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How to Find the Right Running Coach
Are you ready to take your next steps as a runner?
One of the first steps towards improving and accomplishing your goals is to begin working with a running coach.
A running coach can be vital to your improvement because they bring expertise, accountability, and a fresh and objective look at your running goals. But what makes a good coach? Here are six things you should do and look for when searching for your perfect running coach.
Determine Your Goals and Needs.
Before you start searching for a running coach, it's important to determine your goals and needs. Are you training for a specific race or distance? Do you want to improve your speed or endurance? Are you a beginner or an experienced runner? Knowing what you want to achieve and what type of support you need will help you narrow down your options and find a coach who can help you reach your goals.
Is the Coach a Great Communicator?
Growing up, I played lots of different sports for lots of different coaches, but one coach stands above the rest. Mr. Schierer, my 7th-grade basketball coach, made it crystal clear what it took for me to get into the game: I had to play defense.
He had players who could handle the ball, and he had players who could score, but what he needed was someone who had the confidence to come off the bench cold and guard the other team's best player. I embraced that role and went from a rarely-used bench player at the beginning of the season to lead the team in minutes played at the end.
Your coach needs to find your strengths, build a plan, and communicate to you exactly how the two of you are going to work together to execute that plan.
Does the Coach Care About You?
There are lots of coaches out there who can get you to your goals, but is that through using a "cookie cutter" plan, or one that is tailored to you?
Anyone can get a training plan off the internet, but a great coach will talk to you about your goals, assess what is important to you, learns your strengths and weaknesses, and builds a plan specifically around you. They are being paid for their expertise, and part of that expertise is knowing that what works for other people doesn’t always work for you.
Is the Coach Willing and Able to Adjust?
I’m sure you’ve heard the common definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If there is something in your training plan you aren’t comfortable with or don’t think is effective, your coach should be willing and able to adjust your training plan to give you something that works.
Always remember, it’s your experience, not theirs, and a good, confident coach knows how to make the necessary changes to get you where you need to go while still giving you the autonomy to have input on your destiny.
Does the Coach Motivate and Support You?
The great New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once (allegedly) said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical.” How you feel mentally going through a training cycle is just as important as the running itself.
If you are in a great headspace, that will be reflected in your training. If you aren't, it won't and can run the risk of seeping into other areas of your life. A good coach can sense this and knows when to push when to pull back, and when to listen and offer support.
A coach is an important and trusted resource. If they don’t know what gets you out of bed and on the road every day, they are merely giving you a training plan, they aren’t truly coaching you.
Is the Coach Your Biggest Fan on Raceday?
When my two sons were running track and cross country, I promised them that wherever they went to compete, I’d be there, because I knew that seeing me in the crowd mattered to them. Whether it’s a training run or a big race, your coach should always be in your corner.
When race day rolls around, are they front and center – literally or virtually – or are they sending you a canned “good luck” message? Do they feel like your accomplishments reflect more on them and what they did for you, or are they genuinely thrilled by your result? If your coach isn’t one of your biggest fans, they are not committed to making you the best runner and person you can be.
Finding the right coach can be a game-changer when it comes to your running. There is a big difference, however, between a “coach” and a “Coach”. Find one that fits in the latter category, and you will take your running to the next level and meet all your goals.