Do You Need a Coach? With Neal Henderson and Rebecca Rusch

Neal Henderson and Rebecca Rusch answer an important question: Do we really need a coach?

Neal Henderson on a trainer bike Fast Talk Podcast

In the famous book “Daniels’ Running Formula,” Jack Daniels lays out what he considers to be the four ingredients of success. The fourth ingredient is “direction,” and he describes it as follows:

“Direction, the final ingredient of success, refers to a coach, a teacher, or a training plan that can be followed. Of the four ingredients of success, direction is probably the one of least significance, should one of the ingredients have to be eliminated. I say this because direction is the only ingredient that can have either a positive or negative influence on the athlete… it is possible for absence of direction to be better than bad direction.”

It may seem a little strange to hear one of the most decorated running coaches of all time say that coaching or direction is the least important ingredient of success. And it raises an important question: Do we really need a coach?

In today’s episode, we’re taking on that question.

  1. First, we’ll start by asking our expert guests that simple question: Do we need a coach?
  2. Next, we’ll talk about the relationship athletes have with their coaches — what makes a good relationship and what makes a bad one.
  3. After we’ve defined that relationship, we’ll ask our panel what to look for in a good coach. And, conversely, how to identify a bad coach.
  4. Finally, we’ll talk briefly about how much coaching is worth, and whether an athlete should stick with the same coach or change from time to time.

Our panel today includes, first, coach Neal Henderson, owner of Apex Coaching and current coach of time trial world champion Rohan Dennis, among other elite athletes. Neal has joined us before, on one of our most popular episodes, Episode 33: Is FTP Dead?

Our other main guest today is the renowned endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch, formerly an adventure racer, now a decorated cyclist of mountain bike, gravel, and bike-packing events around the world. Rebecca currently works with CTS coach Dean Golich; for many years she went without a coach. She has a great depth of experience as an athlete and brings a wealth of knowledge to the conversation. She also runs several training camps and hosts her namesake Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel race near her home in Idaho. Let’s make you fast!

Primary Guests
Neal Henderson: Elite coach
Rebecca Rusch: Legendary adventure, MTB, and gravel racer

Episode Transcript



Welcome to fast all the news podcast everything you need to know to run.


Chris Case  00:14

Hello, welcome to Fast Talk. I’m Chris case managing editor of Bella news. Joined by the only coach I’ve ever really known Coach Trevor Connor. I won’t get into how sad that really is. In the famous book Daniels running formula, jack daniels lays out what he considers to be the four ingredients of success. The fourth ingredient is direction and he describes it as follows. direction the final ingredient of success refers to a coach, a teacher or a training plan that can be followed of the four ingredients of success direction is probably the one of least significance should one of the ingredients have to be eliminated. I say this because direction is the only ingredient that can have either a positive or negative influence on the athlete, it is possible for absence of direction to be better than bad direction. It may seem a little strange to hear one of the most decorated running coaches of all time say that coaching or direction is the least important ingredient of success. And it raises an important question, do we really need a coach? In today’s episode we’re taking on that very question. First, we’ll start by asking our expert guests that simple question, do we need a coach? Next we’ll talk about the relationship athletes have with their coaches, what makes a good relationship and what makes a bad one. After we’ve defined that relationship, we’ll ask our panel what to look for in a good coach and conversely, how to identify a bad coach. Finally, we’ll talk briefly about how much coaching is worth and whether an athlete should stick with the same coach or change from time to time. our panel today includes first coach Neil Henderson, owner of Apex coaching and current coach of Time Trial World Champion, Rowan Dennis, among other elite athletes. Neil has joined us before on one of our most popular episodes. In fact, Episode 33 is FTP dead. check that one out. Our other main guest today is the renowned endurance athlete Rebecca rush, formerly an adventure racer, now a decorated cyclist of mountain bike, gravel, and bike packing events around the world. Rebecca currently works with CTS coach Dean Goldberg, who we’ll hear from in this episode. For many years though she went without a coach. She has a great depth of knowledge and experience as an athlete and brings a wealth of knowledge to the conversation. She also runs several training camps and hosts her namesake Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel race near her home, check them out online at Rebecca In addition to our main guest today, we have several experts weigh in. Throughout the episode. Garin O’Grady, a coach and sports scientist with Team Dimension Data talks with us about the pros and cons of self coaching versus the accountability that comes from working with a coach. A lot of nl Jambos Sep coos winner of this year’s tour of Utah reached the world tour by being self coached, believe it or not. We talked about why he did that. And what it’s like now working with the team’s trainers, we check in with Dean gulledge head performance physiologist at CTS, Dean has worked with an incredible number of top athletes and share some of his thoughts on how he approaches coaching all of them. The legendary Ned overrun continues to crush cat one riders into his 60s. Despite all of his success, Ned has never had a coach. He explains why. Finally, we talk with Armando Musashi, who has developed a highly sophisticated training AI system that can help athletes plan their workouts. Armando discusses what parts of coaching a good AI system can replace and what it can’t. Now, friendly reminder, don’t forget to rate us and send us your feedback. We love your comments. We love your suggestions. And the more reviews we get particularly on iTunes, the easier it will be for others to find the great content of Fast Talk. And finally, it’s worth pointing out that coach Daniels didn’t say coaching was a bad thing. He just said a bad coach is worse than no direction at all. So of course he offered his thoughts on what makes a good coach. If the term coach refers to the person who directs the improvement or refinement of running performance, then a good coach can answer the question. Why are we doing this workout today? A good coach produces beneficial reactions to training creates positive race results and transforms the athletes he or she brings into the program into better runners and better human beings. That is a tall order. And with that, we hope to add clarity and context to the discussion of coaching. Let’s make it fast.


Chris Case  04:48

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Chris Case  05:26

So I’ll turn it over to you guys. Neil, Rebecca, what do you think? Is that quote?





Chris Case  05:33

Is there some truth to it?


Neal Henderson  05:35

This is Neil, I can tell you from my perspective, I think there are clear advantages of having a coach and that most folks would find benefit in having a coach. That being said, a bad coach is clearly worse than no coach. Mm hmm. So a little bit of mourning there and who that person as a coach, what that role and who holds that role clearly has has an impact. But by and large, if you have somebody who has the athletes best interest in mind, that having a coach clearly I think, converges benefits over not.


Trevor Connor  06:13

So I just want to tell a quick story, because this is how I actually discovered the jack daniels book very early in my cycling career when I went well, if I’m serious, I need to hire a coach. And I hired somebody who was extraordinarily scientific. And he wouldn’t be on the trainer all the time, because you got better data on the trainer. When I finally said, this is killing me, I need to go outside. He wanted me to ride this one road that was perfectly flat and just go up and down it because if I went and rode hills, and roads that varied he wasn’t going to get as good data on me. Needless to say, I was burnt out by April that year. following year, I ended up talking to the person who really became my mentor I’ve mentioned before Glen swan. And he just sat me down and in an hour explained to me the fundamental principles of training and said read this book jack daniels book. And between that hour conversation with him and reading the book that was year I went from a guy who was getting popped in cat four races to a cat one. Mm hmm.



You know, I would just say you had the wrong coach. I mean, a coaching athlete relationship is just that it’s it’s like being in a bad or good marriage, you know, if you’re with any sort of relationship that is good is going to elevate both parties, a relationship that’s bad is going to bring people down. And you can see that when people are having struggling in their marriages, and they’re real crabby when they come to work, and they’re just their performance isn’t good in life. And I’ve I’ve been an an athlete, professional athlete for three decades and in various different sports, rock climbing, cycling, adventure racing, and I’ve done long stints with coaches and long stints without coaches. And, you know, my coaching world began in high school, cross country running and that was my first experience with a coach and you know, most recently Dean college from CTS. But I did a big stint in the middle. And yeah, there’s bad relationships, and there’s good relationships and and I think we are elevated when we find the right match. with Dean, you know, I’m not his typical cycling athletes, and I live in a winter climate. And it’s like I just said to him flat out, like when we started, hey, I’m not going to do four hours indoor on the trainer. And so he finds a way. And so I go, he’s like, Alright, you can do our cross country skiing. And you can do, you know, an hour and you’re like, and then you’ve got to come in and do an hour on the trainer and do that specific work and, and there is a give and take of me telling him what I needed. And him finding a way because he knew I wouldn’t do the work otherwise. So he found a way for me to it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than then not doing the work and dreading four hours into on the trainer.


