Runners of all abilities can benefit from a running coach. But too many runners think they don’t need one. Chances are you aren’t winning races, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a coach. Believe it or not, a running coach may be even more important for middle and back-of-the-pack runners than for professional athletes.
There are over 26,000 race events in the U.S. every year. And there are more than 15.5 million finishers. That means about 15 million runners aren’t finishing in the top ten of those events. Ever. Just because we’re not breaking the tape or bringing home age-group medals doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from a coach.
I’ve asked a variety of my friends who run without coaches why they don’t have one. Some of their reasons will sound familiar. But if you want to start running or stay healthy and strong for as long as you can, getting a great coach is just as valuable as buying the right pair of running shoes.
Reason 1: I don’t want someone telling me I’m too slow.
One of the most important things coaches teach runners is to slow down. That’s right. Runners are very susceptible to overtraining. Rest days and the right pace on distance runs are some of the best ways to improve fitness and avoid injuries. But when we read about the incredible workouts of top tier runners on social media, too many of us push extra hard in workouts. That leads to overtraining, injury and being sidelined. A great coach can help runners hold back. Personally, my current coach introduced me to heart-rate based training. He taught me how to slow down my long runs to benefit my overall fitness and keep me running healthy.
Reason 2: I don’t have time to work with a coach.
No one has enough time. Coaches can help runners be more strategic about training and racing. Once you’ve selected a goal distance or time, coaches take a lot of the guesswork off your shoulders and save time. They plan out the right workouts, and often the right nutrition, to help you achieve those goals. This can save runners time they would typically waste on the wrong kind of running. They also know how to adjust your workout schedule when your kids have been sick and your training is off.
Reason 3: I don’t win races.
Coaches don’t care if you win. But they do care about helping you reach your goals. They care a lot. No matter how supportive your best friend, spouse or mom who still comes to your races is, eventually he or she is going to need a break from your training talk. But your coach listens. Your coach wants to hear the mile-by-mile details of how you felt, what you were thinking, how much you drank, how you overcame that horrible chafing and dug deep. That one time I started a triathlon, freaked out in the water. Earning my first DNF was an emotional struggle. Long after my friends had time to listen, my coach still heard me out. And she coached me on how to get past my feelings of fear and failure. When I set a new personal record in the half marathon, my coach was ready to celebrate!
I ran on teams in high school and college and learned from a variety of mentors. Now as an amateur runner, I’ve hired two different running coaches over the past five years. Both coaches made it possible for me to not only achieve more in my running, but more importantly, they taught me to enjoy running more. My current coach, Anne-Marie Alderson, is a ITCA-certified triathlon coach who has helped me with races from a 3K sprint to an Olympic distance triathlon. I wasn’t the fastest person at either of those races. In fact, I was the slowest woman on the bike in my Olympic triathlon. Without my coach, I would not have completed either of those fantastic experiences. But with my coach, I’m looking forward to another year of reaching goals and enjoying great runs.