I work with a running coach. It’s been really beneficial for me, not just in the physical results, but in the confidence that’s come with working with someone.
I’ve had several people ask me when I decided I wanted a coach, and whether or not they should use one. Having a running coach doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re attempting to become an elite runner or win races, or particularly experienced or running any particular distance. One of the questions I get most often is, “Do you think I’m strong enough to work with a coach?” Hiring a coach isn’t about where you’re at, it’s about where you want to go.
One of the things that I love about running is the community that comes with it. There is a lot of knowledge in there. If you run with a group there is great opportunity to ask questions and learn. People run for different reasons with different goals, some of which can benefit from coaching. Sometimes just delving into the community is all you need.
Coaches are there to primarily help with race and fitness goals. If you’re self-motivated and only in need of a training plan there’s plenty to be found via your community and the magic of the internet. Find a basic plan for your distance and ask for advice when needed. If you’re running for fun and don’t want added pressure, or are using your running as an excuse for travel and adventure, you may not need one either (though you can of course work with a coach and do those things.)
Primarily you should ask yourself, What am I wanting out of my running that I’m not able to give myself? Those may be reasons to work with someone. A coach can be someone that you use to hold you accountable. If you’re tackling new distance or terrain and are looking for something a little more personalized than a plan off the internet a coach can provide that. Maybe you’re struggling to hit a PR and want help. For me, I signed on with my coach when I signed up for my first 100 miler. Do you need that large of a goal? No. Can you run a 100 miler without a coach? Of course. For me, that mileage was daunting enough that I wanted someone to help give me a plan specific for me. I knew that would also provide me with extra confidence toeing the line of a race whose completion is largely mental.
Finding a coach should be as personal as the process of working with one. If you’ve decided you’d like one, how would you go about finding the right person for you?
The two things to really look at are: can they get you where you want to go, and will their coaching style and personality mesh well with you?
If you have the community resources to ask about coaches that’s a great place to start, otherwise Google is your friend. You can work with a coach long distance, they don’t have to be local. Read about them and how they coach. Do they have any certifications (not necessarily a requirement) and what kind of running resume do they have? If possible, talk to some of their clients and see what they have to say.
When talking to a potential coach, ask them whatever questions you want. How often do you write a schedule, weekly, monthly, per training cycle? What does a coaching package offer? How often will we talk? How can I get a hold of you if I have questions?
For me, I wanted someone local so we could meet one on one. I was hiring someone for a 100, so I looked for someone that had run that distance. (Again, not a requirement . There are great coaches out there that coach outside of their personal running passions.) I have a weekly schedule, so it adjusts to how things are currently going. My coach teaches strength classes so I can easily add extra strength in. Most importantly I trust her. I know the training she writes for me will be what I need as long as I put in the work. when she says that she believes I can do something, I believe it too.
(This is where I rep her and her studio. Coleen Shaw-Voeks who owns Phys Ed KC.
Have any other great questions for coaches, or thoughts on the subject, send them my way.