Trevor Connor  08:51

So what about the other side of the story I just gave, I always described Glen Swan as my mentor, first mentor, not my first coach, because it was really just sitting down for an hour and explaining to me the principles and then telling me to read a book. And I ended up having just with that one of the most successful seasons of my life, and I never had a training plan. I just followed the principles. So how do you two? What’s your feeling about that now?


Neal Henderson  09:14

Yeah, so coaching can come in a lot of different forms and formats. So often when somebody uses the term now about I have a coach, it’s that somebody prescribes you a given workout, there’s some sort of plan, there’s some sort of, you know, review with you, but it’s this kind of somewhat regimented relationship, though, it can vary to some degree, there’s still a lot of people to think of coaching that exists in that. They send me stuff, I do it, we look at it, and then we, you know, make some adaptations and do more or less of some of it and keep going. And that’s, I think, a pretty I think that’s a pretty typical thing of what what some people see in coaching that can be a component of it. And that really isn’t the same kind of coaching that I think Is what is most valuable and being able to understand somebody’s motivations and where they’re trying to go and look exclusively Beyond the Data. And I am a science guy, I absolutely love my data and information, but I will not sacrifice the mental health of the athlete to try to get that kind of information. And so looking to see what the motivations of that athlete is, where they’re coming from, what their goals are. So even, you know, two athletes that I coached our world records, we still did very different things, whether it’s Evelyn Stephens doing her our record versus Rohan, Dennis, there was the preparation, it was not like, okay, we’ve done that I’ve done this before, it’s just not a copy, paste and do the same workout. So there was literally nothing similar in there two things row and never once did a one hour effort maximally before the hour record, ever did it three times on our own and different ways on the trainer once on an outdoor track, and on the indoor track ones. It’s just differences in where they’re coming from. And both had success, but we had to come at it from a very different angle with each person. So adapting.


Chris Case  11:02

Yeah, and it seems like both of you are saying a similar thing. But from the two different the two sides of the coach athlete perspective, which is, there’s a lot of psychology involved, you have to understand the person, what makes them tick, what motivates them, how to motivate them, you have to understand all of that, to then be able to change the training appropriately. Would you agree with that statement? Both for both of you? Let’s start with Neil.


Neal Henderson  11:30

Absolutely, yes, that there is no one size fits all like coaching method and terms and things like that. So being able to first create a connection and a relationship with with a coach and athlete is critical. So for me, it’s always a learning about the person and seeing if it’s the right fit, even Should we go down this road, I want to meet an athlete several times before starting to coach them. They’re like, I want you to be my coach. It’s like, okay, let’s write me, let’s just have coffee, let’s go for a ride. Let’s then look at this. And there’s a there’s times where it’s like you know where you are and what you’re looking for, I can’t provide or your, you know, what your needs are, and what I’m capable of doing aren’t going to be the right fit. And I’m going to recommend them to somebody, I think that may have that right skill set with them, and approach. So that for the for me, that’s psychology and being able to make a connection is the first and foremost if we don’t have that to begin with, and everything else is going to be a hard road to hoe. Mm hmm. So


Trevor Connor  12:25

it sounds like you’re both saying, if I’m hearing you right, that the training plan, and the science is kind of a foundation, but it’s a small part of it. And it’s everything on top of that, that determines whether you have a good coach, or as jack daniels said, worse than no plan at all?



Well, here’s the thing for like, imagine taking an online course you know, you’re trying to learn Spanish or whatever it is, you’re taking an online course the information is there, you can read it, you’re a smart person, you do the practice and you graduate. And then imagine we can all go back to that one teacher in our lives, whether it was high school, or college or whatever, that you you just really loved and you went to that class and you listened and you and they were presenting the same information. But you’ve got so much more out of that personal experience than just an online course that is black and white and the material is laid out for you. I mean, that’s the best example I can think of to really, and it does really elevate your experience. Yeah, you could learn online. But are you really going to take your performance and to really the ultra world class level or your best your best level? Or are you going to just learn this stuff, and you can do it and the example earlier you went from a cat, Florida, whatever, winning a bunch races, because you you’ve got the information packaged in a different way. And in your case, it was a mentor in a book. But that is how the information how its presented is really important to the person. So this is


Trevor Connor  13:55

sounding like a tall order for coaches because we’re saying they have to know the science they have to know the training they have to learn the individual and then on top of all that they almost have to play psychologist as well and be advisor and be a friend. Is that asking too much a coaches do you think many coaches can be all these things?



the good ones can the sucky ones, there’s plenty of ones that don’t do 1999 or whatever. And that’s what you get and the really expensive, personalized coaching programs. That’s why they do cost more because those people really are your mentor, your friend, you know, they’re calling you accountable. They’re, they’re tough love when you need it. And they really are. There’s a lot more to it than than just the science.


Trevor Connor  14:40

I do love it. The last time you were in here, you described a workout that you gave to rohana this one how it should mean and your responses. He’s not pay me to be nice.


Neal Henderson  14:49

Yeah, there’s certain work aspects. Again, Rebecca said it very clearly like this is not easy. Again, high performance sport is a hard way to make a living. There are far easier Your ways. And so you know, they kind of know a bit of what what that is and just kind of buckle down in certain cases and get it done. And then there’s times where we need to adapt and adjust situationally, okay, you’re not sleeping as well, you have a newborn. Okay, we need to definitely need to keep things in check now and balance that rather than like, it’s just hard. Like, these are hard workouts. Okay, well, I get it. The Gao is not not easy either. So let’s, let’s go, you know, third weekend zero is going to be pretty, pretty sucky.


Trevor Connor  15:27

We recently interviewed Karen O’Grady, about trainers. But as a world tour coach working with Team Dimension Data, we took advantage of the opportunity to get his opinion on coaching, whether athletes truly need one.



I’ve been self coached myself as a racer for 10 years and, but I obviously am a coach and, and have a background in sports science. But there are plenty of guys who do try to coach themselves. And, and it’s, it’s more about if you willing to make the investment yourself in, you know, getting getting the knowledge and, and being diligent with what you’re doing. If If you want to go down the route of being self coached, then be diligent in keeping a training log, you know, test and try to have some way of taking your ego out of the equation and being a bit objective and saying, this didn’t work, you know, I didn’t pull my pull my way here. But I, you know, I would say a coach is a valuable asset for the amateur athlete to have the accountability of someone planning something, and then you know, that they’re going to review it, and whatever you’re going to do over the next couple of months will be based on your performance in those training sessions. There’s, there’s nothing like that to, to kind of really make sure that you you do get the training done otherwise, the the inner sloths will come out and you’ll just find yourself sitting on the couch and doing nothing.


Chris Case  16:51

Would you I know, this is probably going to be a difficult question to answer. But in in, in your mind, what is the greatest benefit of having a coach?



I’m going to be very, very diplomatic, very politician, like in my answer and say that it depends writer and writer, you’ve got some riders who would benefit from from that sort of accountability, you’ve got other riders who would you know, benefit from having that sole focus on one race, if I would say, if I had to really make a decision and say, overall, what the what the total benefit is from the coach, it would be that the objective accountability of it, who you are paying them to deliver a service, you know, it’s someone else who’s taking the time and say, this is, this is what I feel is the best way for you. And they’re going to be the guys that are educated and qualified to deliver that. And you do it, and then it’s kind of back on them did it work. So if you do what they’ve said, and it hasn’t worked, then that’s the coaches that’s down on the couch and say it’s the coach’s fault, it’s it’s down to the coach to try to work out why is that happened, you know, what’s gone on there. And then to modulate, you know, to kind of evolve what they’ve planned,


Chris Case  17:59

it seems to me that one of the most crucial aspects of the coach athlete relationship is an open dialogue, what works, what doesn’t work from both ends of that perspective, both perspectives?



