Daniel Matheny: How do I find Balance?

The formation of our U19 regional program in Colorado Springs has been a labor of love and luck.  As Jay Hakala, our CS chapter lead, explained in his story, it was a series of fortuitous events and preparation that led to the right people being in the right places at the right time.

Another key player in this story is coach Daniel Matheny–Summit coach and founder of Matheny Endurance.  He has been an indispensable part of the Summit story in CS, helping to bring the program to fruition and building a foundation of motivated young athletes in the community through his personal coaching business. With years of coaching experience, a background in exercise physiology, and a passion for nutrition and cycling, he has a unique perspective on sports-life balance to share.

Every athlete in every discipline would agree: a good coach is invaluable. The power of guidance and coaching done right can transform a cyclist’s career.

What we too often forget, however, is the value of coaching, not just for developing athletes, but for those who seek to maintain an active and fit life. Striving for elite performance is admirable, but not when it comes at the expense of overall health and wellness. This balance is central to the coaching philosophy of Daniel Matheny, who works with both Summit Athletes and Private Clients in Colorado Springs.

His coaching background has roots not only in competitive cycling, but in exercise physiology and nutrition as well. This unique combination has made him especially sensitive to the demands, both physical and mental, of intense competition on young athletes.

Daniel shares Summit Bike Club’s goals of creating lifelong cyclists and athletes, and is frustrated by how often he sees an “all or nothing” mentality from both the coach’s and athletes’ perspective. Either you make it, and you’re the best, or you fail miserably. The analogy he shared was that our current competitive scene for juniors is like “throwing the eggs against the wall to see which ones crack.” This is not how we should be treating our promising young athletes—”we are burning out way too many kids.” Daniel says.

His underlying philosophy is similar to that of Doug Zakaras, who works with young athletes of all disciplines to develop these functional and foundational strength skills to achieve this balance.  Check out our interview with Doug here!

Instead of a constant go, go, go, Daniel advocates for a balance between training and health.

“The nature of what we are requiring of athletics these days demands so much specificity that it becomes an unhealthy imbalance.” He notes. “How many hours are you logging on the trainer? Are you racing all year long? There is this mentality of just going and going and going.”

His advice to young athletes who find themselves caught in this trap is simple. Take it easy. Make it fun. He is insistent, however, that this does not mean you have to give up on a rigorous training program, if that’s what you want. As cliché as it sounds, it really is all about balance.

“It is important to get wellness and fitness on parallel tracks.” Daniel explains, “I’m trying to get people in tune with their bodies. Just because your schedule says something doesn’t mean you have to do it. Be intuitive! Rest if you need to. Know when to go hard. But remember: if your mind’s in the right spot, your body will soon follow. If you’re stoked to go do something, go out and do it. Even if you’re tired. It might be hard, but when you’re done, you’ll have a smile on your face.”

Teaching people to listen to their own bodies is very important to Daniel. He reminds us that even at the highest levels of competition, this balance is still important.

“Even the [cyclists] who make it their full-time job know how to take it seriously, but still relax and have fun with it.”

Exactly how this harmony should take shape is not an easy thing to generalize, and every athlete has individual needs. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits all program. But Daniel strives to incorporate cycling into the lives of each person he coaches, in order to meet their personal goals. Whether that be health, fitness, or elite competition, a good coach like Daniel can help you get there. Again, it isn’t all or nothing.

“With all the athletes I’ve coached, it’s always been different.” He says, “There are some fundamental principles that work for a lot of people, but ultimately everything has to be adapted to that individual. It’s not a magic wand that I can wave.” He laughs, “Sorry, that’s not the way it works.”

Daniel himself wants each of the Summit Athletes he works with to have the opportunity to reach their own cycling goals. He tells us: “I still commute to work every day. I have a little bike for my [2-year-old] daughter. Even if these kids don’t compete, they should still have the ability to have fun and use the bike for other purposes. I think it’s a big key that they don’t just drop it completely, because it is something you can do for just health and fitness. I am a big proponent that our society just needs to move.”

So what does it mean to have performance and wellness on parallel tracks? And how do we get there? Daniel tells us.

“Performance is the training. It is the fitness. But wellness? That is how the athletes take care of themselves off the bike. Are they cognizant of hydrating, eating healthy, not just shoving crap food in their face? It’s how they prepare. Sometimes you have to balance your sleep, nutrition, timing, and your psychological wellness. It’s taking a self-reflective stance and making sure your training program is right for you.

So what’s the takeaway? No matter who you are, or how far you are wanting to go in cycling, there is a balance and a path for you. Learning to listen to your body, and knowing when to go hard, and when to rest can be difficult. But having a coach like Daniel who understands the role of health, nutrition, and training in an active lifestyle, can help you get there.

Keep an eye out for more articles from Daniel here on the blog!  He will be sharing more of his wellness lifestyle wisdom, as well as some awesome recipes to keep you fueled through even the hardest training session!

See what our Colorado Springs athletes are up to on Facebook and Instagram!

And follow Daniel’s personal cycling adventures on Strava.

In the Colorado Springs area and looking for a coach or consultation?  Feel free to reach out to Daniel through his website.

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