Who exactly seeks out a coach? Winners. ~Chicago Tribune
Typically, when someone finds out that I am a running coach, it’s followed by:
“Why would anyone need a coach to run?”
“How do you coach someone to put one foot in front of another?”
“Aren’t coaches for people who want to run in the Olympics?”
“You know there are free training plans online right?”
For most people, hiring a running coach is a foreign concept. But in the running world, it’s a trend that is growing more and more common among “everyday” runners (i.e. runners that are not Elites.) There are more people running than ever before, with more races going on than ever before. And with more people running, there comes an increased desire for many runners to go faster and farther. A runner who may have been satisfied with a few 5k’s and 8k’s five years ago, is suddenly signing up for multiple half and full marathons. And friends and family members of runners, who never thought they may want to run, have suddenly been bitten by the urge to pound the pavement.
Most runners begin with advice from friends and family and getting training programs off the internet. Which can be a great way to start! I used Hal Higdon’s free training plans while training for my first (and subsequently, next 4-5) half marathons. I then switched over to using the book “Smart Marathon Training” by Jeff Horowitz when I decided I wanted to get faster. Up until this year, I had been self-coached and had had success in doing it. But online plans are one-size-fits- all guides to running, meaning they don’t take an individual into account. Which is where getting a coach comes into play.
As I discussed in my previous article on getting my RRCA Certified Running Coaching certificate, most coaches will have either the professional training to be a coach or a strong history with running that qualifies them to coach others. What this means for you, whether you are just starting out running for fun, training for a faster pace or trying to reach a new distance, is that you reap these benefits:
1) TIME- Believe it or not, coaches do not just Google a plan for you or reuse one they already had. A good coach will take the time getting to know you, either by meeting with you or through an online interaction. And then, they will spend TIME creating a plan just for you. And creating a good plan that takes all your factors (age, history, current fitness level, goals, lifestyle) into account, takes TIME and THOUGHT. Which is a huge burden off your shoulders! You can then focus on buying new running shoes and cute clothes.
2) QUESTIONS: It’s not just the newbie runners that have questions; seasoned runners do too. Running is an activity that while it seems simple; no two runs are ever the same. And your body is constantly changing, which may bring up new issues you’ve never had to deal with before. A coach is someone to answer all these questions, whether it be about fueling, hydration, gear, bodily issues (all runner’s have them!), and even resources (a good chiropractor, masseuse, or even a place for after long run drinks!) Your coach is there to answer questions and give you the feedback you need. Think of them as your own personal Siri of running.
3) AYKM Days– “Are You Kidding Me?” kind of days. As in, those things that happen in life that make it impossible to stay on your schedule. Toddler refusing to sleep for multiple nights. A bad case of the stomach bug. The world outside looking like it’s part of the movie “Frozen” for the last month. Work deadlines. These things happen in life, and when they affect your training, it’s frustrating and can be very emotional. A coach will prove invaluable during these times and can help guide you through these times by assessing the situation and re-evaluating your plan to fit your new needs.
4) A PERSONAL CHEERLEADER- Your coach probably won’t put on a short skirt and stand in front of you shaking pom poms (but I guess that’s up to each coach!) What your coach will do is be inspirational and motivational for you when you need it most. They will celebrate the great runs with and keep you going when the bad ones occur. It may be an encouraging email or Facebook post or they may even meet you for a run. No matter how they do it, the coaches job is to stay optimistic when you can’t.
5) WHEN THE GET UP AND GO, GOES- Whether you’re running for fun or for a serious race, there are going to be days when running is the last thing you will want to do, and anything other than running sounds more appealing. But there is something to be said for knowing that there is someone out there that expects you to perform the task at hand. You may skip one or two runs but anything more and a coach will notice and this is where the accountability of having a coach makes a huge difference. Your coach will know when you’re making excuses and will push you to get back on track. And how can you argue when you paid that person to?This year has been the first year that I have used a coach. While I’ve had success coaching myself, and I am a certified coach, I felt like I needed to have some of the burden lifted off me in this training cycle. I wanted someone to tell me what to do and when to do it. I also wanted the support of a coach because quite honestly, I felt like the only truly honest feedback I would get would be from someone who doesn’t have a personal connection to me (i.e. my husband or close friends.) It’s definitely helped me relax a little more this training period and has pushed me to do paces that I know I wouldn’t push myself to on my own. And it’s very comforting knowing that anything I’m feeling (well, within reason because my coach is a man) has probably already been felt or experienced by my coach at some point. My coach also uses a coach, and I found it very helpful knowing that running is a constant learning process no matter where you are on your journey!
So now you’re thinking to yourself, “Yes, I do want to get a running coach!” Right? Right.
One of the great things about the increase of runners, is that there is also an increase in running coaches. Thanks to programs like the RRCA Certified Coaching Training and USATF, there are coaches in almost every community. And if there isn’t one in your community, you can find one online pretty easily (the RRCA has a database you can search.) Asking at your local running store or finding local Moms Run this Town chapters are also great ways to find a coach. There are coaches that work with every demographic, with all kinds of backgrounds and experiences, and while it may take a little bit of “shopping” to find the one you feel is right for you, I guarantee there is one out there that will fit your needs, personality and budget!
Before you commit to anything, make sure you communicate (over-communicating is highly advised) so that you and your potential coach know what you hope to get out of the experience. Make sure your coach has the time to take you on as a client, and make sure you truly have the time available to take on the training and expectations of your coach. If you feel it’s important to keep going to your favorite class at the gym, make sure you find a coach that supports cross training. If they want emails after every run (or for you to use an online training program so they can track you), but you know you rarely use the computer, you’re going to want to rethink that person as your coach.
And lastly, if you choose to get a coach, commit to trusting your coach. I guarantee that as soon as other runners know you have a coach, they will question what your training plan says. Or you’ll read something in Runner’s World, and want to know why that type of run isn’t on your plan. Or you’ll simply look at the plan and think, “What the heck?” It’s natural but it’s also part of getting a coach. Your coach has created something specifically for you- not your coworker or friend or random guy at the running store- and you should have faith that they are doing what is BEST for YOU.
Lesleyanne Mulkey is a wife, mother and lifelong resident of Virginia Beach, VA. She is also a Road Runners of America Certified Running Coach with over 12 years of running experience. Currently serving as an ambassador for J&A Racing, Sweat Pink and SwirlGear, Lesleyanne shares her experiences balancing running, raising kids and life as an “almost 40 year old” on her blog, BeachyRunner, her Instagram page (@beachyrunner1) and on Twitter (@beachyrunner).