Yeah, having having a good communication with the riders, and learning what communication works best, I find I’ve got some writers who, you know, love, actually quite a remote, you know, Coach sort of feeling even though I live quite close to them, they want, they want to just pay me an email every week, you know, once a week and say, This is my availability for next week, you know, to make adjustments to the plan, and then I’ll check in with them at the end of the week and say, okay, you know, cards on the table you’ve had your week, and what have you done, and and we look at the forms then but there’s other guys who, who it’s much more of a, a kind of you’re you’re almost their friend and saying, you know, you’re chatting with them and and sort of getting a feeling of you know, how they’re going and all the all the other stressors in their life.


Trevor Connor  19:02

All right, we cut you off in the middle of our conversation. So let’s get back to it.


Chris Case  19:06

I think you touched upon something there where Rebecca will have a little insight because she just spoke at a Red Bull leadership conference where she she wanted to bring in the idea that a coach is not a boss, coach is a teacher. So maybe Rebecca, I’ll turn it over to you and touch upon that aspect of coach athlete relationship.



Yeah, I mean, it was actually a really interesting conference. And I was invited to be there as sort of a panel moderator and discussion with with two other world class athletes and Kate Courtney, who’s a mic racer, and will clay who is a Olympic medalists, triple jump and long jump athletes. And I was speaking to a bunch of, you know, amateur athletes slash leadership people at Red Bull and the title of this speech was Don’t be a boss, be a coach. And I basically took a lot of comparisons between you No examples from, from all of us on, on, you know what a coach really does for you. And and I do want to probably people listening this podcast are like, Well, I’m not a professional athlete, I’m not going to Olympics I’m not, you know, I don’t I don’t want a coach to like, do those kind of gnarly workouts and people ask me all the time, they’re like, Well, I’m not that good, I don’t really need a coach. And I do want to debunk that myth a little bit. Because if you do care about your performance, and you want to do better than a coach is really helpful. If you’re happy where you are, then yeah, maybe you don’t need it. And I spent 15 years of my athletic career without a coach. So I get that perspective of wanting to just like, I was living out of my car, I was rock climbing, I was paddling, I was doing a bunch of stuff, and I was I wanted more freedom, and then came back to a coach, you know, when I started getting serious, serious about cycling, so I get the perspective of being like, I don’t want that kind of rigidity, and, and that a lot of the people in the audience have this Leadership Conference. You know, they’re not professional athletes, and they never are going to be but we really did talk about it really was about relationships, whether it’s your relationship at work, or your relationship with your coach. And one thing that I really wanted to emphasize is that it’s a collaboration. Yes, your coach has all the knowledge and the science and the experience, your coach, your coach isn’t just your boss, you know, they’re you’re working on performance together. And so the athlete needs to be confident enough in a coach be open enough to have a back and forth dialogue of you know, this isn’t working for me. And this is why example I gave up, I told Dean flat out, I live in a winter environment, I’m not going to ride the trainer, I’m just not going to do it. So let’s just figure out another way. And I had to be confident enough to tell him that and then we met in the middle somewhere, he’s like, Okay, we got to do it, the trainer a little bit. But you can do some of that other stuff, too. And I think that’s really the key to all of this is that the athlete and the coach are one confident enough and secure enough in their sort of ego and being that you’re not a boss, the coach isn’t saying, you got to do this, or else they’re like, here’s my suggestion, you know, and let’s, let’s collaborate and figure it out along the way. And honestly, I something that I really get out of Dean of, you know, coming back to coach and having a coach is his honest feedback of, I don’t know about other athletes, but most of the time, I think that I really suck and I could be doing better. And most athletes I know think they could be doing more their competition is doing more. And for me a lot of times it’s not Dean being hard on me, it’s actually him saying no, no, no, you’re supposed to be tired. This is okay. You know, this is part of the process, you’re doing great. And that’s something that I think people who are really good at what they do often don’t think they’re very good at what they do. And so from, for me, sort of a consoler cheerleader person is a really important part of that relationship.


Trevor Connor  22:53

So I love that you brought up that it’s a two way street, I still remember working with this one athlete. So quick step back, most of my athletes absolutely love training races. So I have to work it into the plan because you need to have some fun. They might get a little stronger if they’re always doing structured work, but there’s a mental side. Mm hmm. So I always work that in so with this athlete, I’m got to spring plan. I’m like, Okay, I’ll throw in some training races, he gets to have some fun. And the whole spring he was kind of miserable. I’m like, You don’t seem to be happy. What’s going on? It’s like, Nah, Trevor, I’m doing the work. I’m trying. Everything’s okay. I’m like, are you sure he’s like, everything’s fine. And finally, we got about June. And he just opens up to me. And he goes, I really hate that you put training plans on, on my training races on my plan. Like I don’t sleep the night before. I’m really nervous about them. I feel like I have to win. It’s just It’s killing me. And I was like, Why didn’t you tell me that I only put them on because I thought you think they were five? You’re just like, Oh, I should have said something.


Chris Case  23:51

Yes, the athlete does need to give the coach feedback, just like the coach needs to give the athlete feedback. It’s a two way street all all times? I think.


Neal Henderson  24:00

Yes, there are, you know, if you look at coaching styles, you can you know, look at various examples that might be out there in the media, in different sports. But basically, you really have those that are top down, I tell you what to do, and you don’t question it. I think, you know, there are some people that have had success doing that. I don’t as a coach personally believe that that’s a super effective style, nor is it something that leads to happy, healthy function, right and wins in the long term. And so I’m not at all a fan of that method. Then you have people who are the collaborators that that talk, you know, we meet let’s talk about what’s going on. And it’s not again, just me telling you what to do. But you need to give me some feedback and guidance on that, and what you’re doing and what you think you need to do a lot of times like what do you think you need to do before this race to be prepared? Putting the athlete back to a degree in the driver’s seat? The worst coaches tend to be the ones who do both of those, depending on the day. It’s all top down. Don’t ask me a question and then another Next day, they’re asking, Well, what do you think? And then it goes back and forth. And the athlete never knows. Which Why don’t we talk? Well, how are we dealing today, and that’s a bad coach, somebody that doesn’t have clearly the way they do things. And I really do believe that the collaborator model is far better overall, in terms of what is healthy and sustainable. But making sure you have those communications and how that set up, you know, again, just as a coach the way you know, even just looking at social media, I think I sent out a tweet earlier a few days ago, reminder to coaches, it’s something about not saying my athlete does this, or my athletes do that. I hate that terminology. They’re not my athletes, they are the themselves. I’m somebody who helps the athletes on I get to work with, they own their performances, they own their training, they own it, when it goes well. And they also own it when it doesn’t go, well. I always want them to have it go well, but we’re gonna figure that out, not take straight



in my discussion with Kate Courtney. And will clay was interesting. And Kate made a good point that, that her coach, Jim Miller, she, you know, it’s always we, we can do this, we can and when things aren’t going well, he’s always taking ownership of well, you know, if she crashed or got a flat or something happened, well, we can do this better, we can do this next time. But she said whenever there’s a win or anything like that, he’s always steps back and puts her on the pedestal. And even though it’s a collective win, and he’s celebrating as well, I thought that that was a really nice, just terminology and a way of looking at it that yes, we’re in this together, especially when it’s hard, and it’s not going well. And that you get up on that podium, and you don’t need to give me props on your day. And I thought that that was that was a sign of a really good coach.


Trevor Connor  26:43

I once heard the best definition of a leader is when things are going well. It was the team when things are going bad. It’s the leaders fault.



Exactly. And yeah, exactly.


