Over the last year (and especially the last few months), I’ve been asked a lot about my experience with having a coach – what the benefits are, what I get out of it and whether I would recommend a coach to another runner.
Let me preface this whole post by saying that this is not meant to be a sales pitch for me. Yes, I coach. But I truly believe that you have to find the right coach for you. And I know that just because you read here or follow me on social media, doesn’t mean I am the right one for you!
I think the benefits to having a coach are extremely specific for each runner. You might be looking for a coach to:
– push you out of your comfort zone to run faster
– help increase your weekly mileage in a safe and healthy way
– tell you to slow down
– help you become a stronger racer
– work on nutrition and fueling
– lose weight or reach a more optimal racing weight
– hold you accountable to your training plan
– help determine a realistic goal for a race – and the best pacing plan to hit that goal
It’s probably safe to say that there are many things on this list that we would want a coach to help us with. My problem has never been following a plan or pushing myself. Actually, it’s been the opposite. I found that I was going 100 miles an hour – all the time. Easy runs too fast. Tempo runs too fast. Long runs too fast. See a pattern? =) Just because you CAN run that fast doesn’t mean you should. There’s a difference between being uncomfortable in a workout and going all out. I was too close to the red line in too many workouts.
Coach Hadley gives me ranges for all of my runs. And I’d say that I am in that range about 98% of the time (maybe even more). He tells me when I should slow down or go easy. And makes the adjustments when he feels I’ve made some gains in fitness.
But finding the right coach is only a part of what goes into the success of that coaching relationship. It’s not a one-way relationship – it’s very much a give and take. For you to really, truly succeed and get the most of your coach and his/her knowledge, there are a number of things that you need to do and keep in mind. And I’d argue that if you aren’t willing to do these, then hiring a coach will be a waste of money and time:
– Communication: Coach Hadley’s training plan requires daily input from me – not just the mileage and pace. But more importantly, how I felt, what the weather was like, what the elevation was like. The more information you can provide, the more information your coach has to make the plan work for you.
– Honesty: This kind of goes hand-in-hand with communication. I make it a point to tell my coach how I felt – could I have done another interval or two? What was my form like at the end? Did I have to take an extra 30 second rest after that last set? Am I starting to feel a little rundown or fatigued? Your coach can only coach you based on what you have told him/her.
– Patience: It’s important to allow some time for you and your coach to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. This may take a full training cycle before things get sorted out. I can honestly say that I feel like I really hit a groove with training after my fall marathon. Coach made some adjustments with the plan and things just clicked. Maybe you will have success right off the bat; but just because you don’t doesn’t mean you should jump ship and find another coach. Give it some time and see how another cycle pans out.
– Trust: I think the most important factor with having a coach is trust. There needs to be a pretty high level of trust to go super easy when the plan says so, to run less miles when you think you could be running more, to know that when coach drops the pace that you CAN do it and to follow the race plan because that will help you run the best time possible. It was hard for me to give up ALL control of my training to another person – but in some ways, it was liberating. Everything is calculated, planned and figured out for me – all I have to do is follow the plan.
– Commitment: This goes hand in hand with trust. Follow the plan. The whole plan. It’s as easy as that (although it’s way harder than it sounds – trust me)! The training plan won’t work the way your coach expects it to if you are constantly running more miles than he/she has given you or if you decide to run 30 seconds faster/mile because you felt good. It’s important to understand that your coach has a purpose for each run (or each rest day) on the plan. You’ll get the most of the training plan if you commit to the ENTIRE plan – not just pick and choose which days you want to follow.
Hope this helps anyone who has been on the fence about whether to get a running coach!
Have a great Tuesday!