Friday, 25 January 2013

On the subject of coaching....

I started my musical training at a relatively early age, around 8, going down the common route for kids starting out - recorder, bit of piano and then later, after a dose of choral training, a search for a more mainstream instrument. The bassoon looked like me in shape, it sounded kinda funny, you needed big hands and no-one else played it at the school. Sold.

And so continued a journey that would last 14 years or so. Mentors, supporters and teachers came in and out of my life as I developed as a musician, working my way up through school, borough, county orchestras and then the National Youth Orchestra. Music college followed, some professional engagements and a career as a professional musician beckoned. That it all ended there is the subject of a completely different story, but it is only now that I have realised the relevance of a big part of that story to my cycling exploits.

Pic: Bob McMinn

This realisation has come about through working formally with a coach around my cycling exploits for the first time. I've posted already about mentorship, and my connection with Greg May who runs Stoic Focus Coaching. This relationship just got more formal, in the latter part of my cross season and to good effect, taking Greg's advice and direction around training over the past couple years to it's ultimate end - the relationship of coach and athlete.

Now there is a part of me, the insecure, ego affected, middle-aged family man that finds the whole idea of having a coach for my cycling activities faintly ridiculous. Embarassing even. Coaches are for elite athletes, for winners, for Olympians. Or least wannabe Olympians and winners. Sure I've won a few races in the past, had some good results in the past, flirted with the National Cyclocross Development squad as was but...... I'm not setting the front of any race alight now, even an age-group relevant Veterans race. Why should a coach be of any real benefit and relevance where I am up to now?

Here's the key - it's because I have a passion, a drive, definitely a little bit of an obsession, with 'cross and cycling. Just like I did with music. When I was starting out, and as I went along in music, I just wanted to be better. Perhaps even to be the best. At the very least, the best I could be.

This is how it is with my 'cross - as a 40-something with kids and a non-cycling wife, a job and all the trappings of modern, settled family life my ambitions are not to attain the kind of success I had in music, or even the moderate success I had earlier on the bike. More mundane, more limited, my ambitions now are simply to be the best at what I love with the resources I have available. Because I enjoy the work, because I enjoy the journey. It gives me focus, direction, an inner calm even, to be thinking about a part of my life where along with being a parent, a husband, a worker, I can enjoy developing.

And like my career in music, I've recognised that I could do with some help. Can I enjoy riding and racing without this help? Of course, and I have done for years. But developing a relationship, a coaching relationship with someone has given me a new lease of life and a new enjoyment of something I already enjoyed. Key to that relationship for me is working with a coach that understands my time limitations, my physical limitations but is prepared to push in areas where I can stretch, where I can control what I do or don't do. It would be pointless trying to follow a schedule that the 20-something I was once might have done - I'll end up ill, in marital strife and generally out of balance. All in, I'm keen to look at what I can do, how much I can progress, where things can go with the time I have and that's why I'm particularly revved up to be working this year with Greg and his stoically focused approach.

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