Chris Case  26:54

In terms of that concept of ownership, I’ll start with Neil, do you make it a practice to try to educate your athletes as to not just what they should be doing, but why they should be doing it? Absolutely. So


Neal Henderson  27:11

the best coaches are also educators. If I do my job, well, they’re not going to need me at some point in the future. Is that is that you know, in some cases, you know, is I’ve had athletes that have that we start working at a point and



think graduate from you eventually.


Neal Henderson  27:27

Yeah, and and I’m happy, I’ve had multiple folks that have had successes, you know, after we work together and on the first wall, and you know, a lot of times you say, Hey, I’m really excited for you, that’s fantastic. The best coaches are managing all the different resources that can help somebody, you know, again, there’s sometimes that, again, that ownership coach who wants to do everything, and Jeez, I mean, you can’t be a sports psychologist, a dietitian, a bio mechanist, a physiologist a, that you can’t do all of those things at the same level, you know, at the highest level for everyone. And so knowing when to farm out, you know, I’ve had at a mountain bike, you know, Masters mountain biker that I coach to really a difficulty with technical downhills. And and absolutely, I was looking for who’s a good technical mountain bike coach that we can get, get her to work with to develop that skill set. And she actually ended up winning a world championship title after being on the podium a couple times. And clearly it was, you know, okay, we realized where the deficit was, and I was, but I’m not that skills coach. And so sending her to work with someone else and


Trevor Connor  28:32

get better at that is going to say any good coach is going to have resources. If you hire a coach, and they claim they can do anything, and especially if you’re out in a ride with them, and you say, how does my position look on the bike and the coach claims that just watching you right in front of them, they can tell you if your position is good, be really, really skeptical, a good coach is going to say, here’s the best fitter in town this is the person that you need to go to give that person my name and go get a good fit.


Chris Case  29:01

Yep. And Rebecca, you’ve had periods of time when you’ve had coaches and no coaches and you’ve had it sounds like multiple coaches in your life. Would you say the the relationships you’ve had with coaches were the were the best when they were educators when they helped you understand why you were doing the workouts you were doing or? Or was it just a matter of them laying out a plan and you following it



sometimes and this is what I love about a really good coach and especially someone like Dean or Matthew that I’ve worked with is they they spend their days reading all those papers and all those studies and that I don’t want to do and I also don’t enjoy the the math and statistics part of of training and so there is part of me that’s just like, just tell me what I want I need to do and I’ll go do it. That’s fine. I don’t want to think about it. But what is I do really appreciate being educated about is the why and you know, assuming that an athlete is just a physical Being and not a thinking being is a mistake. And so if Dean says, you know, you’re training for a five day bikepacking event, but you need to do three minute intervals, I need to understand why because I hate them first of all, and I need to know that this is really going to help and then I’ll do it and then I will embrace and I’ll take it and be like, Okay, if you say it’s really going to help with this is why and there’s this and he’ll send me like, five science papers about it. I’m like, Okay, Okay, I got it, I’ll do that. Yeah, I will embrace it more wholeheartedly. Especially the really hard stuff, if I understand that there that it works and that there’s a process and that there’s, you know, method to the madness. And so, I do really appreciate the intellectual quality of a coach and you know, Dean has been he’s kind of like, going to the library and you know, looking up any sort of article you want and he can put his his fingers on either the person that can help me or the article that will, you know, I’ll be like, hey, has I’m sure nobody’s ever thought about this when you do especially ultra under and stuff and like sleep deprivation and all sorts of things like that, that I’m sure like I’m gonna stump the chump, you know, and give him a question that he can’t answer and sure enough, he’ll put his hands on a resource like that, even though he’s never had an athlete like me. And it’s so valuable one It saves me a bunch of time that you know, times precious commodity and then it also helps me really get behind our plan and embrace it and be like okay, and I learned something every time from him and I’ve taken things that you know, like sleep deprivation or things like that, that I didn’t know about and he didn’t know about but he found the answer for me.


Trevor Connor  31:36

Sep coos rider on lotto nL yumbo just had a breakthrough season, and it was his first year at the World Tour level. Yet he never had a coach. Sep talked with Chris about why he didn’t have a coach and what it’s like working with the team trainers now.



Why did you choose not to work with a coach?



I think for me, it was just kind of Yeah, maybe just never really thought of it at the time. And where I was at in cycling. I went like entering entering college, I guess it was just, you know, still kind of a lifestyle sport I guess for me, so I didn’t I didn’t see any need to pay anybody or have a real schedule or anything time it was just go out ride when you feel like it. Don’t ride when you don’t.


Chris Case  32:25

Yeah. And since joining lotto yumbo you’ve worked with their coaching staff, I assume?



Yep. Yep.


Chris Case  32:34

You still don’t have a personal coach? Is that correct?



Um, the the trainers on the on the team are, I guess that would be your, your personal coach. So each, each one of the trainers has about maybe five to five to eight riders. It’s pretty Yeah, intensive, I


Chris Case  32:54

guess with them, you know, throughout the whole year schedule and training wise. So this might sound somewhat silly being asked of someone who doesn’t, hasn’t had a coach and works with the team, but I feel like you have a great sense of what you need to do for yourself personally, right now. Do you think that you need a coach that you would improve if you had the right coach? Um,



I think so. Yeah, I



think a lot of it is just of the kind of relationship you have with the coach, depending on what kind of person you are, you know, if you’re, if you’re happy to just go along with what you’re prescribed and do do everything do t or, or if you, you know, and you need more variety in your program, or you have certain ideas about what you should be doing. You know, I think different people are maybe, I guess we’ll have it easier to coach then. And then other people. Yeah, I guess it depends on the individual and what they get out of the relationship wise.


Trevor Connor  34:02

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Chris Case  34:36

Until this past year, really I’d never had a coach and through working with Trevor on a lot of different things I have coerced you into being my coach. I guess I i’ve gifted you things that is how we bartered we bartered. That’s what we did. I’m


Trevor Connor  34:52

a little frightened by the fact that since you’ve been working with me, there’s something you’ve really been thinking about. I want to hear what that


Chris Case  34:58

is honestly, the thing that Think about his, for people that aren’t lucky enough to have a friend that is a coach, how do you find a good coach? What’s the process? How do you interview them? Do you? You know, it’s not shopping for a car necessarily. But so Neil, to start us off, how do you think you should a person should go about finding that coach? That’s right for them?


Neal Henderson  35:21

Yeah. When when looking for a coach, there’s clearly a few things that you need to consider it is a little bit more like dating than it is buying a car. Because it isn’t relationship share, trying to go down, you know, go down that road. But a couple of the key things I always look for in a coach is do they have basically a knowledge base and education and something that’s along the lines now, doesn’t mean they have to have a PhD in exercise physiology, but do they have some general background understanding knowledge in some way that’s relevant to do they have basically experience in working with athletes doing similar things to you


Chris Case  36:00

if a similar caliber athlete caliber athlete so


Neal Henderson  36:03

if I were looking to go to a, say, a driving school, let’s say I didn’t have my license? I don’t think that calling up Lewis Hamilton and saying, I’m interested in learning how to get my driver’s license. He’d be like Your what? Like, I don’t even


Chris Case  36:17

know for those out there who don’t know who Lewis Hamilton is. He’s a Formula One driver. Yes, very good, very, very good.


