As you plan your 2013 running year, you are probably asking yourself and your training partners a lot of questions, for instance: “What are my goals?” “Is this a year to get a coach?” “How do I know if I need a coach?” “How do I find and choose a coach?”
Finding a coach is a little like finding the right running shoes. I know how that sounds but think about it. Just like running shoes, there are lots of different options but the shoes must fit the runner. After all, for the coach/athlete relationship to be successful you must find someone you trust, someone you can easily communicate with, and someone you can work with. In the end, you must believe in your coach and your coach must believe in you.
Five different coaches have coached me and I believe that each one helped me gain more knowledge and improved my running. In addition, I have been coaching other runners for 5 years and have my USATF (USA Track & Field) and RRCA (Road Runners’ Club of America) coaching certifications. So why do I have a coach? Why don't I just coach myself? Some of the reasons I work with a coach are that my coach holds me accountable, my coach keeps me from over training, my coach helps keep me motivated and injury free.
Whether you are training for the marathon distance or 5K, there are plenty of different coaching philosophies out there: more training miles, fewer miles, cross train or not, heart rate training, 2-a-day workouts, more or less speed work, long taper, mobility training and on and on. The real key is how the coach puts all the pieces together creating a unique plan specific to you, the athlete. For instance, I may have the same coach as someone else but each of us probably will be coached differently based on our strengths, weakness and abilities.
A good coach will assess each athlete and figure out what he or she needs. Now, if your coach doesn’t do that it is time to find a new coach! I have experienced this situation firsthand. I had a coach who believed in high mileage for marathoners. I gave it a try even though my body was giving me negative feedback to the mega-mile program. Guess what? I got injured.
Because that coach really believed in his training plan and wasn’t taking my feedback into account, I knew I needed to move on. He just didn’t understand the type of training that I needed to improve and stay healthy.
Now I have found a coach that has a top priority of keeping me injury free. It helps that he a chiropractor and a runner. In the past I have hired the well-known coaches with impressive resumes that are also top elite athletes. I did on-line coaching with them. What I realized is that they were not able to see who I really was as an athlete, my strengths and how to push me to overcome my weaknesses. My coach right now might not have written a book or currently coach world-class athletes but I feel he has helped me more than the other coaches I have had in the past.
Do your research, write down what you expect out of a coach and interview them before starting to train with them. Keep your goals in focus and do what is best for you. Remember, if the shoe fits…!