Coaching Different Personalities

How does an athlete’s personality affect how you write their training plans and give feedback? It can be far more varied than you might realize.

Personality can have a huge impact on how athletes train, race, and recover—and as a coach, knowing what “type” of athlete you are coaching can make a significant difference on how you write their workouts, how you give them feedback, and ultimately how successful you both are. Coach Dave Schell has created his own catalogue of five different personality types and, shown below, is the same workout written five different ways with example feedback (from both athlete and coach). Each workout (plus feedback) is unique for that personality type and is designed to get the very best from the athlete. Find out more below.

The Workhorse

The Workhorse

This athlete needs training balance.

Workout: Warm up for 20–30 min. until your legs feel ready to go, then do 4–6 x 10 min. at RPE ~7/10.

Athlete: I headed out to my usual loop, and they were doing some road work so my first interval was cut short. But I found a nice little out-and-back a little further in that worked great for the rest of the session. Recoveries weren’t exactly as prescribed, but I got the work in.  

Coach: OK, this looks pretty good–nice work getting it in. It looks like you were really struggling on intervals 5 and 6, so next time call it once you see the power start to drop.  

The DayDreamer

The Daydreamer

This athlete needs to be focused on specific tasks or skills.

Workout: Warm up until you feel ready to go then do 4 x 10 min. moderately hard. Focus on constant pressure on the pedals and feel your breathing starting to become more rapid but not out of control. Shift often and use your gearing and cadence to keep the pressure on the pedals.  

Athlete: I had a good ride–we had to keep stopping for the rest of the group to catch up. 

Coach: OK, I am having a hard time seeing the intervals because there is not a lot of difference between your work and recovery. And your cadence is on the low end. For interval days I would suggest doing them alone and think about where would be the best place to ride for this type of interval. 

The Pleaser

The Pleaser

This athlete needs to achieve and be seen doing it.

Workout: Warm up for 15–30 minutes then do 4 x 10 min. at 95–100% of FTP, with 5 min. easy recoveries.

Athlete: I finished the last interval but was 8 minutes under the planned time so I rode loops around the block until the time was up. How did I do? How do my intervals look? 

Coach: These look really good, like you could have done a bit more. What was your RPE on the last interval? Next time don’t worry if the time is a little short or long, as long as you get the work in, that is what we are after.  

The Accountant

The Accountant

This athlete needs to be directed to data that fits the purpose of the session.

Workout: Warm up for 20 min. at 154–182W/Zone 2, then do 4 x 10 min. hard at 266–280W/Zone 4, with 5 min. easy recovery at 112–140W/Zone 1.

Athlete: My first interval was a .98 IF with a 1.05 VI, and a decoupling of 3.8% but over the next two intervals my decoupling went down. I had a hard time sticking exactly to 274 watts. 

Coach: These intervals look great: 

1) 273w 86rpm 152bpm 
2) 276w 88rpm 150bpm
3) 274w 88rpm 150bpm 
4) 278w 87rpm 152bpm 

It looks like next time we should extend these intervals. 


The Know-It-All

This athlete needs time and validation for trust to build.

Workout: Warm up 15-30 min. until your legs feel good then get in 4 x 8–12 min. around FTP with 4–6 min. recoveries. It’s OK if it’s not exact, we are looking for cumulative time in zone.  

Athlete: I went to do the intervals on my normal loop, but they were doing some road work. I tried somewhere else, but it was too short, so after trying twice I just went home.   

Coach: OK, remember that just as long as we get ~35-50 minutes of time in zone we are happy. It’s great if they are at least 10 min. long, but if the terrain/route doesn’t allow that, let’s try to get the work in even if it’s not perfect. 

Video Transcript

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