Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Why You Need a Running Coach

I coach runners. I love doing it. I don't care what their skill level is. I only care that they want to get better. That means I have worked with people trying to finish a marathon under seven hours and I have people pushing to go under three. In addition, I have people who have no desire ever to do a marathon and that is absolutely perfectly fine with me. (The marathon gets too much credence as the standard bearer for running and racing anyway. And this comes from the guy who has made a career in part off of racing 52 marathons in 52 consecutive weekends!)

In my coaching I have heard every question one can possibly imagine but the main one would be "Do I need a coach?"  Well, the answer is pretty simple: absolutely everyone could benefit from good tutelage.

What makes me think I can coach runners? I don't have a RRCA certification. I admit that right upfront. But I am a former 235 lb rugby player whose first marathon was run run in 4:12 and I have subsequently got that down to 2:49. Having run over 300 races over a half-marathon distance, in every weather condition possible, on every road and trail condition imaginable, I have put in my time. But more than that, I have tried to become a student of the sport by ensconcing myself in those who know more than me and even those who know less. I never want to stop learning.

Moreover, as I have been doing it now for a decade, I have learned on the job, so to speak. The athletes I have helped guide have, to a runner, improved greatly. That is something I take great pride in.  But if you are still skeptical why you need a coach at all, let me lay out some reasons why I think it is paramount that we all put our training in the guiding hands of another.

Provide Motivation And Support

We are very disconnected in today's world. You might have a plan and a good one but you are often doing it alone. Having a coach there to rein you in and help you understand that recovery and rest are part of training is paramount. I emphasize to my athletes to know that a rest day is more important that a workout day. It is not a lost day. It is the day when you get better from the hard workout you did.

It is not difficult for people to want to go full bore. It is harder to keep that attitude tempered over time and a good coach will provide the best guidance. Offering safe and effective workouts to keep you in the best shape is what comes from having been down the same road themselves with their own running and with those they coach.

Minimize Risk Of Injury

This is a biggie — especially if running is a lifelong interest, which it should be. One thing I counsel against is having a bucket list of running some race or some distance. It is great to check things off but when you put something out there as the be all and end all, it often is the end all. That said, according to studies, up to 80 percent of runners get injured at one point or another. That's a lot of down time keeping you from meeting any of your goals.

A running coach is a small investment for running injury-free for years to come. You have to find one that will push you but also know when to make sure you back off.  It doesn't matter how hard you run if you can only do it every so often because most of the time you are laid up. So much of a race is simply getting to the starting line healthy. Everything after that is just icing on the cake.

Learn Goal Specific Training

Some people are attempting to break fast time barriers; some people are looking to run three miles straight for the first time in their life. A good coach will teach you how to manage different training loads.

Beginners and experienced runners both need to avoid common training errors. A coach should be there to advise against running too much too soon, not including enough rest and recovery time, pacing themselves correctly in a race, and reminding them to watch their apparel and footwear. They will teach you when to run at an easy pace, when to should schedule a long run, or if you need to adjust your form or technique. Every single runner have a different plan and no cookie-cutter free plan on the internet is going to give you what you need.

Rehab After An Injury

OK, well we addressed the idea of trying to stay injury-free but often than just doesn't happen.  So if you are injured, a good coach will be able to look at what happened, addressed the underlying factors that contributed to it, and guide you on the path to recovery. Returning to running symptom-free without this guidance is a setup for re-injury and more frustration.

A knowledgeable coach can help you determine the problem, suggests exercise strategies to get you on the road to recovery, or refers you to a medical specialist.

Improve Performance

Identifying what motivates an athlete and then helping him or her with goal setting is the absolute key. Not every runner wants to win a race. Some run for solitude. Or just for the fitness aspect. Your coach should know what you want so they can help you achieve it.

Running coaches design training plans to systematically build your performance towards achieving your goal. Maybe they read a great article on how to run your best 5K ever, but the information is more suitable for an athlete at a different point in training. Performance can only be improved if your coach knows you and knows what you want.

All told, every great has had a coach. From Michael Jordan to Serena Williams, to Tom Brady to Shalane Flanagan to Meb. If you are looking for that coach to help you get to the next level, I would love to talk to you more. 

Send me a message at and we can begin the discussion. There is no time like yesterday to begin doing what you want but yesterday is gone so let's start today!