One of the best things about running is that it's an individual sport. In general, you don't have to rely on anyone else to participate. You just lace up your shoes and go. But, really, is anything in life that simple?
Unfortunately, no. Even the most experienced runners could use a little help. Sometimes, you get injured. Sometimes, you lose focus and motivation. Sometimes, you want to improve but you just don't know how to get there. And searching the Internet just leaves you confused with differing information from people that don't know much more than you. So, now what?
This is where a coach comes in. I think a common misconception people have regarding running coaches is that they are reserved for elite or professional athletes, or those very serious runners that only want to be competitive. That is just not the case. You'd hire a personal trainer to help you learn how to lift weights, or develop a better strength training workout, right? Well, think of a running coach as your personal running trainer. ANY runner can benefit from having a coach. And here are the top ten reasons why you need a running coach:
1. Personalized Training Programs - A training program really doesn't have any value if it isn't designed specifically for the runner using it. A coach is going to design a program based on YOUR current fitness, which means it's going to take your health history, your injury history and your running experience into consideration. The program will also reflect your specific goals regarding training paces, race times, how much time you have before your race, and your own personal schedule. Plans that you find online are a good starting point, but they often are either too advanced, not advanced enough, too short, or just don't give you enough training. By having a personalized plan, you increase your chances of having a great training and racing experience while remaining healthy and injury free.
2. Constant Source of Motivation - A good coach isn't going to make you run at a level that isn't right for you. This will only produce a runner with low confidence because they can't get through their training runs! Not to mention the possibility of injury. A good coach is going to provide you with a plan that will challenge you to the point of accomplishment, not failure. The workouts may be hard, but you will always be able to do it. Besides, having to be accountable to someone other than yourself is a great source of motivation.
3. Your Own Personal Cheerleader - A good coach will always believe in their clients. If your coach doesn't tell you that you're doing a good job, that you CAN get through your training and/or race, you need to get a new coach.
4. Endless Information Available - Having a personal running coach is like having your own personal running encyclopedia at your side at all times. Coaches go through extensive training to become certified, in addition to the years of experience being an actual runner. Coaches will provide you with the practical information that will keep you healthy and injury free as well as the personal experience you can't get from a Google search.
5. Injury Prevention - Injury prevention has been mentioned several times and we're only half-way through our list. A personal coach is going to design a plan that will minimize your risk for injury. Believe it or not, but there are actual reasons why you do specific mileage one week to the next. And most training plans you find online don't take that into consideration.
6. Your Own Personal Sounding Board - A good coach is going to listen to your ideas, thoughts, fears, hopes, and musings regarding your training program. If you want to try a certain sports drink, a coach will tell you what they think about how it will help you (or hurt you). If you want to try something new with your training program, a coach will work with you to reach your goals.
7. Your Running Toolbox - A coach is going to give you the tools necessary to improve your running. These could be physical tools, such as a speed workout specific to only your fitness or a long run based on your favorite running route. Or they could be mental tools, such as giving you the confidence you need to get through race day.
8. They Do The Thinking For You - A coach is going to figure out the who, what, where, when, and why you're running a particular distance or training pace. A coach is going to take the guesswork out of when to do your 20-mile runs in your marathon training, or when to introduce speed work.
9. They Will Help You Discover New Things - These new things can be a new and different way to stretch or different strength training or cross training activities that will make you stronger. Or your coach will help you discover that you always had it in you to set and reach your goals. You just needed a push.
10. They Make Running Fun - Coaches often have little tricks and workouts you'll never find online. Coaches find ways to make your training program exciting, varied, and different from week to week. They'll take the workouts that have been the most successful, and fun, and put them together to make a plan that will keep you running! That is the point, right?
Jennifer Gill, MPH, is an RRCA-certified running coach and the Founder and President of Sole Health and Wellness, a wellness company based in San Diego, CA. Sole Health and Wellness offers individual, community and corporate-based running programs designed to help individuals get more active, get healthier and live happier lives! Contact her with any questions or to set up services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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