Nora Richards

Should I Follow My Training Program to a “T”?



Something that I’ve learned on my journey to becoming a pro athlete is that I, personally, do not train well without a coach. If I have coach that I trust, I follow my training program exactly as its given to me, no questions asked. However, this mentally can become a unhealthy compulsion that leads to overtraining.

After training with my coach obsessively for nine months, I fell sick and was forced to take two weeks off. Afterwards, I suddenly had a TON of energy, more strength than I remembered I could have, and I was happier. I realized that I had been severely, chronically fatigued for a long time, and had continued training simply because my training program told me to. My race results had suffered, my mental state had suffered, and my fitness had suffered, simply because I had followed my training to a ‘T.”

This balance between following your training program and following your instincts is something that many athletes struggle with, and one that both rider and coach need to address in their correspondences. Most coaches agree that only the rider herself really knows what’s going on with her body, and yet we hire coaches so that we don’t have to think about that. The compromise, usually, is that the rider should tell the coach exactly how they feel, in as much detail as possible, and the coach will analyze and rewrite their program from there.

There’s one issue with this though: pride and social expectation. Many are unable to distance themselves from the information that they give to their coaches. With me, for example, I feel like I’m whining and making excuses if I say “I feel tired,” too often. By saying “I feel tired,” you put pressure on the coach to make compromises for that. Good coaches should probably be able to say when you should just deal with it an push through, and when you should rest. Nonetheless, the social pressure to fulfill both people’s expectations and needs is there.

The conclusion, thus, is this: you need to do what feels right to you, and what works best for you. If following your program verbatim makes you feel less guilty and more optimistic about your progress, as it does to me, you should follow the program verbatim and just do your best to communicate with your coach. If you’re following an online training program or feel like your instincts are better than what a coach can give you, do what you feel is best for you.