Runners love talking about the sport, so it’s likely you’ve gotten plenty of tips and information from buddies while logging miles. However, what works for one runner won’t necessarily work for another, so how do you know which advice to take and what to leave in the dust?
Enlisting the help of a running coach — no matter what level you’re at — can help keep you on the right track. Whether you’re trying to avoid taking on bad habits as a beginner or you’re working on unlearning some bad habits you’ve taken on as a veteran, a coach will be there every step of the way to make you the best runner you can be.
Thought coaches were only for the pros? Think again. “Often runners will say to me that they’re ‘not fast enough to warrant getting a coach,’ which couldn’t be further from the truth,” shares Sandra Gallagher-Mohler, coach at I RUN TONS. “All runners can benefit from coaching, and they don’t have to be fast to make it worth their while.”
No matter where you are in your journey, here are five ways a coach can take your running to the next level:
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1. GET AN OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE
In running and life it can be easy to get stuck in your own ways. Sometimes to get out of a slump, all you need is a fresh perspective. If you find yourself in a training rut, a coach can be the eyes you need to get back on track.
“Having a coach will give you the support on those tough days, where it’s easy to question progress, goals and even your identity as a runner,” notes Elizabeth Corkum, a New York City running coach and personal trainer. “A coach can help adjust training for those tough days or weeks. For example, maybe some additional recovery is necessary, the weather was less than ideal or you need to switch up your nutrition; an outside perspective can be priceless.”
2. PRIORITIZE TRAINING
It today’s ever-connected world, it is easy to jam-pack our schedule and say ‘yes’ to too many things. Often the first thing to fall by the wayside is training, and before you know it, that one run you were going to reschedule has turned into a week of missed training.
In times like this, a coach can not only help you sort through your schedule, but also adjust your training so you avoid injury from trying to make up too much mileage all at once.
“A coach will help you navigate when life gets in the way of running,” explains Dan Walters, owner and head coach at DWRunning. “When things happen that an athlete cannot control — such as inclement weather, work stress and family events — it’s so important to have someone determine how training and recovery is affected by those outside factors and adjust accordingly.”
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3. EXPERIENCE LESS BURNOUT AND MORE FUN
It is easy to overtrain or push yourself to the point of being overworked. Of course it is normal to have a few runs that are less-than-joyous, but if you are experiencing a long string of rotten runs, you may be suffering from burnout.
If you’re stuck in a rut, quitting doesn’t have to be the answer. The key is to find the fun in running again, which may involve a shift in focus or some new workouts. Because coaches have seen it all, they may have some workouts you haven’t thought of, or they might know of some fun runs in the area to put that pep back in your step.
“With a knowledgeable and responsive coach, not only can runners expect to get faster, but they can also expect to experience more fun in training,” emphasizes Gallagher-Mohler. “That fun comes from having someone else take on the stress of organizing your workouts.”
4. MAKE TRAINING BREAKTHROUGHS
If your training rut comes from a plateau in progress, a coach can help adjust your training. Often this means pushing a bit harder, but in the end, you’ll see more progress come in the form of faster times and better races.
“Many runners run the same route and pace for many runs, but breakthroughs in performances and races come from training specificity, and balancing hard and easy days,” says Corkum. “A coach can help a runner from getting into habits and a routine without much payoff.”
Your coach will also develop your training plan based on specific goals, so each workout serves a specific purpose and ensures you are training as effectively as possible.
5. GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
It can be easy to stay comfortable by sticking to paces and routes you are familiar with. However, to find true success, getting a bit uncomfortable ultimately pushes you to the next level.
“A coach will not only help you attack the physiological side of running, but also the psychological,” explains Walters. “A coach digs into what motivates you, scares you and taps into your your strengths and weaknesses, using your unique qualities to empower you as you work toward your goals!”
By pushing you further, you will not only make physical gains but mental ones, so when it comes to race day, you will be prepared to tackle any obstacle that comes your way. Sometimes your mind is the only thing holding you back, and having a coach who has taught you to trust your training — and yourself — can make all the difference.