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Interview with USA Head Endurance Coach John Cheetham


What has been your proudest coaching moment so far?
That can be difficult as the easy answer would be seeing an athlete win a national title or make a national team selection, but very recently I ran a trail race with a couple athletes, one of which knocked 20 minutes off her best half marathon time. Sometimes when you know the whole back story and the specific challenges a racer has had to navigate in the last few months, that’s the success story that is the most gratifying personally.

How do you feel you are different from other coaches?
I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with some of the best coaches in Northern California on projects like the Beginning Racer Program / Earlybirds, the USAC West Coast Talent ID camps, the Hellyer Juniors Program, and the Aguascalientes Records Camp., We ALL bring our unique style to the table, which mixed together has been fantastic for the athletes who are truly the end user.

I’m personally more of a mellow coach that makes connections and might not be too rigid at first , but at some point I’ll hold a racer very accountable. I am very unshakeable in times of stress or chaos and thrive on quickly adapting when things go off plan.

I’d also say that while almost every coach I know has a deep drive to win, and I’m no exception, my personal goal is to be the best LISTENER to my athletes.

What little things do you get your riders to do that makes a big impact to their results?
This can kind of mix with the next question, but I  focus on lifestyle changes outside of the training. Many people will say body composition changes are 90 percent diet and 10 percent training, I think it’s closer to 80/20, but if you don’t have a solid foundation the house will be shaky.

Sleeping enough is key. I could simply just keep repeating that! Benefits are across the board, so building a great habit of sleep hygiene is one of the first ones I look at, and one that can be a personal challenge for me with my crazy schedule. I caught an excellent podcast last week on it here

Diet is right up there with sleep, I’m kind of obsessed with food, both on a macro scale as in solving world hunger and living within our planet, and micro, as in making sure my athletes are eating enough protein (yes, even the enduros). I love to eat and dealt with issues as a child by overeating, so for me re setting my entire thought process around food has been revolutionary.  I like to personally eat high nutrient/ low calorie/ plant- based and I encourage my riders to do the same. I use food logging software and don’t really count calories but instead encourage building good habits and relationships around food.

The last one I’d like to talk about is listening to your body. We all need to recognize that we have outside stressors influencing our performance at any time, especially the AG athletes.. If you are stressed at work, driving acouple hours a day, and fighting with your SO , your body isn’t going to care where that stress is coming from. It’s important to recognize this and take action, this can range from going for a walk at lunchtime on a busy day to re setting the evening workouts goals. It’s a long road, treat yourself well.

What are 3 things your better athletes regularly do?
First: they communicate. In this day and age we can text/ Skype/ WhatsApp/ email/ Training Peaks App… the ways to get feedback and solve problems are endless. Balancing data with feedback gives the athlete and the coach  a much better experience.

Second: they download their data every day. They mark the intervals, they leave comments.  I’ve been logging my rides on Training Peaks since they opened the online business in 2003 I believe? I have Annual Training Plans going back a long ways!

Third: they trust the process and ask questions about it. I think coaches arein the information and education business as much as the motivational or exercise physiology business. I NEVER feel bothered discussing and communicating why we are doing something at a certain time. There are times in training when it’s very easy to doubt the process, I know and expect that.

What advice would you give to a beginner just starting out now?
Ride a lot, try a lot of things. Race a cyclocross race or go to your local velodrome for a beginner session. Meet good people that do the things you like to do and have fun.  In 1996  I started mountain biking on a rented hardtail in gym shorts, then bought a Rockhopper and ran a 5K in Golden Gate park a few months later. I’ve done tons of awesome events and found myself in some high level competition at times, but I still enjoy just going for a ride.

When you get ready to speed up the learning curve give me a call, I’ll be happy to help.

What is your favourite coaching memory?
Buying popsicles for the kids after a  particularly hot  juniors session in July at Hellyer Velodrome 🙂

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