As a coach, I might be biased, but I think that everyone, even casual athletes, can benefit from running coaching. Most runners who hire coaches don’t hire them because of a lack of knowledge about running. In fact, most runners can learn much of what they need to know by exploring some of the many books, magazines, or websites devoted to running science. So, why hire a coach? Runners, walkers, and endurance athletes can benefit from a partnership with a coach for many reasons – here are some of the most common reasons for hiring a running coach.
- Accountability – One of the most common reasons for hiring a coach is to have someone to whom the runner/walker is accountable. Just knowing that someone was monitoring my workouts, and would know if I shaved a mile off the end of a run, was highly motivating for me. I never thought of myself as a running slacker, but knowing that someone else would see every detail of each workout made me pay closer attention to my running, and I ran harder when I might have been tempted to cheat. Accountability is also important for new runners/walkers and individuals who want to lose weight through fitness. Working with a coach to plan workouts adds a higher level of commitment to, and investment in, each workout.
- Fresh ideas – The best coach-athlete partnerships should be creative and dynamic. A good coach will help you build your training and will offer fresh, new ideas to invigorate a training plan that might have become stale.
- Confidence – Working with a coach can help even the casual athlete to build confidence. Achieving mini-goals, like target paces or distances in workouts, feels great and can help your training by building a sense of success. Good coaches can also help you avoid some of the stupid training mistakes we all make, like pushing too hard, or adding distance too quickly, by serving as another set of eyes on your training.
- Intensity – I love running, and if you do, too, you might have the same tendency as me – running the same pace, the same routes, and with the same running friends over and over. It’s comforting and easy to do the same workouts. Working with a coach is a great way to build intensity into workouts, pushing you out of your comfortable pace, route, or workout.
Any of the listed reasons, and an infinite number of personal reasons, can lead to the beginning of a great coach-athlete partnership. Most coaches offer a variety of services, and many coaches will offer personalized service recommendations. Coaches generally work with the athlete to develop goals for set time periods, including long and short term goals. Then, the coach and athlete work together to determine what services would be appropriate for achieving those goals. That might include training plan development, in which the coach makes a personalized training plan for the athlete, traditional coaching, in which the coach monitors the athlete’s progress, making frequent updates to the training plan, or something else. Some coaches work best with a particular type of athlete (i.e. those whose goal is an age group win at a major race, marathoners, or fitness walkers), others offer more generalized services.
Once you’ve decided to hire a coach, you need to find one. First, you’ll need to decide if you’d like to work with an in-person coach, or a distance coach. Many coaches offer distance coaching services, including some famous ones like Greg McMillan and Hal Higdon. A great place to start is the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA.org). They have a coach finder application (you can search by state and see coaches in your area). They also have useful articles about coaching and hiring a coach. A good coach will be willing to talk with you about her services before you commit. Talk with the coach about the services she offers, and your goals. Inquire about the coach’s preferred training group (i.e. does she work with walkers? Does she do plans with run/walk intervals? Does she work with marathoners? etc.) and the ways in which she works with athletes. Learn about her style and how your work together might be. If you have questions about the coaching process, ask!
For more information about my coaching services, check out my coaching page.
I urge you to consider hiring a coach – it might be just the thing to shake a summer slump or prepare for amazing fall races.