It takes a village to build an optimized athlete—and today, we’re looking at the laundry list of experts who can all play a part in making you faster and stronger on the bike or run, or whatever your sport may be. You may want to enlist the help of all of these people, or maybe just one or two. You might have single consults with them, or start a long-term relationship. There are infinite ways to use each expert (and combination thereof) to get stronger as an athlete, and we wanted to list the few that we believe are worth working with at some point in your athletic career.
Now, this is the most obvious, but we didn’t want to skip listing coaches, since a good coach can also typically help you put this whole team together. A coach is responsible for working with you to plan out training that fits into your life while also making you better/faster/stronger and helping you hit your goals. At its simplest, a coach will tell you what workouts to do, when. But a coach is also going to be along for the ride, cheering you on and celebrating victories with you, helping you navigate rough patches, working with you to pivot your training and goals as life changes, et cetera. Whether you have a more casual monthly training plan or daily level coaching, a coach is going to help map out your journey based on your needs.
If you’ve struggled to lose weight or dealt with digestive issues on the bike, a registered dietitian (particularly one versed in sports nutrition) can be a huge help. (Note that some nutritionists are going to be awesome and are fabulously well-informed, but only a registered dietitian has any school / practice requirements, while ‘nutritionist’ can be applied to anyone. Read more about the differences here.) It’s great if your coach can recommend someone here, since again, there is such a huge range of experts out there and ideally, you want one who understands the rigors of your training. You might work with one once, just for some recommendations, or you may do regular check-ins.
Often, people aren’t lacking in training, they’re struggling with mental skills, whether in race or just during workouts. A sports psych—or a regular, more standard therapist—can be a great resource for helping you optimize the work that you are doing, and to help you get out of your own way. And like a nutritionist, this might be a one-time thing, or a regular appointment you continue. (If you’re strapped for cash, a book like The Brave Athlete that’s packed with sports psych advice and worksheets is a solid starting point.)
Recurring saddle sores? Knees that hurt after mile 25? A sore hip post-ride every day? A stabbing pain in your neck? Yep, these are all signs you need a bike fit. And sometimes, your bike fit will evolve over time, so make sure you’re always thinking about how comfortable you’re feeling while you pedal, and be willing to go in for check-ins/tune-ups/re-adjustments.
Your regular coach who does your programming may or may not fit the bill in this case, but if you’re in a discipline that requires some element of skills (swimming or cycling of any type), you may want to consider adding some skills coaching on top of regular programming.
Check it out: Bike Skills
You may not need one right this second, but there may come a time where a serious injury or even just a nagging little niggle that isn’t going away could require a visit to a physical therapist. They aren’t all created equal, so this is a great place to be able to ask your coach or close athlete friends for recommendations. (This could also be an osteopath, kinesiologist, massage therapist or chiropractor.)
A doctor who actually listens to you and wants you to succeed in sport, not just survive, is key if you have any lingering health issues. A good doctor can do things like requisition bloodwork or send you to certain specialists and make sure that it’s covered under your insurance. Having a doctor you can talk to is SO important!