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The Benefits of a Running Coach


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Submitted by My Top Fitness for Prana Endurance Training

You are never too fast or too slow to have a running coach. Even the greatest runners acknowledge that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and are looking for any competitive advantages to succeed. Beginner runners can easily get lost in all the complexity and information swirling around distance running, when what they need is a solid distance running plan and coaching to gain a clear path before running it with absolute confidence and support.

Coaches provide a wide spectrum of assistance to not only establish and hone your running plan, but offer the inspiration and guidance necessary for getting through the “tough days” and reaching new milestones. This is achieved via a combination of knowledge and style, and does not require the coach to live near you. In fact, there are so many virtual tools and technologies that it’s easy to get the coaching you need from a far.

What matters is that you have someone there, pushing you to maximize your capabilities while nurturing the mental and emotional aspects of running. As many runners of all levels will attest, it is not the “loneliness of the long distance runner” that they strive for, but rather becoming the runner locked away inside their body and mind… and a good coach may have the keys to open that potential.

Tailored and Adapting Training Plans

Every beginner runner needs a place to start and seasoned veterans need to know where to go next. While many running plans provide an effective base, it is critical to tailor running plans to meet your goals and adapt as goals are surpassed or setbacks occur. This is where a good coach is invaluable. They understand the peaks and valleys of running, but more importantly, they understand that everyone is different and will work with you to establish, monitor, and adapt your training plan to maximize running effectiveness. This does not necessarily mean adding more miles, but varying the type and intensity of workouts to increase running quality.

Someone Who Has Been There, or Knows Where There Is

Especially critical for new runners or runners hitting plateaus is having someone with experience to guide them in their running journey. While many coaches are former or even active runners, you don’t need a former Olympian as a coach… in fact, you may not necessarily need a coach who was a runner (although it’s preferred that your coach has running experience in order to relate to the unique aspects of running). With a coach in your corner, they can point the direction they followed to success or what to avoid, but more importantly follow best practices and proven techniques to move you forward. They may even have their own techniques or be on the cutting edge of new workout approaches that others haven’t fathomed. This goes beyond just running workouts and into the critical supporting activities of cross training, resistance training, proper stretching, nutrition and more.

Providing Inspiration, Motivation, or Tough Love

Coaches are not robots and they understand that the runners they coach aren’t either. In this regard, one of the most important gifts a coach can give is to properly inspire, motivate, or give tough love when it’s needed. Simply having a coach that sugar coats all that you do will not help you. You need someone who is willing to get to know you and what motivates you.

You might be the type of runner who responds to running quotes that inspire and motivate or someone that needs a tough talk/tough love to help you overcome self-doubts and increase willpower. Inspiration comes in all forms, and you may discover that your coach is a source of inspiration by their own running journey. In the end, the mark of a great coach is one that is quietly in the background letting you build the confidence you need as they remind you “that everyone has greatness, don’t wait to run great tomorrow run… great today, or don’t let you beat you!”

Providing Boundaries and When to Break Through Them

Just as important to knowing your limits is understanding when to push them. This is a challenge as our internal running voice only sees and knows what we have done and how it feels. This is where a coach following careful analysis of your progress and observed behaviors during workouts (such as breaking your form during hill repeats) can assist with establishing your boundaries.

Too many runners push through boundaries when they need to properly recover from workouts and avoid injury. On the other end of the spectrum is knowing when the time is ripe to push the limits and discover new capabilities. With the external force of a coach, you are able to relay critical data to determine as a team if it’s time to push or stay the course.

Alternative and Creative Training Techniques

Running is not as simple as left foot, right foot, and repeat. Once you have a strong running base established, you need differing types of workouts to increase your speed and endurance. Having the right type of workout is the competitive edge you have over your current limitations and other runners if you like to compete. Finding alternative and creative training can be a challenge, and dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing.

Many coaches bring their own techniques to the table, but these are founded in understanding your training goals and what may or may not work for you. They may even work with you to create a new technique or training approach. This goes far beyond different running workouts such as beach running, running backwards, and challenging track intervals and into supporting aspects such as form drills, parachute running, race time diet, trail running, cross training, and more.  

Mental and Emotional Preparation

Runners are not robots…. it requires training the mental and emotional aspects just as much as the physical to enjoy and be successful as a runner. From a mental aspect, this includes gaining the mental fortitude for the toughest part of a run/race or fighting boredom on a long run. Emotions such as self-doubt or fear (of both success and failure) can debilitate a runner. In both of these aspects, you can train your mind and learn how to manage your emotions, but this something difficult to do alone as we are often our own worst counselors. Coaches offer a strong external voice to fight the inner voice that may be holding back your running capabilities. Whether it’s increasing your willpower for the tough parts of a race or fighting the feeling of “I can’t do this”… there are techniques such as visualization, self-reassurance, and sometimes just having someone else remind you of how far you’ve come/are able to go, that will strengthen these critical aspects of the overall runner you are meant to be.

Dealing with Injuries and Setbacks

Even the best coached and training runner can suffer an injury. Recovering from a running injury requires the proper treatment and caution when working back into a training schedule. This is where many runners tend to injure themselves further or get re-injured. A coach can add a lot of value as they can assist with ensuring you get and follow the correct treatment plan from your doctor while creating a training approach to get you back on the roads. As recovering from an injury is not only physical, but also mental, coaches can accelerate the mental/emotional healing process by rebuilding lost confidence or helping you fight fear.

However, not all running setbacks are injuries. Sometimes it can be underperforming in a race or workout, despite sticking to your training plan. This is when you need to learn how to adjust your training, possibly take a break, or re-evaluate your performance goals. This is a daunting task and one that self-coached runners struggle with immensely. It is natural to have plateaus, peaks, and valleys over the course of your running career. Learning how to navigate these, and life events such as aging or running after having a baby, often require external assistance in order to get and keep running momentum.

Celebrating Your Victories and Milestones

Once your race is complete or you hit a training milestone, an empty feeling can set in, even if your loved ones cheer on your victory. This is because runners need another runner or someone who understands the journey they are on to help fill the post victory void while preparing for the next challenge.

There will always be some truth to the “loneliness of the long distance runner”, but there is also a danger in walking away from the sport of distance running because of uncertainty of where to go next. It may be time to reevaluate your goals around how fast, how far, or where you will run next (i.e. obstacle course racing). It is at the end of the celebration, where you coach picks you up, analyzes what you can do better, and starts the watch for the next training session.

Where to Find a Coach

Finding the right coach is an effort unto itself. Beyond coaching techniques you will want to ensure that you mesh with the personality of your coach. At the minimum, you will want a certified coach, preferably by the RRCA. A range of coaches can be found by searching the RRCA directory. Coaches can also be found via running websites or your local running club.

In your search, do not get hung up on needing to have your coach located near you, as the technology to remotely coach meets or exceeds the needs of many runners at any level of capability. In fact, Prana Endurance Training has detailed coaching programs backed by an RRCA Certified Coach and proven distance runner that can be done remotely with great success.

Sources/Further Reading on the Value of a Running Coach

Should You Hire a Running Coach?

5 Reasons To Hire A Running Coach

Benefits of a running coach

RRCA – Find a Coach

Author Bio:

1_primary_logo_on_transparent_203x75Kelly Rusk is a former collegiate and sponsored distance runner who shares his passion for running and fitness as the “Team Captain” of My Top Fitness. You can also Like My Top Fitness on Facebook or Follow My Top Fitness on Twitter to get the latest running articles, inspiration, and fitness news to maximize your potential.


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