MLK, Jr said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It’s why many of us race or try a group ride or otherwise push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. While we’re bound to fail at times, especially in the beginning, it’s how we learn and how we, eventually, improve. For Craig Strong, local multisport coach, his lessons not only shaped his athletic career but his professional career.
In college, Craig joined the swim team. While he came to swimming much later in life than most competitive swimmers do, he got great guidance and direction from the assistant coaches on the team who made time for him. He learned quickly the value that comes from focused coaching. That lesson would stick with him.
With a love for swimming, Craig sought more challenges. Eventually he came to triathlon. Craig’s first triathlon competition was fraught with frustrations. “The race organizers canceled the swim. To make up, they extended the run to 5 miles.” In Craig’s words, “It was a disaster. All of the things you can do wrong, I did. I went out too fast and struggled the whole race.”
While Craig learned a lot from his failures at that first race, he also realized how unprepared he was in this new territory. Harkening back to his college swimming experience, he made the decision to hire a coach. The person he found “was someone who beat me by three hours.” Craig learned more under his coach’s guidance than he could have on his own. Craig explained, “That experience grew into my life. I learned how valuable it could be to get guidance, coaching and training on your plans to compete.”
Craig decided he wanted to be the one to help others achieve their training goals. He’s now been coaching for more than 20 years and helping cyclist and multi-sport athletes with their training for over a decade. In the past three years, Craig has significantly increased the quantity and caliber of his coaching with multi-sport athletes with his business Precision Multisport.
Not all of his clients are podium-level competitors seeking an edge. Many are in the same place Craig found himself, before or after their first triathlon experience, realizing that they too can benefit from the wisdom of an experienced guide. Whether triathletes, cyclists or swimmers, most of us could benefit from the professional direction of a trainer or coach to take our conditioning to a new level.
This is the time of year many Higher Gear customers think about how we can elevate our cycling in advance of the next season. Many of us are heading indoors. We’re ready to commit to training. Craig provided very thoughtful direction on this transition. Start with a threshold (FTP/AT/LT) test. Craig explains:
“When you go indoors on a single trainer or hit an occasional spin class, you can just get lost. You really should start a coaching regimen with an objective field test. After a good warm-up and then some accelerations to help prepare the body, the athlete should ride all out for 20-minutes. It allows us to examine their heart rate and determine their lactate threshold, how fast or strong they can be for an hour. understand how high can they get their maximum heart rate. From which point you can determine proper training zones.”
While heart rate is one measure of performance, there are more accurate ones available. “Indoors, riding on a CompuTrainer, it is much easier to get an objective field test. We can get the cyclist riding and quickly identify their maximum power output or wattage. Power is the best measure. We can look and show the rider, ‘This is how much work you did.’” Over time, you can also go back and say, “Look at how much you’ve improved.”
If you are ready to take your riding to a new level, consider a good coach and certainly seek out a CompuTrainer studio to ride. This is where the real accountability is compared to spinning. Craig outlined, “When you take someone who has been spinning for a while, throw them on a bike or on a CompuTrainer and they are shocked. Quickly they realize this is real work and the best way to get faster.”
Some people might think that they aren’t ready for coaching, that only “serious” athletes need a coach. Not so, says Craig. “Some people do like to be told what to do. Others just want confidence that they are doing the right thing. Still others simply thirst for the accountability – someone to push them out the door.” The right coach and indoor training environment can handle all these types of riders.
“If you need confidence, accountability, someone to help you execute the plan and provide objective feedback, a coach can be a big help.” Craig added, “Any level athlete can work with a trainer or coach and get a benefit.” And sometimes a coach can help you guide you through some of the harder lessons – so you don’t have to learn them on your own.