It may sound like a question that should have an obvious answer: "do I need a running coach?" Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to get tuition or coaching when taking up a new sport, wanting to improve our swim stroke, or even learning to play a musical instrument, so why not get a coach to help your running?
Perhaps you’ve considered hiring a running coach; it can feel like a big step. How would they help me? What do they do? Is it worth the money? Am I good enough? These are questions many of us ponder at some point in our running life, but getting a running coach isn’t for everyone.
The main reason you will be thinking about getting a coach is likely to be to get faster or fitter - or both. Getting the best out of yourself in any sport can be hard, especially in today's hectic world. We all lead busy lives, so cramming in extra time for training is a difficult skill to master and is often poorly done. Outside help is often needed to really get the best from yourself.
What to expect from a running coach
If you're nervous about hiring a running coach, it's good to know what to expect. There are many benefits to hiring a running coach, like the ones below.
Achieve your goals
A running coach will help you set and achieve your running goals. A good running coach will factor in your levels of stress, your amount of travel, the number of days per week that it's realistic to train, your current level of fitness, your fitness history, any pre-existing medical issues, your age, and your ability to recover.
Keep you on track
A running coach will provide you with structure and keep you on track; if you're the sort of person who often sets goals but rarely reaches them, then a coach is a great way to keep you on track. They will help you put a plan in place and guide you every step of the way.
Keep you motivated
A good running coach will help keep you motivated by staying consistent, and coaching may play a key role in keeping spirits high. Studies have found that one-on-one personal training is effective in not only changing attitudes towards physical activity, but also increasing the amount of time participants spend being physically active.
A good coach can help reduce the risk of injury through proper planning of your running workouts and total mileage run per week, as well as looking out for signs of over training and fatigue. Coaches can also help with other factors related to injury prevention like proper footwear, running surface, and strength training. Any good coach should be readily available and willing to revise your training plan, help you with recovery (sleep, fuelling, appropriate workouts, and injury management), and answer any questions you have.
Are running coaches expensive?
Hiring a running coach can be expensive depending on whom you choose to work with. Remember, results don’t happen in a few weeks or months so it's likely to require a long-term commitment to reach your goals, and that will come at a price.
A good coach should also give you plenty of feedback and express their views, mainly positive but sometimes they may need to speak freely and honestly, at times that may not be what you want to hear.
I remember a conversation I had with my coach after we had been working together for just over 7 months. I sent him a message saying I wanted to run Manchester Marathon, and with 6 months before the event I had plenty of time to get ready. It would have been my 5th marathon to date. My coach replied saying, “You're not ready to run a good full marathon when you haven’t even run a good half yet.”
At the time, I had a half marathon PB of 1:29 and thought I was in pretty good shape. I was a little taken aback by my coach's reply, but it was true that I didn’t have the endurance or fitness levels to take on a marathon and achieve the goal time I wanted, so we didn’t put Manchester in the plan. I still haven’t run that marathon but I recently ran a 76-minute half marathon, so I'm getting closer to running that good half.
Are running coaches worth it?
As both a running coach and a coached athlete myself, the answer for me is a definite yes. A running coach can help you achieve your goals and if you struggle with willpower, accountability, or motivation, a coach can make the difference between sticking with a running program or quitting. Finding a good coach that fits you and your personality is another story.
About the author: Simon Pilcher is a British Triathlon and UK Athletics certified coach living on the Isle of Wight. He also competes as an Age Group athlete in middle distance duathlon. www.vectisacademy.com