When I'd mention some of my struggles to my friend Michelle, she'd offer advice and tell me I should just have her coach me. I remember thinking, “Coaching? For me? I'm slow. I'm still relatively new. I'm never going to win anything or break any records. What will people think if I have a coach?”
Then one day having sat at my computer for hours trying in vain to create my own training schedule, I decided, what the heck, I'm going to give this a try.
It's now been almost a year months since I started working with a coach. Any hesitation or doubts I had are long gone. She's been at the finish line to give me a huge hug when I grabbed a 5K personal best, as well as when I broke down in tears following a challenging half marathon I'd done in honour of my dog who'd passed away. Every week Michelle gives me a new plan of action to tackle on my calendar. I do the work and report back on how it went.
I know now that I would not have been able to work with a coach who followed at my heels on the track or who berated me when I missed an interval by two seconds. Michelle understands me, what I need and we've developed a method that works well for us.
Fit is just as important in a coach as it is for your running shoes.
A run coach is there to help a runner improve, regardless of their current running skill. They're there to sort through the information clutter because they've heard and seen it all. They can look at your skills, goals and plans and create a schedule tailored to you. They also have the ability to modify that schedule if things are going better or not working out as expected. They take all the run thinking, confusion and stress off your shoulders, and before you know it, you realize that you're able to focus on one thing: running.
When looking for a running coach, do your research. She/he should have qualifications and experience and use methods that suit your lifestyle and needs. It's also important that your coach is someone you get along with and that understands and works with you.
Decide ahead of time what you'd like your coach to help you with. It doesn't have to be detailed, and it can change over time. It may be that you want to learn how to get faster or have help with scheduling your training. Perhaps you want to train for your first marathon or even your first 5K! Ask your running friends, run clubs or running stores for recommendations. Decide what kind of contact and approach you'd prefer: in person, with a group or virtual. Make yourself a running biography with details of your typical runs, your race times, what you are good at, as well as where you struggle. Include areas of your life that help or get in the way of running. Are you a new mom that can only do stroller or treadmill runs? Do you do all your runs as commutes to work? List any current or past running injuries. Include your small and bigger goals. All of this information will help a potential coach understand you while providing a conversation launch pad to help you both decide if it's the right fit.
I'm really glad I decided to work with a coach. Overall the average number of kilometers I've been running per month may be about the same, but how those kilometers are done is different. I’m stronger and friends comment that I look different. I’ve discovered areas of running I really like and am better at. The confusion and stress I felt at the beginning of the year has cleared, leaving my mind free to see the bigger picture. Thanks, Coach, for helping me see that.
Originally published in Destination Outside Magazine, December 2016: http://www.destinationoutsidemag.com/ISSUE2/16/