Neal Henderson  36:23

So his skill set may not necessarily carry over to actually being able to tell somebody how to drive on open roads and obey speed limits, things like that. Yeah. Even though his knowledge and skill set, as far as you know, totally different things. So an Olympic coach might not necessarily be who you’re looking at, if you’re trying to finish a century, right, or to drop a few minutes off your 40 K, you don’t necessarily need somebody that has, you know, extraordinary experience far beyond what you’re looking to do. But relevant experience and working with athletes of similar background, again, if you’re 45 years old, work full time have some old injury stuff, you’re different than somebody who’s coached 20 year old superfine arms who born with the best genetic gifts, and basically you haven’t do any exercise, and they got better. So somebody who’s worked with somebody who has the challenges that you have in your life and similar goals, for me certification is, it’s like, oh, my gosh, that’s not that important. But it shows me that that coach actually takes seriously what they’re doing. Going to a certification through a national governing body doesn’t make somebody a great coach, it just shows that they care enough to be professional enough about what they do. So those are some of the for the key things and then just that personal Yep, relationship. And so being able to talk with them a couple times a week, if they’re gonna charge you something to talk to them. And the first time I probably walked the other way was on a funniest thing about all this is I haven’t had a coach in decades and decades since high school. And I’ve continued to raise some things, but I use resources of other coaches and friends that are coaches and even the athletes. In some cases I’ve worked with as, as you know,


Trevor Connor  37:58

surrogate coaches, Dr. Brooke, get on your case about it as much as it gets a mind. I guess


Neal Henderson  38:04

we’re at a level where he doesn’t concede. Yeah, if he doesn’t get he doesn’t ride it on me. So yeah, I’m lucky enough,


Trevor Connor  38:11

he has told me a dozen times Trevor heart surgeons don’t do heart surgery on themselves stop coaching.



Very true,


Chris Case  38:19

I bet some of them do


Neal Henderson  38:20

actually have an emergency, an emergency. And then there’s, again, scales that go beyond that the stuff like you know, I fly over to Europe a couple weeks ago and meet Rohan and check in with them. He’s got some, you know, new family, you know, changes in his life and just getting to catch up with them a couple days, we do a little bit of testing, but more of it, you know, chat and a couple hour ride, which is the only time of year I can do it. And it’s very lowest level of fitness where, you know, I’m still near my limit and but able to talk with them that we can have some interaction like that. And it just helps that coaching relationship to be built better, and have something to connect with over time and be, you know, direct and honest. Rebecca, would


Chris Case  39:05

you have anything to add to that about how to choose a coach? that’s right for you? Yeah,



I mean, I basically it’s sort of referrals, it’s all about referrals for me and I agree with with some of the points and certifications are a good thing and all that but I didn’t look at any of that. My first serious coach when I got psych cycling was a friend. And so and he was doing it for free. So that was the number one factor and he’d been a bike racer himself and I really wasn’t a cyclist at all. I did rock climbing and doing other stuff. So so he knew far more than I did. And he was good friend and it was very cost effective because he wasn’t going to charge me so how can I say no to that but then when he got busy with the rest of his job and he couldn’t do it I went searching for for Dean or for someone and it really was referrals of of who they’d coached in the past. Kind of like Angie’s List sort of a thing you know, how many stars does he get and and I talked to some people who had worked with him because he did have a little bit of a reputation that preceded him. And I kind of on the surface when you look at somebody’s bio I think he had he had on his bio for CTS Dean had a scene from rocky where he’s like running in the snow. Do you guys know what I’m talking about? Yes,


Chris Case  40:20

yes. Yeah. has seen that seen 8000 times during many swift sessions?


Trevor Connor  40:26

I actually that’s what I watch when I’m on on a trainer and I have a time so that when he gets to the top of the mountain and screams Drago, that’s right, when I finished my interval



well done.



Well, I okay.



arching bio that was basically all he put, you know, up on it.


Chris Case  40:45

There you go. That sums it up, I guess,



as a female and I had been cycling a long time, just like is that the kind of guy I want to work with. And I was a little hesitant. But then I looked at his resume. And most of his world champions, Olympians, he’s had the best success with our all female athletes. And I asked him, I’m like, did you choose that? And he was like, no, it just worked out that way. And, you know, we had some funny initial, like, dating conversation of coaching women versus coaching men. And, you know, it’s a really dry sense of humor. And we did hit it off, but I was pretty scared. And, you know, I, which I’m like, Yeah, but I’m different than any athlete you’ve ever coached and all that he’s like, no, you’re not, you’re gonna be the same. I’m like, No, no, I have different needs. And, you know, it turned out that we are both a little bit right. But I think initially, I did a little background research, I was a little scared by the rocky scene, but he was credible, you know, in the athletes that he had trained. And then the bottom line, we liked each other and, and we started telling jokes, and he had a really big respect for the kind of ultra endurance stuff I did. So he also wanted to work with me. And the other thing I would say, if somebody’s shopping for a coach is is don’t underestimate yourself. Like I said, before, people are like, Well, I’m not world class, I don’t need that, that great of a coach, I would encourage people to get the best that you can afford, just as I would with a bicycle, you know, you know, beginners are always like, I don’t need a carbon fiber bicycle, get the best tool that you can afford, because that will just bring out your best performance. And so I would encourage people to shop up if they can, and you may not be able to do that for two, five, many years, maybe you have a coach for a year that is expensive, and you really hone in and learn from that relationship. And then you have to take a break for financial reasons, you know, money is a motivator. And if somebody really invests in paying for a coach, that alone is going to increase their level of accountability to show up on those hard days to do their workouts. And so even if the coach writes a crappy training program, the fact that they invested the money, they are going to be more invested in their process and their commitment to their goal. And so that alone, is sort of another boost towards maybe a little more expensive programs, because you really are going to force yourself to get the most out of it, because you put your hard earned cash down. Whereas if it was a free online program, it’s sort of like, Well, I’m not really losing anything. I’m only letting myself down. And I’m not losing any money. So I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to do that thing today, because it looks sucky on the schedule.


Neal Henderson  43:16

accountability is big on that, in terms of a question, hold you accountable to doing it in a way that a plan, you know, or free thing is not?


Chris Case  43:25



Trevor Connor  43:26

Now that we’ve talked a lot about Dingo, let’s let’s get him a chance to explain his approach and why he thinks individuality is important.



stereotype for her to profile, a female would need to be trained like this, a male needs to be trained like this. And so it’s my bias approaching, I found that there’s basically two types of people and they’re not by gender, that there’s many, and maybe they can or mix all the time within themselves. Of that you’re really wanting to win. So you win, and you’re so afraid to lose, you win. And so there’s an insecurity, of failure that drives everything. But then there’s also a really dominant of competition, dominant side of competition mentality. And then I’ve seen people that, you know, obviously, I’ve dealt with a lot of high level, you know, Olympic medalists and world champions and all that kind of stuff. And I’ve seen them go through both scenarios, constantly, from month to month, year to year and so on. And I’ll tell you, I don’t have a theory of how I deal with this. And everyone asked me like, oh, and he’s had a lot of success with women. What do you do different? I’m like, I don’t do anything different. It’s been really the way my parents raised me, which I wish I had a better answer, but it’s like just treat people the right way. Try to be holding accountable and then you go follow it because the rest of it is way too complicated to figure out. So that’s what I got.


Chris Case  44:56

Let’s get back to the show. If you could summarize the best qualities in Dean as a coach, what would they be?



collaboration, massive wealth of knowledge, keeping me accountable and honest feedback and a cheerleader and a friend.


Chris Case  45:18

And, Neil, what would what would you say are the best qualities in a good athlete that makes them most coachable? If that’s a term? Yeah.


Neal Henderson  45:30

Honest, inquisitive, committed and driven.



Mm hmm.


Trevor Connor  45:39

So there’s, I have two quick things to add to when you’re looking for a good coach. And I think those that you to summarize the fantastically, so I’m just gonna expand slightly on two things that you said. One is, you definitely want to see who a coach has coached in the past. But, and this was actually also in the jack daniels book, be careful of that coach who’s had that one star athlete because sometimes you get bad coaches, who are just lucky enough to pick up a super talented kid when they were young. And it was a kid that was going to go to the top levels, no matter what doesn’t make them a good coat. So for example, we’ve worked with ro Han. Yeah. But there is a huge list of athletes that you’ve worked with. And you have been very consistent on getting them to very high levels. That’s what you really want to look for.


