Take Your Running to the Next Level: How to Benefit From a Running Coach

Online coaching is becoming more and more popular for all types of runners. And that’s awesome because coaching is the best job in the world.

Running - Coach

Over the years, I’ve worked with so many types of athletes:

  • Postpartum women
  • Master’s athletes who want to finally qualify for the Boston Marathon
  • Young women with dreams of qualifying for the Olympic Trials Marathon
  • Triathletes looking to improve their run
  • Former smokers who want guidance on how to become the best runner possible

And each provides a unique challenge to me as a coach.

Now that coaching is more accessible than ever, there are more coaches available for you to choose from. And there are plenty of resources to help you decide who’s right for you.

But what about you? Finding a good coach is relatively easy. But being a good client is just as important as your coach being qualified, knowledgeable, and willing to help.

I’ve been coaching for years and right now I’m fortunate to be able to choose my clients. You can’t just sign up for 1-on-1 coaching here because I want to make sure we’re both on the same page.

And today I want to show you how to be the best type of coaching client and get the most out of the experience of being coached.

See, over the last 15+ years, I’ve had over 10 coaches myself and learned that there are right and wrong ways to be a coached athlete. I’ve been both: a virtually uncoachable, know-it-all brat and an athlete who sees enormous progress by having the right type of relationship with their coach.

At the time, it was easy to blame my coach for an injury, a bad race, or a season wasted by sub-par performances. But hindsight is 20/20 and now I want to help you avoid my mistakes and get the most out your coaching experience if you decide to have one.

Communicate Well and Early

Developing as an athlete is as much about communication as it is about the training. No coach has a crystal ball to predict how you’ll feel tomorrow, next week, or next month. Nor does he know your work, family, or personal schedule.

So it’s up to you to make sure your training plan reflects your schedule. Can’t run on Fridays? That’s a good thing for your coach to know! Have a vacation coming up? Make sure your plan reflects your availability to train.

No matter what’s going on in your life, a good coach will make your training plan reflect your time constraints. You’ll do the best training possible in the time that you have available.

Your coach also knows how to schedule and design workouts so you’ll achieve your goals. There’s always more thought to the structure of your training plan than you think (your coach does this for a living, after all!) and rearranging workouts without consulting your coach first throws that careful planning in the trash.

There’s always flexibility, but if your coach is considered your trusted advisor or running consultant, why wouldn’t you ask for guidance before changing your training plan? This is why I never limit communication with my 1-on-1 runners – unlimited email support is necessary to succeed.

Rearranging workouts because of a weekend trip, cancelled race, work responsibilities, injury, or family obligations is an expected part of the job so take advantage of your coach as your go-to resource for your training.

Besides, it’s easier for your coach to make these decisions so you can just go enjoy running without worrying about what workout you should be doing.

In addition to scheduling, do you know how to run your workouts? There are almost countless types of workouts and ways to structure them – your coach knows how to do that for you. Once he does, it’s your job to make sure the execution of each workout is crystal clear.

Clarify the paces you should run on your easy runs, long runs, progressions, 5k-specific workouts, tempo runs, and any other type of run. Do you know how much to warm-up and cool-down? Do you understand the recovery period? Is your recovery active or not?

This should be outlined in your training plan. But if it’s not clear, it’s your job to clarify so you know exactly what’s expected of you.

Take More Responsibility

Let’s be honest: it’s your goal race, your health, your training, your injuries, your progress, and your own unique experience. You have to own it.

Your coach is your partner in this journey to become a better runner. He doesn’t care if you’re a five hour marathoner or a three hour marathoner – he just wants you to succeed.

But he can’t do that if you’re not on board. Your coach will create the best training program for you that he knows how – it’s your responsibility to execute (with his direction).

Coaches around the world heave a collective sigh when they hear these excuses:

  • The workout wasn’t clear so I ran something different
  • I was tired so I skipped the workout
  • My alarm didn’t go off…
  • I wasn’t sure how to rearrange my schedule and missed a few runs
  • My old coach/friend/running partner convinced me to run an extra 4 miles on my long run

To achieve your best adhere to the plan as best as you can – and ask questions if you have them.

Commit to Your Coach

When I start working with an athlete, I require a 3-month commitment to start our coaching relationship because I know that progress and achievements don’t come overnight. If you’ve been frustrated with your results after working with a coach for a month, you need to adjust your expectations.

There are no secrets to running faster. There’s long-term, progressive training that turns chronically injured runners into almost injury-proof Boston Qualifiers like Sarah. Or ultramarathoners like Deb.

Many runners second-guess their coach’s philosophy, workouts, and advice. I fell into this trap myself for a time during college – and I didn’t improve. I thought I knew best (and I was wrong).

When I committed to the program and started believing in my coach’s philosophy, I made the Varsity cross country team and ran personal bests from 800m to 5k. It was my best year ever.

No athlete improves and sees long-term success without buying into the training first. Believe in your coach.

1-on-1 Coaching is Now Open

For the last 4+ months, my full coaching program has been closed but now I’m ready to open it up and start working with new runners who want to take their running to the next level.

If you’d like to see success like the many other runners I’ve helped (see more success stories here), this might be your chance.

If you’re ready to commit and improve – and absolutely love running – I’d love to coach you. Send me an email and tell me more about your goals and where you are with your running right now.

I’ll explain the program and we’ll see if it’s a good fit. Looking forward to it!

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