Is getting a coach for you? How will a coach help?
Only the pros need coaching
You do not need to be a pro athlete to have a coach. In fact, there is probably more need for the non-pro to have a coach, than the pro!
Over-training, under-training, peaking and injuries – bumps that become hurdles that become walls in any athlete’s running career
Let’s look at a runner’s life: at some point a person wakes up to the wonderful world of running. They take to the streets or mountains, and soon find a route that works for them and that becomes the weekly norm. They stick to this comfort zone, until they decide to take the next step and take part in a race or two.
What makes the runner keep at it day after day?
In a nutshell: running can be the best fix. It means many things to different people – better fitness levels, part of an overall health program, a challenge, a way to de-stress, or quiet time. Whatever the personal motivation is, we keep putting on the shoes and heading out the door, over and over again.
Given the high mileage that your average runner clocks while training, the most important part of being a runner, pro or social, is to have, as far as possible, an injury free running life. I think many people will confirm that being forced out of action is physically uncomfortable. Living with the feeling that something is really missing without the daily beautiful release of endorphin’s that your body has become used to can also bring a runner down very quickly.
When I started running, I fell into the trap of running too much without seeking advice from my peers on how to approach training the right way. I quickly developed ITB issues and, being horrified at the prospect of not running, sought the advice of my physiotherapist, Sarah Jones. Through a process of dry needling, physiotherapy and Pilates, she managed to clear my ITB issues and I could carry on running without any further pain. What saved me in this situation was a structured plan that resolved what can (and often is) be the bane of many runners.
Get some structure in your training – a coach provides just that
After a while I reached a point where I started doubting my training and the efficacy of it. Not being sure how far to run and when, I decided to head back to Sarah. I had exhausted my (relatively shallow back then) reservoir of training knowledge. She suggested going onto a coaching plan and put into place a tailored, structured program for me. I have found that it does help to have a very structured plan, goals and commitment in a certain direction in place.
When I started out with Sarah, my 5km time trail took a disappointingly average 20 minutes, 35 seconds. Five weeks later I did my next 5km time trail and my time was down to 18 minutes, 33 seconds. A year and a half later it’s down to 16 minutes 24 seconds. My weekly training started taking shape and having structure, which I found to be immensely motivating. I had no time to be bored or get complacent. It went day by day from running drills to strength work, speed work to hill repeats, etc. I started to learn more about myself and my physical and mental ability as well as how the body works in terms of peaking. (Peaking is when you train in cycles so that you are in physically top condition for a selected race/period. To prevent injury, you rest for a period and then start the cycle again.)
Level up – reach your goals
A coach, in some ways, is like a training partner and adviser all in one. Your coach is the other half of “team you!” Your coach is your bouncing board and shoulder when you are questioning yourself; an accountability sergeant on those days when the idea of getting up and out the door running isn’t a tempting one. Running is for the most part an individualist sport, but adding a coach or even just a running group not only places structure but some company & competition to hopefully bring out the best in all of us. We all need that push out of our comfort zones.
If a one-on-one coaching regime sounds a bit intense for you, there are always alternatives. Your average local mutlisport club usually offers group training. This is a great opportunity to meet like-minded individuals of similar ability. Training in the bunch offers group support and a level of competition as you all push yourself to new personal bests. Multisport can be a solo sport, but that doesn’t mean you can’t train with others and celebrate together after the race. For the majority of athletes, the camaraderie at races and during training is what keeps them coming back for more. I often enjoy joining Atlantic Triathlon Club and Embark group training track session for that extra competitive push and social atmosphere. There are also online options such as Training Peaks who offer online support and coaching.
Accountability, dedication, knowledge and planning
Getting a coach does require some capital outlay, unless you know one willing to guide you who accepts payment in friendship. If this is the case accept the offer, stop reading. You should already be out training and thanking your lucky stars! For everybody else the capital outlay is an investment in yourself and your goals. No one ever regrets enlisting the help of a coach. A coach will make your life shine in the following ways:
• Accountability: You should be accountable to yourself for your training regardless, but investing in a coach will make sure you follow through for want of not wasting the outlay.
• Dedication: The fact you undertook training means you are dedicated. Your coach should share that dedication and will make sure you remember why you are doing this – even when you think you are ready to throw in the towel.
• Knowledge: Knowledge is power, true in life and especially true in training. Why are you doing those hill repeats? Do you really need to push so much? Why is my left leg hurting more than the right? How can I fix this? A good coach will inform you as you go. Understanding why you are doing things and how you will benefit translates into motivation and that leads to maximum benefit and gains.
• Planning: How often do you need to do hill repeats, or how long do I run and ride for a week. When do I need to peak? A coach will take your aims and races into account when planning a programme and structure it to allow for peaking in time for that race of personal best.
At the end of the day a coach will not do the race for you and cannot guarantee you will not pick up an injury. On the road to reaching your goals it is ultimately up to you. You can, however, speed up the process with a coach or training plan helping you along.
Coached or not, keep running, cycling and getting out there.