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Women’s Day in South Africa is a celebration that commemorates the 20 000 plus women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest against the extension of pass laws. As a result, today, we’re able to celebrate how far we’ve come – while looking to continually improve the impact that we’re able to make in the field of women’s sport. 

At Science to Sport we work with a broad and growing range of female athletes. We know and understand that it might feel intimidating to sign up for coaching services, so we chatted to a few of our women athletes who shared with us – what made them sign up for a coach and their advice to other female athletes.

the decision to work with a coach

For most athletes – not only ladies, the decision to work with a coach is often about removing the guesswork – particularly when you’re looking at managing a season, or have earmarked a specific cycling goal.

Nadine Rieder coached by Jeroen Swart
Nadine Rieder, German cross country mountain biker, acknowledges that having a coach who is able to give an objective view of the whole picture is invaluable. Photo: @attentionbuilders

Professional cyclist Brodie Chapman, says that “she does not need a coach to motivate her to ride or to be accountable, it’s more a case of being able to take an entire racing season into consideration and manage the training load appropriately.”

“It helps to have someone to brainstorm and share ideas with to optimise your racing and fitness journey. As athletes we strive to be the best, we push the limits and at elite level every milimeter, second and watt helps propel us towards our best. For me having a coach is part of that success, it not only helps me to stay focused and accountable but it also helps me to have someone to keep track of the bigger picture.” – Mariske Strauss


But we don’t only coach professional women at Science to Sport – and it’s our absolute joy to coach ladies who have set their sights on specific goals.

Tess Keers, coached by Reece McDonald
Tess Keers received an unexpected 2021 wildcard Absa Cape Epic entry. Being excited and terrified at the same time prompted her to enlist the services of a coach - to prepare as thoroughly as possible, with structure.

Nicola Walker, aka Nix, is another such athlete who used a coach for big events like the Cape Epic and Pioneer. Towards the end of 2020, when she was asked to ride for Team Reach for Rainbows – there were a few big one day road events on the calendar that she needed to get ready for. It was then that she decided to work with a coach full time to prepare for the upcoming year. 


Having a coach guide you to your goals minimises the uncertainties and guesswork. Seeing your progression in numbers and graphs is often the mental boost you need to keep going. 


When Amy Wakefield first started cycling, her approach was the the classic ride hard every day – which inevitably ended in over-training. Easy rides were never easy enough and therefore her hard rides could never be hard enough. For all that effort, she hit a plateau and just got slower. 

Amy Wakefield Coached by Reece McDonald
With a coach - Amy has learned to trust the process.  With a more realistic expectation of her body, knowing that it’s only possible to peak a few times a year, with form in ebbs and flows, she is able to pin-point certain events as goals. Photo: @sportograf

“Sometimes I lack confidence and to see the analysis of my training helps a lot, because it’s simply facts! Hearing from your coach that everything is on the path removes a lot of the stress. You don’t need to waste time thinking about how to plan it all. Instead, you just follow the program.” – Nadine Rieder

However, the improvements on the bike are as a result of understanding what happens off the bike. Tess’s approach to training is now thoroughly holistic. 

“It’s not just about pushing pedals, but also nutrition, recovery, health, wellbeing – and on the mountain bike, sills are another important factor. I now pay more attention to how I fuel my rides, how much rest and sleep I’m getting and my health.”
Tess Keers


This has only been possible because of her relationship with her coach. Nix has also used this combination of training and off bike strategies to identify strengths and weakness – and select competitive events that are better suited for her. 

Mountain biker Danielle Strydom’s approach to training and racing with her coach is extremely respectful. “I have to remember that someone is doing their part and trying their best to put together my plan, and it’s only fair that they can expect the same from me to follow that plan.”
As much as having a coach is about structure, focus, rest and results, triathlete, Michelle Enslin, says that she has rediscovered her love of riding her bike. She has learnt to believe and follow the process, which to her means that being over 50 years old has not been a decline in her performance.


“Never stop riding” says Nix.  “Find a group, go for skills, get a coach, do an event, or ride with your kids. It’s the best stress reliever, and I almost always feel better after I’ve spent some time with my bike and cycling friends.” 


It’s as if Tess has used this advice, who encourages ladies to use cycling as a way to explore. “Whether close to home or further afield (use Strava to see where people are cycling and to look for new and interesting routes). Through cycling you can discover new and beautiful places and meet amazing like-minded people along the way. Races are an excellent way of doing this – they are often in places you wouldn’t normally go”, says Tess.


Challenge stereotypes around what an athlete ‘should’  look like or behave like. You do what’s right for your training. Eat enough for your training demands. You can’t trick your body. You need to give it what it needs and respect the energy requirements of sport if you want to keep improving – advises Brodie. 


Photo: @thecyclingculture

Cathy Colyn suggests that whether you are new to cycling or you have been doing it for a while, but you struggle with motivation or guidance when it comes to training and preparing for big races – work with a coach that is specific to your sporting needs to support your goals. Join local group rides or even group rides on Zwift to help you stay motivated and tick off those training rides on those days when the motivation is running low. 


Photo: Ray Cox


Danielle says “Don’t be too shy to ask a question, remember your sunblock and lastly, try to invest in a good set of cycling bibs.”


Amy comments that coaches are not only for professional cyclists. Everyone wants to be their own best or at least fit enough to have fun and be healthy, but getting there can seem like a big daunting mountain. Coaches are great with working around your schedule, current level, goals, group rides, and creating a program that will get you surprisingly strong even if you have very limited time. Trying to figure it out yourself is draining and can be disheartening, that’s why there are people who you can pay to do that for you! You are not alone! 

Michelle, with her eye on another Ironman World Championship title, says that age should not slow you down if you’re working with a coach who understands.  Ladies – and particularly older ladies still deserve to be competitive! 

Mariske’s advice is to women is to have fun, enjoy the process and don’t be intimidated by the sport. “We are capable of incredible things and in my experience we are tougher than we think.” Photo: Max Sullivan



Nadine Rider @riedernadine


Brodie Chapman @brodie_mai

Michelle Enslin (together with Ben) @ironman_michi


Cathy Colyn @catherine_colyn

Mariske Strauss @mariskestrauss


Danielle Strydom @danielle.v.strydom

Michelle Enslin (together with John@ironman_michi


Tess Keers @keerstessa

Amy Wakefield @amymacmtb

Nicola Walker @nix_cyclist_walker


If you’d like to find out more about working with one of coaches, you can read more here:




Aug 9, 2022 at 7:59 am

Great article…be inspired ladies…thank you to all these amazing coachers who make is believe that the impossible is possible

Aug 9, 2022 at 3:54 pm

yes, well said❤️


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