When I first hired a running coach, my parents and husband thought I was crazy. I think their shock was largely because coaches have long been associated with elite athletes and here I was ‘Miss-Dodge-Running-At-All-Costs’ getting a coach! Admittedly, at the start, I felt embarrassed telling people I had a coach. But looking back, having a coach was one of my best decisions. When I started running, I had no idea what I was doing and the free running plans I found seemed ill-suited to my needs. I didn’t have the experience, knowledge or confidence then to design my own plan. So in today’s blog, I want to discuss how a running coach can help you set and achieve your goals. I’ve been lucky to have worked with two amazing coaches, Coach Nicola and Coach Marcel for different goals and both have provided great online programmes.
Why Work With A Running Coach?
1/ They Help You Define Your Goals. Coaches are really good at helping you figure out what you want. What is your goal? Is it to get faster? Is it to build endurance? Is it to lose weight? I’ve used a coach at different stages of my running journey – starting out, running my first Half Marathon, training for a challenging mountain race, building a solid base for marathon training and running a sub-60 10K. A friend of mine engaged a coach after having a baby to get back into fitness. And yet another friend was coached when she wanted to qualify for the Comrades Ultra Marathon. Coaches ask critical questions that help you understand what you want to achieve and then guide you on what’s realistic (and not) and what it will take to get there.
2/ The Plan Is Right For YOU. As I don’t always have a coach, I know the stress involved when I’m on my own! As I’ve gotten more experienced, I’ve been able to tailor free online programmes with the knowledge I’ve gained from having a coach. But what I love about having a plan that is specifically designed for me is that it takes into consideration so much more than a generic plan would. A good coach will usually explore several things before designing your plan – your health, running history and running injuries. I remember the first time I engaged Coach Nicola, she asked what my work and family schedule looked like, if I had signed up for any races or if I had any travel plans. All this helped to make a plan that would fit into my lifestyle. Also, if something is not working along the way, a coach will know exactly what to change to make it more suitable.
3/ You Don’t Have To Think! When I have a coach, the best feeling is getting to Sunday and seeing what’s been planned for the following week. I don’t have to figure out distances or paces. I just have to focus on where I’d like to run and what outfit I’ll wear! When I don’t have a coach, I tend to worry a lot about whether I’m pushing myself too hard or maybe not hard enough. But with a coach, I simply focus on what’s being asked of me – if it’s an easy run I go easy and if it’s speedwork, I focus on hitting those splits. My coach tells me how much recovery time I need and when I should taper. Without the stress of planning, your focus becomes enjoying the process.
4/ You Are Accountable To Someone. Of course, not thinking doesn’t mean chilling! Ultimately, you have to put in the work and one of the best parts about being coached is you’re always accountable to someone. Many coaches use online apps and you can set your data to sync to these apps. From my experience, when you know someone is watching, it’s not very easy to skip a run. In fact, sometimes trying to find an excuse takes more energy than just getting the run done! That’s not to say coaches are unreasonable. There’s a lot of interaction with your coach and based on the information you share, your coach can adjust your plan as needed. Forced accountability usually means you’re more motivated to do your runs which ultimately helps to keep you consistent. And as we all know, consistency is the secret to your success.
5/ Improved Confidence. A coach lets you do all the work but is always there as a safety net. They help to pick you up when you’re going through a bad patch and they’re also there to celebrate with you. Both my coaches have always seemed more excited about my achievements than I’ve been, if that’s even possible, LOL! They are also often more aware of your strengths than you are. I remember a particularly tough hills session that Coach Nicola set me. I was terrified beforehand but once I’d done it I was so chuffed and grateful that she had challenged and encouraged me to do it. Each challenge helps to build your confidence and knowing that you’ll have support if you fail, sometimes just gives you that extra courage to try it out.
6/ You Learn So Much. A coach has so much knowledge and experience and if you pay close attention you will learn and grow. When I started running, there were things I dismissed like proper warm up drills, stretching, balance and stability work and strength training. I didn’t know what an easy run was. I just ‘raced’ everything. I didn’t know the importance of speedwork or hill repeats and I also did not know anything about good recovery time, tapering, race strategy or fuelling and nutrition. These are all things that help to make you a happier and healthier runner.
I’ve seen huge improvements in my running and I’ve shaved a lot of time off all distances – the 5K, 10K and Half Marathon under the guidance of a coach. But I’ve also put in the work. If you are not willing to put in the work, having a coach won’t help you much. A coach can give you the perfect plan but it still needs you to put into action. Also, use your time with a coach to grow and learn. The reason I’m able to keep training even in times when I don’t have a coach is that I use the lessons gained while being coached and apply them to times I’m on my own.
Do you have a running coach? What do you like about having a coach? If you are a coach, what do you enjoy about coaching? From a coach’s perspective, what would you say are some of the benefits of coaching?
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.