Monday, November 3, 2014

Running Coaches

I get the question a lot about running coaches and how to find them.   Many of my running friends do not use running coaches at all.  Most go by online free plans or plans in books.  They are all doing very well in their running endeavors.  I chose to go a different way and let me explain why and how.
I started running training for my first 5 K using the Couch to 5 K program.  I loved the program and loved how it gave you a very specific plan to follow per day.  Remember, I am super Type A so any protocol or written out plan makes me very happy.  After the conclusion of the program and the running of my first 5 K, I had to no clue where to go from there.  Was I still a novice runner (YES)?  Should I immediately start training for longer distances (MAYBE)?  I had my sights set on several local 5 Ks but also a 10 K that was in my little town of Wamego.  I really didn't know what to do.  I was in luck in that as I was training, I started having many pitfalls and thanks to Facebook, was posting whining about them maybe a little too much.  Thanks to a face book friendship with another aussie lover who also has a dog from the same breeder as Stella and Deuce, I found my first running coach or should I say she found me.  She had noticed my rather annoying yet honest posts about bonking and training and was willing to help me with one catch.  She would give me a plan for free and in turn, I would blog every single day in a blog for her eyes only, what I did running wise and what I ate and how I felt.  Well, you know I love blogging so this wasn't any problems for me.  Her job then was to write her own blog about my rather poor nutrition, how it affected my training (total truth) and how I could change it for the better.  I enjoyed the feedback I got from her in her blogs and changed many of my bad nutritional habits.  Then I found out i was pregnant.  Upon her advice and of course the start of all day sickness that is the first trimester, I gave up running.  I did some running once I was in the second trimester but very slow and usually on the treadmill.
After little red was born, I had to slowly get back into running thanks to my c-section.  I didn't want to take advantage of my coach anymore (She would probably disagree that I wasn't taking advantage of her, but I did feel guilty a lot), so I looked into running coaches again.  It just so happened that I was going to my massage guy a ton for all of the aches and pains I was having post baby, and he was just getting ready to hire a running coach for his business.
Not only was Sydney (the coach he hired) a registered dietitian, but also a Big 12 athlete extraordinaire!  Since I was her first client, I was not charged what typical coaches charge, but I was charged by the training cycle.  I had decided I wanted to go bigger than the 10 Ks and 5 Ks I had been doing pre-baby.  I wanted to increase my speed and endurance and go for the goal of a half marathon.  I honestly thought I would be one and done.  I laugh at this thought now:)  Sydney handcrafted an awesome plan for me that helped me figure out not only paces for various distances, but also fueling for longer runs during and before.  Because of her and of course my BRF who shared my plan and was running her first half in the form of a 25 K, I made it through my first half marathon in one piece!  And since that first half, I have gone on to run four more plus two 10 Ks and a 25 K, each one with a new PR!  

So what are the advantages to having a coach?  Here are some of my top reasons why I love having a coach:

1.  I like having a plan tailored to me and my paces.  We commonly re-evaluate my paces as I improve as a runner and re-vamp my plans.

2.  I like the fact that if I have problems with a particular work out, I can work through these issues and figure out why.  It may be something simple that as a newer runner, I just don't know or it may be more complex.  Most coaches are runners themselves and they have been there, done that. You get to learn from their mistakes so you don't make your own:)

3.  I like the fact that when life gets in the way of my plan (which hello, this happens often), my coach and I can discuss how to best approach the problem.  Like when I get sick or injured.  I haven't been in this game long enough to know what to do in every situation.  My coaches have gotten me through pregnancy, pneumonia, and now this stupid injury.

4.  I like being pushed.  I think if i didn't have a coach asking me how thing are going, I would tend to skip the harder workouts like tempo and pace runs.  The fact that i have weeks with two speed work outs per week I am sure, has helped me reach many PRs this year.

5.  I like goal setting and coaches are great about helping you set realistic goals.  I went from doing one half to doing four in a row.  I probably would not have even made that a goal if I didn't have a coach to help me plan and figure out if it was even feasible.  

6.  Most coaches are certified meaning they have gone through classes or workshops and testing to be coaches.  This is very important to me.  There is science behind running and I like the fact that my coaches have been taught the science as well as the methods and madness.

7.  Most running coaches have gone through injuries or have had friends who have.  They can advise you on what doctors to see and how to respond until you can get in and also how to interpret what the doctors mean.  When you are injured, you are often scared and confused and they can help you make sense of the emotions and the pain.  

8.  You have your own personal cheerleader!  Who doesn't want a hugely positive person in your life cheering you on no matter what you are tackling?  Your friends and family won't fully understand what you are going through and even though they are happy for you, if they aren't runners themselves, they won't know the highs and lows you are about to experience like a fellow runner.  

So there you have it!  There are a few disadvantages to having a coach, cost being one of them and of course accountability (but hey, that is also a positive), but you can find lower cost alternatives out there and hello, who doesn't need a kick in the pants occasionally.  Just be cautious and remember to look at  qualifications.  I have seen many "coaches" who may have some experience, but they have no certifications or no teaching to back up what they preach.  Winning doesn't always mean someone is the best, so don't let accolades on the track cover up the real person and how they coach.  Every coach might have to help you get your head out of your butt now and then, but they shouldn't be resorting to yelling or violence on a regular basis to get you going.  I have been very lucky to have not only one of the best agility coaches in the world but also two great running coaches.  They are out there, they exist, now go and find them!  

PS.  I am excited to make a blog post soon about my post injury direction that I am going with my coach.   Can't say much yet but just wait for it!

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