Choosing a running Coach

Running is becoming more popular all around the world. For some it’s a continuation of high school sport for many it’s the first time they’ve attempted anything physical.

The appeal of running is obvious. It’s a simple way to get healthy. No special equipment is needed and you can do it almost anywhere. Running is hardwired into us and requires no special skills, more on this later.  

The initial year or two of becoming a runner are glorious. Almost every time trial is a new Personal Best(PB). You go from being totally unfit to running 5k/10k/21k/42k. For a lot of people progress slows and even halts. It’s usually around this time that they start looking for a coach to help them achieve the next step in their running evolution. What do you look for in a coach?

Is your coach active in your sport. Do you regularly see them at events, club runs, training runs. Your coach should be a runner who loves running. A coach who loves the sport will stay interested in running, running events, the science of running, gear, supplements etc. You the athlete will benefit from this. 

Your coach should have experience running the kind of events you are training for. They don’t have to be the fastest runner and they certainly don’t have to be able to beat any of their runners but they should at the very least know what a runner goes through during training and racing.

Your coach should keep you accountable and be accountable to you. Helping you set realistic goals and then monitoring those goals is important. You are paying for a service and you must have a way of measuring if you are getting value from your coaching. You’re not always going to hit your goals and sometimes it will take a lot longer than you had hoped but without goals you will have no idea of your progress.

Your coach should have a track record of coaching the kind of runner you are or want to be. Is the prospective coach somebody who develops talent or do they work mostly with gifted runners? Do they coach predominantly older runners? Do they work with mostly new runners? Do they coach mostly high school runners ? And so forth.

Is your coach approachable. Life is going to happen to you and you are going to need changes and adjustments to your schedule and program. After all you have a real live coach not a cut-out from a magazine. You might have questions about a workout, nutrition, race strategy etc. You should be able to pick up the phone or message your coach and expect advice or changes to your program quickly and easily.

Does your coach develop programs based on science or are their programs based on what’s worked for them as individuals and as such they hardly change from year to year ? The science of coaching is changing and developing all the time. New training methodologies and protocols are being tested and proven or disproven regularly. Modern training programs should be based predominantly on science and not on gut feel and folklore.

One final DONT

Don’t choose your coach because of their personal running credentials. Their Gold/Silver/Bronze medal does not prove that they are good coaches. It’s often those coaches who only have one way of coaching because ‘it worked for them it must work for all’.

And one final DO

Once you have chosen a coach GIVE THEM A CHANCE. It takes time for the coach – athlete relationship to develop. It takes time to prove results. Stick to the program and advice 100% for at least 4 months before you decide if it’s working for you or not.