Neal Henderson  46:25

Absolutely. Not just the one I was at a conference recently, and somebody from British cycling was talking about one of Wiggins first coaches and guy said, Man, I thought I could just do no wrong. And then I realized I was coaching Bradley Wiggins, just better than everyone with ever, whatever he did. And I think when I started coaching actually tailor it to that, you know, and he had some success early on. And people were like, Well, yeah, I was like, Yeah, I know. And the biggest thing is, like, do no harm in that phase, and make sure that he continued to build up and he wasn’t training like a 20 year old when he was 16. Even though he looked like a 20 year old, he’s six, four, and whatever, it’s been appropriate levels of they continue to make progress. And a lot of times the best coaches know how to hold the reins, and be like, whoa, whoa, because the the athletes that are driven, can overdrive it. So you know, it’s, you got to be able to a coach can be the person who can be like, Whoa, this right now is not what you need, we’re gonna get there, but we’re gonna get there in a little longer time or a little different pathway.


Trevor Connor  47:25

And I think the other thing I would add to what both of you are saying is Rebecca, I loved you, you described having that conversation with with the dean and almost treating it like a first date. And what I would add to that is, Trust is everything. At some point, when you’re working with a coach, things are not going to go well, or you’re going to be doing a ton of training and see no results. And you’re going to question your training. And if you don’t trust your coach, your temptation is going to be forget the plan, I’m going to do what I think is best. So there needs to be that trust and whoever is coaching you,


Neal Henderson  47:57

yeah, trust and faith in that are absolutely massive in both ways. Again, I need to trust the athlete is going to do what they can and be honest with that feedback. And they also need to be able to trust that I am looking at their best interest and doing everything I can to help them to reach those goals at that two way.


Chris Case  48:13

Let’s flip it around. Maybe I’ll turn it to you, Rebecca, what do you think makes a bad coach?



A bad coach, ego, sort of, you know, somebody who feels like they’re in charge, you know, they’re the boss, you’re the you’re the client. That definitely, I don’t think is a productive relationship. withholding information, you know, not being totally honest. And I kind of liken that to like, when you go to a doctor’s visit, and they take your blood pressure, and they don’t tell you what it is. And they just kind of look at that and go Hmm, you know, and


Chris Case  48:49

yeah, oh, don’t make me nervous.



Yeah. And so I really like an open flow of communication of like, Hey, you screwed up. And this is what happened or a the, you know, this is what’s going on, or this slide that isn’t working, or this is what these numbers mean. Here you go. So yeah, I think a really open flow of information good and bad. So if somebody’s withholding like that, that just doesn’t feel like it’s collaborative. And then just not considering the person, the personality of the athlete, you know, having a cookie cutter approach, one stop shop, and if that’s what you are getting out of your coach, you might as well just get an online version and save some money. That’s just the math. And there’s quite a few of those. If you’re training for 100 miler, and you have, you know, four months by this program. So if your coaches are offering more of a personalized personalized input than than just the numbers of what you do on the workout each day, and they’re not changing it based on your needs or your life, like having a baby or having stress in your life, a cookie cutter approach, I think that that makes a bad coach as well.


Chris Case  49:56

Very good. And Neil, what makes what makes a really bad athlete, you’ve probably haven’t coached any bad athletes without naming names. Okay, and what was bad about them? Is that


Neal Henderson  50:10

the honesty and not not being open is what’s really going on.


Chris Case  50:16

And why do you think they acted that way?


Neal Henderson  50:20

In some cases, it’s, you know, just stuff going on in their life. Sometimes it’s hard to admit


Chris Case  50:25

that they, you know, couldn’t do it or couldn’t hack it or something like that. Yep.


Neal Henderson  50:30

Yep. And they were afraid to say, I can’t do that. Mm hmm. And just, you know, being afraid to admit, you know, sometimes a weakness. Yeah. Because they feel like, the coach knows what I need to do. And they may have likely had a prior coach who was a top down don’t question me. And so they’ve learned or other relationships in their life that they’ve learned that that’s the that’s just you don’t question the authority, right? So I’m just going to hide it until they new Gallup blow up getting sick or say, I can’t do this. And yeah, quit, which is not good. So the honesty part. The other thing occasion, it’s rare, you get that subversive personality. And again, it’s more, you know, there’s stuff going on in their life that, you know, the sport is a side part of it. And it’s just a weird thing that it’s, again, more More, more psychology and a clinical sense. And I think I’d get into sports psychology side of it. Those are the biggest things. And then the other ones are the apathetic, there’s people like, Oh, I hired you to be my coach, and I don’t want to talk to you, you just tell me what to do. And that’s all and it’s like, well, no, I need a little bit of feedback. This is a two way thing. And you know, I get bored, I’m bored as well. Like, if you’re not gonna tell me what’s going on, if you’re not uploading files, if you’re not doing that, giving me a call replying to a text, like from the same, same thing, like if a coach were doing that and not being responsive, if an athlete is unresponsive, I’ve had a couple have said like, Listen, you’re not, you’re not toeing the line on your side, you’re not holding up your end of the bargain that again, I’m committing time and energy to work with you. If you’re not interested in working with me, let’s let’s make sure you find a better fit. Because as a coach, there’s


Trevor Connor  52:05

two types of athletes that you coach, there’s one that you secretly wish would call you a little less. And then there’s the athlete that you wish would call you a lot more. No, I


Neal Henderson  52:13

get Goldilocks clients, baby, I just find that find that one right in the middle. They called just enough text just enough. That’s the goal. How many texts a day is enough? Is it more depends on the day, okay. Some days, it could be 20 or 30 texts. There’s a lot of stuff going on. And sometimes it’s absolutely zero text for a week.



Yep. Kate Courtney had a really funny story about her coach, and she said that basically now he whenever there’s like a really hard workout on the schedule, he just won’t answer her texts until you know, her workouts done because he knows she’s, and she kind of laughed about it. She’s like, Yeah, I know, he’s, I’m trying to get away out of it or trying to like, you know, Oh, do I have to do all that and so he just doesn’t answer on those days. It’s like, talk to me later, when you’re done with your workout when


Chris Case  53:02

it’s done. That’s a beautiful piece of insight into I mean, talk about an amazing athlete who’s young, he’s she’s the world champion, and yet, she is trying to get out of workouts or she you know, maybe now she’s getting out of workouts, but there are doubts in her mind there. There are things that every it’s great to, to know, to, to hear it again. Even the best athletes in the world. lack confidence at times, they lack maybe some discipline at times, they have those little chinks in the armor,



well not as elevates that. Obviously, she’s physically really gifted. And that’s where a coach really does elevate you to the next level.


Trevor Connor  53:44

Yeah, well, we actually had your coach. So we had Dean on the show not too long ago. We were talking about the psychology side. And he said, all of you out there get to see these athletes when they stand on the Olympic podium and talk about their success because like I see the two years before that, which is all the crying and crying and I don’t think I can do it. And he’s like, that’s the normal mode.


Neal Henderson  54:10

Yeah, absolutely. April 1 a few years ago, I put a massive ride on a rider schedule. It was the end of a blog. They were getting ready for a series of races and and they texted like, Is this an April Fool’s joke. And I didn’t even realize that it was April 1, I put this hardest workout they had ever, you know, that I had ever asked them to do is like, Oh, no, sorry. No, not a joke. It’s it’s a big one. Good luck.



Mm hmm. Like,


Neal Henderson  54:36

because they knew I sometimes add a sense of humor. Yeah, in a way that you know, is like, are you serious about Oh, yeah, that wasn’t seriously. Not not a joke.


Trevor Connor  54:46

We talked several episodes back with Ned over and about longevity and cycling. Despite his decades of success net has never worked with a coach. Let’s listen again to his answer when we asked him why


Chris Case  54:59

After all, this success you’ve had you’ve never had, we’ve never really had a coach. I’m curious if you’ve ever thought to yourself, would I be even better if I did.



Um, I do think that, except I think one of the one of the reasons for my longevity is that I trained the way I want to, and it’s worked well. For me. The problem with having a coach is that, for sure, it’s going to add structure to my training, and my unstructured style of training, I think it’s one of the things that does help keep me enthusiastic about about riding, you develop a relationship with a coach, and I’m always afraid that I’m gonna let the coach down, because I’m gonna, you know, I’m not gonna follow his plan, because I won’t want that kind of structure, you know, it’ll add extra stress to it, right, because I’ll be telling the stress that this guy wants me to train this way today. And I don’t want to train that way today.


