Are you in a frustrating rut in your running journey? Don’t worry—it’s common to hit a plateau in your performance, whether you want to get to a new fitness level or perform better in your next marathon. You might want to improve your time, distance, or perceived effort. Or you may not know where to start and need a little help!
A running coach can help guide you no matter what running experience you have. You could be a beginner or training for a marathon—or both. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never gone on a run in your life or you’ve been running since you were a kid, running coaches help you set goals, make sure your form is on point, and answer all of your running questions.
What Does a Running Coach Do?
A running coach can give you an outside perspective on your running performance. This can help you progress in ways you wouldn’t have otherwise. In addition, a running coach can create a training plan with your goals in mind and help you reach them without injuring yourself (some people have the tendency to train too hard, while others don’t challenge themselves).
“A running coach can wear a lot of hats—coach, therapist, training partner, motivational speaker, etc. A running coach will devise a training plan that helps the runner meet their goals. Now, those can often be too aggressive or not challenging enough, so a running coach can help manage and temper expectations when needed,” advises John Honerkamp, RRCA and USATF certified coach.
You might be keen on improving your time or distance or qualifying for a marathon. It’s essential to think about your goals before hiring a running coach. They can help you figure some of them out, but there needs to be a starting point.
On the other hand, you may have never run before and want the expertise of a coach to help you. That’s a good starting point. Your coach can help you get started by giving you a training plan with how many times a week to run, your pace for each run, and how long your runs should be.
They can aid you on and off the track, according to Carrie Tollefson, Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series Coaching Ambassador. For example, they can advise on nutrition, rest, cross-training, injuries, and even provide motivation when the going gets tough.
Tollefson praises running coaches for helping her, “I can’t say enough about having a running coach. I have always excelled more while having one, and all of my previous coaches remained a huge influence in my life.”
How to Find the Right Running Coach
There are two associations for running coach certifications: Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) and the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. RRCA has an online search option to find a coach near you.
Honerkamp and Tollefson recommend checking your local running specialty store for a coach in your area. If you’re training for a race, check with the race organizers. They often have running coaches available.
“Having a coach there to say, ‘We can do this! I can help fit fitness into your life—let me take the thinking out of this and just follow my plan,’ is so powerful,” notes Tollefson.
“While all run coaches enjoy bringing runners up to speed, we all have our super powers. Some of my coaching team are excellent with first time runners, some prefer working with run/walk protocols, some are passionate about track work and others are long distance experts,” Karina Krepp, RRCA certified run coach, explains.
She continues, “Trail running, road running, racing, pleasure jogging, fitness walking, cardiovascular high intensity peak speed work, incline, altitude, and youth are just a few of the niches a coach could adore. Find your goal and then chat with a few local coaches. One will be the right fit.”
Questions to ask a potential running coach
Sample questions Honerkamp recommends asking:
- Are you a flexible coach that allows for life to get in the way of training or is it “running is life?”
- Are you a high-volume coach or is it less is more?
- Do you coach elite runners?
- Do you coach beginner runners?
- How much do you charge?
- Do you think running should be fun?
How to Set Goals With a Running Coach
Running coaches are good at creating training plans to help you reach your goals. But, of course, your goals will be different than others, and that’s why a coach is important. They can help you where you are now and guide you to where you want to be.
“Every skill level can benefit from a coach. Often an athlete is their own worst critic and a coach can walk you off the ledge when needed. Coaching elite athletes has a different set of challenges than the newbie runner, but it is all relative. Everyone needs some help,” explains Honerkamp.
You should have an idea of your goals before you hire a running coach. Once you choose a coach, take some time to go over the goals you’ve brainstormed. They will likely see some goals you can add, or help you get more specific to narrow your focus.
If you’re new to running, think about why you want to start running. Do you want to improve your physical fitness? Get stronger? Faster? Run a race? Your “why” can help you and your coach determine your goals.
If You Don’t Agree With Your Running Coach
If you disagree with your running coach, you should discuss it with them openly. Just like any other relationship, clear communication goes a long way. Talk it out and see if you need to modify your training plan.
If there is a safety issue within your coach’s advice, it may be time to find a new coach. For example, if you’re getting injured during your training (based on advice they’ve given you), it’s a red flag.
No one knows your body better than you do. Prioritize your health and safety during your workouts, and consult a medical professional if you have lingering pain or are unsure about your fitness habits. Only you know what’s best for you and if something isn’t right.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a running coach cost?
A running coach can cost anywhere from $100 to $500 or more per month. One budget-friendly option is joining a running club instead of hiring a personal coach. The RRCA has non-profit running clubs you can join for $76 a year.
How do I become a running coach?
You’ll first need experience as a runner, whether it’s a hobby or as a professional. You can take online or in-person classes to become a certified running coach.
What qualifications do I need to be a running coach?
You can become a running coach by earning a certification through Road Runners Coaches of America or the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Road Runners Club of America. Working with a coach.
Road Runners Club of America. Running club membership.
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