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The partnership forged between Dig Deep Coaching and CyclingTips in July 2014 will extend to Ella. We’re pleased to introduce you to Ciara MacManus. The Dig Deep coach hails from Ireland and is the reining Irish MTB XC champion. Her main passion is the dirt, but her experiences span across all disciplines, and she has generously raised her hand to answer any questions you have about training.
While CyclingTips will continue to field questions for our male readers, Ciara is on hand to tackle questions from our women’s community. Before she answers any of your questions, we threw five questions her way so you could get to know her a bit better.
Have questions for Ciara? Ask them in the comments section or send us an email at email@example.com with the subject line: “Dig Deep Coaching question – Ella” and we’ll pass it along to Ciara. She’ll answer select questions in the first instalment of this series slated for mid-February.
1. How did you get into the sport? What is your athletic background?
I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors lifestyle since I was very young. We travelled a lot with my dad’s work and got to live in parts of the world where we would be camping, hiking, swimming at an early age.
At school I was captain of the hockey team but it wasn’t until I went to University that I discovered cycling and more specifically mountain biking. Initially I would use the bike to get in and out of college but after reading a couple of mountain bike magazines that a friend had I got curious about the possibility of taking a bike off road and into the mountains. I’m also pretty lucky that I live right beside a large lump of volcanic rock that rises from sea level to 400m above Belfast known as the Cavehill, which is one of the best places to ride a bike off road I know.
I started racing in the late 90’s but had to take a back step for a few years due to work commitments before taking up competitive cycling again in 2002 and was a member of the Irish National MTB team in 2006 & 2007. Since then I’ve developed a passion for endurance events and stage racing. I’m two time Irish MTB marathon champion, although I haven’t limited myself just to the long distance events being also two times Irish cyclocross champion and current Irish MTB XC champion in 2013 & 2014. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy road racing, I’ve competed a number of local and national road races including the Ras na mBann international women’s road stage race in Ireland, however my strengths and passion seems to be in off road riding.
2. Why are you drawn to cycling?
Being a competitive person I would have probably ended up competing at some level of sport. I don’t think I was drawn to cycling per se. Like many people I know, I took it up as a practical means of transport, then it became a “fitness thing”, but when I realised that cycling opens up so many more experiences than just going from A to B that’s when it became my “sport”.
Cycling is a very different experience to the team sports I played at school. It allows you to develop as an individual athletically and also affords a sense of freedom and adventure, opening up the world to a whole new range of possible challenges, challenges which are so wide ranging, from the beginner hoping to complete their first 30km cycle to the enthusiast hoping to complete the Etape Du Tour or the elite riding aiming for a World Championship. Biking has taken me to many different countries around the world and introduced me to so many different people with one common interest – bikes!
3. How did you get into coaching?
I’ve always been passionate about wanting to encourage other people to get on their bikes and experience the excitement of cycling and mountain biking. Initially I did the Scottish Mountain Bike Leader’s qualification and became a qualified guide and skills coach. As my racing career progressed and I experienced the gains that came with structured scientific based coaching, I became more and more enthusiastic about sharing my skills and experience with local riders, assisting with women’s development training camps for our regional cycling body and running the Irish National MTB development team in 2010 – 2011. When Dig Deep Coaching approached me, I jumped at the idea of working with such an experienced and progressive thinking team.
4. What are would you consider your expertise?
Mountain biking is my primary bike sport both in terms of skills coaching and sports coaching. Having competed successfully in short MTB cross country races, MTB enduro races, longer MTB marathon races and MTB stage races I’ve built up a pretty good knowledge of all of these disciplines. Having raced competitively on the road and in cyclocross, I understand the demands of each of these forms of bike riding, too. As a female rider, I also understand the needs and requirements of fellow women riders. I’ve built up quite a range of experience, so perhaps you could say that’s where my expertise is.
5. What training/coaching issues are unique to women?
Good question. In general terms the same training principles which are used to train men apply equally to women. In my coaching experience with women the main differences between the two sexes are more related to the male/female psychology than physiology. Cycling has traditionally been a male dominated sport so for men the adoption or transition to bike riding from other sports is a fairly easy step as there is a good support network of other male riders. Female riders often do not have that same level of support due to their lower numbers. For example when I started mountain bike riding I found myself the only woman on the trails for several years. Thankfully now this is changing more every year.
Once involved in cycling, female riders are more likely to require more encouragement and support as they can often lack a level of self-confidence that seems to come naturally with male riders; however, female riders will often listen to advice and coaching more readily and subsequently adopt this advice/coaching quicker and will also be more patient in their outcomes. For women who have families time management can be an important aspect of coaching and training, with the goal to balance training with child, family and work responsibilities.
Dig Deep Coaching is a global cycling and triathlon coaching company that provides an expert service to a wide range of athletes who simply wish to improve towards a goal. The Dig Deep team includes a wide range of coaches and specialists who help every athlete perform better with targeted and specific coaching advice that allows each person to structure their training around their lifestyle. Athletes can take advantage of an extensive range of coaching solutions and packages available to help them maximize their potential as they strive to meet new goals. Dig Deep Coaching has helped athletes worldwide achieve their dreams and demonstrate passion for sport by helping individuals reach their potential.