Chris Case  56:00

Yeah, there’s something to be said about maintaining the the fun of why you do this to begin with.


Trevor Connor  56:07

I’m just gonna quickly interject here as the coach and say that a good coach realizes that the workouts are 10% of it. And if all you’re doing is telling an athlete do this Tuesday, this Wednesday, this Thursday, I think you’re missing out on a lot of it. And a big part of being a good coach is recognizing what makes each athlete tick and work with that. So a good coach working with you would realize, giving him a bunch of wattage numbers and telling them what to do every day is actually going to be counterproductive, and more work with you in the way that you like to train. All that being said, if you had come to me and said, coach me, and now that I’ve had this conversation with you and seen a lot of information about you, most of my response would be you have really perfected it, and you are doing exactly what they are saying you should be doing. So, you know, my answer is I’m not sure you would see that much of an improvement with a coach.



Yeah, I don’t doubt a coach. And like you say, a good coach is going to just try and fine tune what you’re doing right and and little changes what you’re doing wrong when you haven’t athletes that it’s had some success.


Trevor Connor  57:21

All right, back to the show.


Chris Case  57:23

Should we talk about money? Do you want to talk about specifics of money? How much should people be paying for coaches? Is that a topic we want to dive into a little bit?


Trevor Connor  57:33

So you know, Chris paid me What a helmet and a used bike computer. I


Chris Case  57:37

know, I didn’t know that stuff. Now that’s





Chris Case  57:42

a recall, but they’re borrowed from from brands, their test, you’re testing them, you don’t realize you have to write reviews about all these products.


Trevor Connor  57:49

So you’re actually not paying me at all speeds back


Neal Henderson  57:51

exactly the opposite. You’re being charged? Yeah. Ah, well, I can jump. Yeah, sure, let’s sometimes free is what you pay for it, you know, you get the value out of that on everything. That being said, you know, free training plans. And some of those things are often it’s it, you know, it’s a gateway drug to getting into coaching, you know, so I mean, people out there offering treat free training plans and things like that, for me, as a coach is not a negative I, again, I can’t go to everyone in the world, I don’t want to go to everyone in the world, I don’t think every coach wants every client. And so having something that’s a starting point, like that is good. I believe, you know, some of what we think about you know, those those people who are like, just write training plans, as they call themself coach, I think the jobs are at risk very soon. You can call it whatever you want, whether it’s AI, machine learning, all those kind of things, something that actually will be responsive to how your body is going. And it’s going to be plans that are going to be semi automated soon and fully automated, that are actually probably better, in some cases of planning out specific workouts, but they’re still not going to be coaching you. So for me, as a coach, I’m excited for that period of time and a few years where I don’t have to spend quite as much time on that planning and looking and analyzing, but I have more time to be able to communicate guide skills, like do those things in coaching that I believe are the bigger value where that that knowledge and experience can be transferred more effectively, if they’re paying me to just write plans. Again, I think that’s, you know, you don’t charge a whole lot for that. It’s the other things you bring to the table as a coach that then there can be value for that. And I’ll give one other thing when some athletes, you know, if they’re looking for a coach who you know, does only coach and that’s what they do. And they’re like, well, how many athletes do you have? Like, okay, about this many? It’s like, Okay, well, if you’re charging that amount, like okay, if that’s your job, you look at that salary, think of the number of athletes, the amount you’re willing to pay them, what’s that salary? Would you be comfortable with that person actually be able to live in the world that they live for that amount of money? Yes or no? If No, well, then is what you’re offering or what that value, you know, it’s a value proposition. So if you don’t want somebody you know, a coach that has 50 athletes, well, then you’re gonna have to pay more than a pittance. Mm hmm.


Trevor Connor  1:00:03

I got sent this really interesting machine learning study where they took a plan from British cycling, and compared it to a computer generated plan and what they didn’t actually put athletes through these two plans. They ran it through the system to see which produce the the optimal balance of CTL and ATL and all the numbers and said, Absolutely, the computer generated plan, got the athlete to a better level on the numbers, and I just read it went, but where’s the day where it snowed? Where’s the day where the athlete got sick? Where’s the day where the athletes struggling and calls up the computer and says, I don’t think I can do this anymore? Yeah,


Neal Henderson  1:00:42

exactly. That adjustment for real life. Like I tell my athletes, when I do write on a training plan, I’m riding in the bubble of a somewhat perfect world. As soon as you see it, you’re now in the real world, we, a lot of times, hitting 8080, or 90% of what’s planned is actually going to yield a higher result than if you try to hold yourself to 100% accountability on everything. And same thing as a coach, I don’t want somebody to do more than they can on a given day. Actually, I can tell you Withrow and Dennis, have worked with them now for, you know, many, many years. And why he’s had more success later is that he’s been able to say, Okay, I’m not just going to do everything and plow through it, you know, no matter what, he listens to his body a little more, and he’ll contact me like, I’m not sure should I do this a because I did that. No, let’s let’s do this instead. And just being more flexible, has helped them be more successful.


Trevor Connor  1:01:34

And actually, as they’re a member, because you worked with a few of the athletes on Team Rio Grande when I was managing the team, you never actually sent them the plan for the week until they had finished the previous week, because you want to see where they were at? Absolutely, yeah, I


Neal Henderson  1:01:47

don’t plan six weeks or four weeks or hardly even two weeks ever. It’s kind of week by week. And sometimes it’s like a couple days. Let’s just see how you’re responding. And then we can you know, flux up or down a little bit. And because sometimes I found that putting things really far in advance, it creates anxiety, and a lot of folks, they’re looking ahead, they’re not just focusing on the right now they’re thinking about the next time they do it, it’s going to be harder or longer this or that, just keeping it here we are this is task right now stay in the moment. And let’s get this done. And then we see how you’re responding. Because training isn’t necessarily about getting the most tired, it’s about getting the greatest response.


Trevor Connor  1:02:25

Armando mistress is the inventor of the exert training software, which has a lot of impressive automated features, including recommending workouts and training routines, I had a chance to ask Armando his thoughts on whether software will replace coaches,



there’s certainly a lot of variables involved. But if you imagine what a coach will do, is coach will make decisions in terms of how they prescribe to training, they make decisions based on the information that they have. And a lot of that information is very precise power data, the interpreted information from the power data, whether that’s, you know, Stress Stress scores, or strain scores and other other information that you gather, you gather from systems. So a lot of that process and, you know, prescribing workouts for a particular individual based on their capacity and their targets, a lot of that can be improved, and automated through software. So we’re already showing how we can, you know, prescribe workouts that are highly individualized for an athlete with very precise targets with very precise recovery targets, things that would take a coach a long time to kind of assess, we do it inherently within the software. So some parts of that are kind of certainly areas that we could, let’s say, provide greater coaching services to greater individuals, because we can we can make this all automated, right? But that so that it can be either in the hands of an individual or a hands of a coach, so the coach can maybe find their, the time it takes for them to kind of manage their athletes can be dramatically reduced, right? Because they can rely on software to perform things, you know, that they’ve been doing themselves. But there’s all the subjective aspects of coaching, that cannot be replaced. Right, right. Yeah. So that’s really the what is one of the key areas that really cannot be replaced by any kind of software’s. This is a subjective interpretation of an athlete, right. So how do you motivate the athlete? How do you encourage the athlete? How do you give them tactics that they can use within a race? how did how did the tactics suggest over time based upon how they’re feeling and how they’re reacting? All these things are all areas that a coach can provide tremendous value outside of just examining the numbers and making decisions based upon the numbers, you know, that the software can do and you can do for the coach or for the athlete. And I think coaches of the best coaches are really the ones that know how to how to bring out the best in their athletes, not just in terms of how to do the training, but also in terms of preparing them for their events and giving them the confidence that that, you know, they can perform and be at their best, you know, the other side is, is that the like I was saying the software can provide a way to automate, right? Allow the coach to coach more people and provide these other subjective value to more individuals, right. So we can rely on the software to do a lot of the manual work that they were doing in the past, and allow them to really focusing focus in on the things that are most important to to the athlete in terms of their confidence and ability to perform.


