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  Latest update: 10/13/2023

Getting Better at Cycling

Finding a Coach

Good coaching combines an understanding of the science of exercise physiology with the art of getting the most out of the athlete. A great coach will:

  1. Understand basic human physiology and the scientific methods used to confirm or discard hypotheses to how the human body responds to the challenges of training and competing.
  2. Understand the mind-body connection including the psychology of the maximizing athletic performance, how the "placebo" effect can be used to maximum advantage, visualization techniques, and believing in ones own best abilities.
  3. Understand the athlete he/she is working with and methodically applying the an individualized program which combines the right balance of #1 and #2.

We, as individuals, can study and understand exercise physiology as well as the aspects of sports psychology that play a role in all athletic pursuits. We can even apply a methodical training program based on programs we’ve heard or read about. BUT we cannot easily identify our own weaknesses and put our personal physical and psychological needs in perspective - we need an independent opinion that is objectively (and sometimes brutally) honest as to those aspects of our performance that are lacking.

A recreational athlete can use the information on this web site to improve their performance and enjoy the benefits of cycling. However, to reach our maximum potential in competitive events, we will need an objective and honest coach, whether it is a riding compatriot or a paid professional.

Understanding the above requirements to be a great coach will help you to ask the right questions in your search. This means checking on their credentials in understanding exercise physiology (you want a coach that bases his or her program on objective information, not just the fad of the day), understanding their approach to the problems of the athlet's psyche, and asking for references from past pupils as to the coach's ability to understand individuals needs and give the advice that is needed, however uncomfortable it might have been to hear and accept.

And finally, a great coach has the personal experience to understand the race. What is it like to be dying and put in that sprint at the end? How do you position yourself for the sprint? What is it like to be in the middle of the pack with all the dynamics that are involved there. There is a balance to be achieved - too much science and you lack the gusto. Too much psychology and those with better basics in nutrition will have the edge. No common sense from having been there themselves and i's all just theoretical.

Balance. It's the key. Good luck on your search.


Can an AI program be your cycling coach? This article does a nice job in presenting the pros and cons.

AI is great at crunching large amounts of data and presenting answers in an understandable form. If you are new to cycling, and interested in getting better, AI programs* can provide a personally tailored program.

*Several tips:

  1. ask a generic program such as ChatGPT to respond as a cycling coach
  2. provide as much detail as possible about your current level of riding - miles per week, average riding speed, etc.
  3. provide your goal, as specifically as possible - metric century in 6 weeks for example.

AI makes a dedicated coach available at a reasonable cost to everyone.

AI is great for advice when the physiology is clear cut. Nutrition is a great example. Caloric replacement is a straight forward calculation based on calories expended - distance and speed - and ideal foods/timing of snacking have been agreed upon over the years. AI crunches the masses of data, modify recommendations based on your diet (be as specific as possible), presents a concise recommendation, and then has the endurance to remind you daily to keep on target. You won't get a better answer by spending your time to do the calculations yourself.

It's not quite as straight forward for other aspects of training where taking advantage of personal strengths and physiologic differences differentiates riders. And the more you train, the more these nuances should modify future training. Commercial AI coaching programs attempt to bridge this gap by connecting to performance data on Strava type programs and your personal response to training with a post ride questionnaire focused on sleep, perceived difficulty, and mental and physical freshness.

As you move on to higher levels of competition, AI assumes a greater role as another tool to augment the insights of personal coaching rather than replace them entirely. At the elite level the insights and intuition of an experienced coach can't be easily incorporated into an algorithm.

The bottom line is that the usefulness of an AI coach is highly dependent on your personal goals and your level of training. For most riders it is an ideal, inexpensive coach to help us structure our training. But at the elite, competitive level, it is still just one of many tools to be used by a real life coach to add the personalized nuances that will give you that extra edge at the finish line.

If you are intrigued, try ChatGPT 3.5 It's an easy and free way to experiment. Don't forget the more specific the question, the more useful the answer. And you can add follow up questions in the same way you would dialogue with a real person.

All questions and suggestions are appreciated and will be answered.

Cycling Performance Tips
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