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