How To: Race Review for the Self-Coached Athlete

Not everyone can afford a coach nor does everyone want a coach. For those of you who are self-coached, it’s imperative to constantly review your performance in order to continually improve and learn how our bodies operate.

Self-coached athletes have a hard job. Not only are you in charge of your performance, but you’re accountable for creating a training plan, executing it, and objectively reviewing it constantly.

After a race, do you have a one-on-one review with yourself? Do you objectively critique your performance? Do you assess where you can improve? Do you congratulate yourself for accomplishing different goals you set for that race? Or do you go back home and think nothing of it until the next race and then find yourself making the same mistakes?

Here’s a list of five factors to consider when reviewing race performance:

Trust your instinct

You know yourself better than anyone. As a self-coached athlete, you need to learn to trust your instinct. That’s what Lizzy Armistead does as a self-coached athlete. When reviewing your performance after a race, think about how your body felt. When riding within the group, how did your legs feel? How was your heart rate? Was your breathing sporadic or controlled? How thirsty were you?

In general, how did your body feel during the race? Break it down by laps, by miles, or by the minutes. Did you feel great at the beginning, but 10 minutes into the race, it felt like you were wading through the mud? Did your legs give out in the sprint finish? Taking into account how your body felt before, during, and after the race and trusting your instinct can help you with recovery and adjusting your training plan.

Don’t just listen to your body. What was your mind telling you? How did you feel lining up for the race? Were you dreading it? Excited? Tired? Bored? What were some of the prevailing thoughts running through your mind during the race? Were you doubting your abilities? If you notice your self-talk game is weak, that’s something to consider improving through the season. Your body is only as strong as your mind.


Establish a healthy level of analysis. What I mean here is that you don’t want to overanalyze your performance because you’re keen to become “paralyzed” insofar as “paralysis by analysis.” When we analyze too much, we no longer know what’s best for us. We end up not making any sort of decision because we’re weighing too many factors. As a self-coached athlete, you need to be aware of analyzing too much or too little. 

On the other hand, some analysis is healthy and absolutely necessary to become better. After a race, look at your strengths and weaknesses. You have to look at both. Don’t become so self-critical that you can’t list a single thing you did well (ahem, looking at myself).

What did you do well? Make a list and take note of that. Did you achieve any goals you set for yourself before the race? Write them down.

What didn’t go so well in this race? Did you fail to reach a certain goal you made? Why not? Did you notice areas that you can improve? For example, at the DFC Crit, I lost first place in the sprint finish by a tire length. I know that’s something that needs to improve. Find areas to improve and incorporate them into your training plan.

It’s important to look at the whole picture when you’re analyzing your performance. Say you rolled up to the start line and as soon as the race started, your legs were heavy and slow, and you were dropped from the group? List all the possible factors that affected it: nutrition, sleep, rest, overtraining, the previous day’s workout, weather, etc. Look at everything that could have been a factor in your performance – not just one thing. Then start singling out the culprits by process of elimination. Did you wake up well-rested? Nutrition on par? Too hard of a workout the previous day? Being a self-coached athlete means looking at your entire life and scrutinizing what you’re doing (or not).

Be objective

Being objective is probably the hardest part for a self-coached athlete. You’ll have your own biases which will impact how you review your performance. You may be too lenient or too hard on yourself. I’m usually too hard on myself, which makes it challenging to objectively review how I raced. At the DFC Crit, I stayed within the group the whole time. I was in the front for maybe one minute out of the 40 minutes we raced when I attacked (kind of) off the front with one lap to go. My goal was to save my energy so I could win in the sprint finish.

Then I came in second. Part of me says, “You suck at sprints, so stop trying.” The other part says, “Find ways to improve your sprint finish.”

When you analyze your performance after a race, you have to hold yourself accountable. It’s easier to be held accountable by someone else because they’re not going to buy your excuses. Whereas we tend to give ourselves an out: “Well, I was off the front for a while…,” “It was cold out and raining,” “I didn’t have my pre-workout,” blah blah blah. You can’t let yourself get away with excuses. A coach wouldn’t. Neither should you.

So, how do you stay objective? Numbers. Review your numbers like your heart rate and power. You can’t argue with facts. Watching your heart rate helps to see how your body is responding to the stress. Remember that it isn’t immediate. Your heart rate takes a minute to respond to hard efforts, so know that when looking at your data. Was your heart rate through the roof? Was it failing to raise at all? These could be signs of overtraining or fatigue.

If you have a power meter, how did those numbers look? Were they lower than average? Higher than average? If you’ve been able to hold certain watts for a specific period of time and you were nowhere close to that in a race, take note of that. Were you sprinting out of every corner? Maybe that’s why you were so tired when it came down to the finish. Knowing where your watts were can help you determine workouts to incorporate into your training to improve your performance.

Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

After a race, after you’ve analyzed your performance, a self-coached athlete should make goals for the next race. Not just any goal will suffice. You want to set S.M.A.R.T goals. What in the hell is a S.M.A.R.T goal? It’s something that’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Let’s continue to use me. My 5-second power was: 714 watts and my 10-second power was: 592 watts. Since I lost by a tire length, it’s clear that my sprint power needs to improve. What would a SMART goal look like? For shits and giggles, let’s say I’d like to improve my 5- and 10-second sprints by 10%

Specific: Raise my 5-second sprint to: 750 watts and my 10-second sprint to: 651 watts by the end of the month – 5/31/19

Measurable: This can be measured by my power meter

Attainable: It’s not too lofty of a goal to deem it unattainable, so yes, it’s something that can be done.

Realistic: Realistically, can I aim to improve my sprints by 10% in that amount of time? With focus, yeah.

Timely: It’s not too soon and it’s not too long from now, which makes it timely.

Write it down: Improve my 5-second sprint to: 750 watts and my 10-second sprint to: 651 watts by 5/31/19, measuring it with my power meter.

At the end of the month, you analyze again. Did you achieve your goal? If you didn’t, why not? What happened?

As a self-coached athlete, you need to repeat this over and over again by yourself. It’s a lot more work than hiring a coach and having them tell you what to do and following it. You have to hold yourself accountable, be objective, and trust your instinct. With practice, this will start to become second nature.

Disclosure: I’m currently working with a coach, Adam Zimmerman, but I continue to practice these because I know myself best.


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