One of the things I’ve loved most about graduate school is learning more about the components of quality research. Quality research is typically well planned, tightly controlled, and precisely measured. Planning, control, and precision allow a researcher to say with some measure of confidence that what they are observing is a result of a specific training intervention as opposed to an external variable.
In essence, the process of conducting research is identical to intelligent training. Getting faster and stronger in any sport is about conducting research on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Much of this research has already been conducted and can be found in books, magazines, online forums, peer-reviewed journals, or personal anecdotes, but the real research happens when an athlete intelligently trains over months and years and finds what works best for them.
A power meter greatly enhances the quality of this training research by controlling for variables such as wind speed, elevation, rolling resistance, temperature etc., while reporting the one performance metric that matters most: power into the pedals. Investing in a power meter allows an athlete to quite simply perform more reliable research applicable to the population that matters most: the individual.
With this in mind the role of a cycling coach should be to help each individual athlete conduct quality research. Since each athlete is unique, each training plan should offer a high degree of individuality. At their best, a coach is able to synthesize a background in exercise science, personal experience, and a highly flexible listening ear into a training plan that clearly and efficiently produces a research environment most conducive to success.
While a coach might have an idea about effective training methods demonstrated in prior research, what matters most is whether or not you are seeing repeatable and measureable results in your personal research laboratory. Are you getting stronger and faster? Are you consistently nailing workouts and feeling motivated to train? If not then your research is telling you you might need to try something different.
In short, a coach’s roll should be that of a head researcher, someone who leverages their knowledge and experience to ensure a training environment that gives an athlete the best chance for individual success. That’s the process of conducting smart research and inevitably reaching your maximum potential as an athlete.
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Nate Dunn, M.S.
Data Driven Athlete