Trevor Connor  1:05:32

Okay. Neil, you actually touched on this, but I think about two months ago, back in August, Chris and I were recording a podcast with Dr. Pruitt and he commented that even if you have the best coach in the world, you should change coaches, just to get different approaches, different perspectives, his recommendation was about every three years and athletes should change coaches. So how do you feel about this?


Neal Henderson  1:05:58

Uh, maybe? I’m not gonna say the whole scale. Yes. Because it typically, you know, with a lot of the athletes, it takes a year of ramp up to understand them pretty well. If you have the right fit, if you have the Goldilocks coach athlete relationship, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. So I think that in some cases, yeah, it’s definitely not fitting, if you’re not in the Goldilocks, if you’re not in that zone, then for sure, you should change it. And I wouldn’t wait three years, you know, I get, you know, make that change sooner than later. But that said, it is a little bit of fits and starts a lot of time in the first few months until you kind of fit till you find that groove with a given coach, a little bit of Okay, this is definitely working. And this is what we do. And, and it can work for a while. And I think, you know, I don’t think there’s a term limit of three years that like, now you need someone else. I mean, I’ve had athletes that for sure didn’t have their greatest success till after working together for many years, Flora Duffy, I started coaching her in 2009. And she won her first world title then in 2014, I believe in exterra. And and, you know, two world titles and in 2015, and 2016. So it took a little while if we had given up after three years, or she said, Okay, I need a new one or a different one. I’m not sure, you know, we would have lost out, you know, she might have lost out on some of the momentum that was building up and building up. And you know, there was different situations. She was in school. So so he was split between training and racing. And so I think they were that three year term limit or three year limit, you know, but over time changes. Yes, I do not coach for now. And I haven’t you know, it’s been over a year, or about a year now. And and that’s, you know, that’s good. Okay, it was time, it was time for that change in burn.


Trevor Connor  1:07:42

So record watch, and we promise we won’t let Dean Listen to this. What’s your thoughts? Well, I’m



really go back to where we started with my example of a marriage. And so should you should you take a break from your marriage every three years? If it’s if it’s a good one? No, if it’s a bad one, maybe. But you know, you think about any good, important relationship like that, there are things that I would factor into what Dr. Pruitt said is that in a marriage, for example, it is important to take a break and travel with your girlfriends sometimes and do things on your own and have your own activities sometimes and, and there’ll be a cycles in my offseason, where Dina and I don’t talk and I do take a break from him. And the other part of a really healthy relationship, long term relationship, like a marriage or a really good coaching. One is that it’s constantly evolving. And that means that you are educating yourself and you’re reading up on stuff and Dean continues to study. So it’s not like I would say yes, if the relationship stayed the same, then you you take what you can from it, and then you change to somebody else and elevate the experience. But it really is a positive give and take relationship. It’s evolving every three years anyway. And so it’s not where I started with Dean is not where I am now. And you know, I’m married to I don’t feel the need to take to leave my husband after three years, but I feel a need to change and evolve and take a break and keep learning together.


Chris Case  1:09:09

Let’s try to boil everything we’ve talked about down in this last hour and 15 minutes. Let’s boil it down into one minute for Neil, one minute for Rebecca, woman for Trevor. Let’s start with Neil you’re on the clock but you don’t have to actually look at the clock Neil but


Neal Henderson  1:09:27

very literal person isn’t going to give me one minute Okay, I


Chris Case  1:09:30

gotta get all right in a minute. Here’s your minute. What are those key take homes that people should take away from this discussion?


Neal Henderson  1:09:37

I’m looking for a coach is is a bit of a journey. You’re going to have to take into account a lot of different things in what that person is who they are, what they can provide you do they have a right matched set of skills, knowledge experience to be able to help guide you to what your goals are. Make sure that in finding that person that your first thing is the relations friendship and being able to be open honest and have good communication. Second to that then is being able to find out what what method of working together is going to be most effective for for you and them that’s going to lead you to have those successes and and and for the, you know, for the coach and athlete to share in those kinds of things and and when it’s not working well, to be able to have that conversation those hard conversations of Okay, it’s not going well what do we need to change and not anyone get defensive about that? It’s like, okay, we need to change and not being afraid of of switching things up moving things around and continuing to move forward in just like any, any relationship, it’s not always going to be smooth. But if it’s going the right direction, you got the right stuff.


Chris Case  1:10:45

Very good. Rebecca, you’re on the clock. You got one minute, I heard you scribbling down some notes. Maybe? Yeah, maybe you were writing a poem or something? I don’t really know. But I assume it’s about our conversation. So take it away.



Well, like any you give any, like, sort of type a person, one minute, you know, and then we’re all just like, Oh, my gosh, okay, I have one minute. three minute intervals is a one minute interval.


Trevor Connor  1:11:15

You’re now down to 48 seconds. Yeah, you better really scary here.



No, no



way is to, to treat a great coaching relationship is like a great marriage or any great relationship. But it takes work, it takes the right kind of people together takes collaboration takes tough love, it takes hugs. But really, it really is a relationship that is his give and take. And when you hit the magic, it really does elevate your performance to levels that you couldn’t even imagine you become a better person, a better athlete. And the last thing I will say is that everyone, any level of athlete can from a total beginner to an Olympic elite can benefit from a from a coach, and that human performance is human performance. And so don’t sell yourself short thinking that you don’t deserve a coach.


Trevor Connor  1:12:03

Very good driver. So Chris, and I have a friend who worked at a very large coaching center. And he told us that basically, the coach does an interview with the athlete at the very beginning. And then they figure out you’re a writer type to F and then they have this computer system that punches out a big plan for you, which they give you knowing full well, you’re never going to execute it perfectly. So if you come back and say at the end of the season, I didn’t hit my goals. I didn’t accomplish what I hope to accomplish. They just say, Well, you didn’t follow the plan perfectly. That’s bad coaching.





Trevor Connor  1:12:39

So what you I think, heard here that I think is the big message is the plan. The what to do day by day, week by week is 10% of coaching, the rest of the interaction, it’s the the trust all these things that can’t be put down on a calendar. So look for those things.


Chris Case  1:13:00

Very good. I guess I come at it from a slightly different perspective, because I’m so lousy coach. I’m not a coach. But I guess I was a coach of myself for many years, I wouldn’t even say I was in the traditional sense. I just rode my bike and I happen to be do stuff, I did stuff. And sometimes it clicked sometimes it didn’t. But as I mentioned recently, I am working with a coach, his name is Trevor, he’s sitting at this table. I think that from my perspective, for those out there that have always thought I don’t really need a coach or I don’t want to work with a coach because I don’t want to deal with that relationship, or it’s whatever. I think there’s nothing to be intimidated by it. There’s also that maybe those those athletes out there that have that attitude, like oh, I I want to do everything on my own, I can do this. I don’t need a coach, I don’t need this help. Well, as we’ve all been talking about in this podcast, and Rebecca has mentioned several times that right coach for you will elevate your level to or take you to that next level that you maybe even didn’t know was there was out there. So maybe that was a bit of a rambling answer in one minute. But I would just say don’t be intimidated. If you’re going to give it a try. Make sure you find the right person and then let the magic happen. That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. While you’re there. Check out our sister podcast velonews podcast which covers news about the week in cycling. Become a fan of Fast Talk on slash velonews and on slash velonews. Fast talk is a joint production between the velonews and Connor coaching. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual For Rebecca rush, Neil Henderson. NET over and Armando Staci Dean goldrich Kiran O’Grady,



Sep coos Who am I forgetting?


Chris Case  1:15:12

Oh, Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening