Running seems like easiest sport on the planet. You learned how to do it when you were about two years old and you’ve been practicing ever since. It burns more calories than almost any other form of exercise. You don’t need to sign up for a class or join a gym or even watch a YouTube video. It requires very little in the way of “gear,” you basically put on a pair of running shoes and your old high school PE shorts and hit the road. Run a mile, and then run two, run a 5k, then a 10k. . . you can Google what to do about those blisters and IT Bands, so onward you march. . .half marathon, full marathon! Yay you! What’s next? And what’s after that? (Did someone forget to remind you that running is addictive? Whoops–my bad!)
Hiring a running coach is different for each person, as you would expect it to be, and knowing when it’s time to get another person involved is as individual as your running plan itself. There are many things to consider such as your goals, your “issues,” your location, your budget and your background. But you’ve thought about it, so when is it the right time to really pull out the checkbook? I compiled a list of questions to ask yourself to help you start making the decision. There doesn’t seem to be a magic formula, so this isn’t meant to be a beauty magazine-style quiz to determine your coaching ability (or lack of). Just a little self-help guide. . .
1. What are my short and long term running goals?
It’s important to have a realistic starting point. Don’t bite off more than you can chew out of the gate. Ease into your season and plan your races accordingly. If you have never run a ½ marathon don’t start with one. Start with a 5k or 10k then work your way up. That being said, it’s good to approach a running coach with your goals in mind, so you both have a starting point for your training (let’s say that marathon next winter) and an end goal (such as a 50 miler within the next few years) and your coach will have an idea of how to proceed with your training.
2. Am I flexible enough to be coached?
A big part of hiring a coach is to have someone guide you toward achieving your goals. This means being open to feedback and how you can improve as an athlete. Don’t have an “I know everything” attitude. Running is a sport of patience. It takes time to build your run fitness.
3. Am I a person who needs accountability in my training?
If you have dreams of doing great things with your running but don’t do the work, then you won’t get anywhere. A big reason for hiring a coach is to have someone check your progress. So you have to do the work! If you find yourself skipping workouts, it may be time to let a coach in so you have to answer to someone else!
4. Am I an avid reader/researcher? How far can that get me?
The internet opens up a world of information. You can Google just about anything when it comes to run coaching and find lots of articles to satisfy your questions. However, some of those articles have been written by people who may not be experts in the field of running. Nor may they have the practical or academic experience to really know what it means to run or train properly. So having a good coach to filter information through is very helpful.
5. What are my options for hiring a coach?
This is where you get to determine what is going to work for you. What time do you have to give a coach each week? What’s your budget? Do you want an online coach or one you see weekly/biweekly/monthly?
Start asking other runners that you know and respect what works for them, and of course find out if they have any great coach referrals to offer you. You can also start asking around your local running store, clubs, groups, etc. Social media can be a good way to find a coach, just make sure you really look into a person’s credentials.
Hiring a coach is a very personal thing. It’s like selecting a dentist, doctor or hairdresser. This is someone you will check in with and who will get to know you. So be prepared to build a relationship of transparency. The best coaches are those who get to know you and will want to develop a program that speaks to your strengths and weaknesses. A good coach will know how to progress you without injury and will also take what you have in terms of ability and make you better. But ultimately, it’s up to you to do the work. So evaluate your reasons as noted and then when you are ready to make the commitment, go find a good coach who can help be the runner you desire to be.
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