As an occasional hobby, I used to dabble in a little coaching. I was an excellent coach, even if I was often, perhaps even invariably, let down by my clients.
My carefully worked out programmes were designed to make them faster. Instead, quite a few of them got ill, some of them got injured, and virtually all of them got angry.
Many gave up cycling altogether, and I think it would be fair to say that none of them are still on speaking terms with me, unless you count communication that arrives via a solicitor. Any attempt to explain that I was cheap, so at least they’d got their misery for a bargain price, fell on deaf ears.
In retrospect I came to the conclusion that many of my clients didn’t really want a cycling coach at all. They wanted something closer to a cycling friend, one who would listen patiently to their endless bloody whining about how tired they were yet how slowly they still rode.
Then it struck me; that the relationship they really wanted was with what we might call a ‘cycling therapist’. And I think that maybe one day I’ll set myself up as one.
Instead of a couch, I’ll have an office with a virtual reality turbo-trainer and a big screen to show you your favourite ride. You’ll be able to pedal away, slide into a relaxed frame of mind, and I’ll ask you what seems to be bothering you.
“I’ve been training hard for years,” you might tell me, “but I don’t seem to get any better. I work and work, yet at every event I ride there are still dozens and dozens of riders who are faster than me.”
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I’ll say sympathetically, while doodling a picture of a cat in my notepad, “You have to remember to look down as well as up. There will be many more slower than you than there are faster than you. Don’t forget that there are plenty who look up to the athletic prowess of riders like you.”
“Really? Other bike riders regard me an athlete?”
“Dear God, not actual bike riders,” I’ll say. “I was thinking about the sort of people who spend all day watching Jeremy Kyle and picking frankfurters out of their rolls of body fat. They might look up to you. Though they probably don’t because they think you ought to pay road tax and insurance. Do you have a dog? That might be a better example.”
Or perhaps relationship advice. I can imagine you might say, “My wife doesn’t understand my relationship with cycling.”
“Well, that’s very common,” I’ll say. “Cycling is often a source of tension. But tell me, do you feel that she understands everything else about you?”
“Now you mention it, not really.”
“So maybe the issues with cycling are symptomatic of a completely failing relationship? Perhaps it’s time to give up on you your wife, and focus on making your cycling work?”
“Gee, thanks Doc. I hadn’t seen it that way.”
Or you might worry about something much simpler: “I’m just rubbish at cycling, doctor.”
I’ll nod wisely. “Yes, you are. You’re appalling. But look at the rest of your life. It’s even worse. You’re a disaster at your job, your family despises you, and the handful of friends you have usually go out to the pub in secret so you won’t come with them. Taken in a full context, your cycling, however dreadful it is, is still the thing you do best.”
“Thanks, Doc. I feel much better about my riding now. Of course, I feel a bit worse about everything else.”
“That’s not my department,” I’ll say. “And that will be £100 please.”