The first notion that might pop into your mind when you think about hiring an online running coach is that you aren’t “fast enough” to warrant a coach. Or maybe you think you aren’t experienced enough. Or that it’s too expensive.
The reality is that runners of all abilities can benefit from a running coach. And the cost – while not free – is not expensive, either. In fact, running coaches can be a great value considering the amount of improvement you’re likely to see.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the reasons why you might want to consider hiring an online running coach. We’ll also discuss how to find a coach that’s a good fit for you. Finally, we’ll go over how to make the most of your coaching investment.
Reasons to Hire a Coach
Running is an accessible sport. It requires minimal equipment and no lessons. Lace up your running shoes and head out the door.
At the same time, you need to make sure you’re training correctly, avoiding injuries, eating properly, and wearing the right gear.
Running is also a physically taxing activity. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the motivation to get in your daily run. This is especially true when you have to balance serious training with the demands and stresses of daily life.
Add everything up, and it’s no wonder many runners struggle with consistency in their training.
According to Team RunRun Coach Maxx Antush, “The two biggest reasons for hiring an online running coach are accountability and peace of mind. Knowing that somebody is viewing and analyzing your training often leads to increased consistency for runners. It is through this consistency that runners gain the most improvement.”
And there it is: consistency. It’s not a out designing super-tough workouts, or running farther, or faster. Results grow from consistency.
Even if you’re pretty good at getting your runs in, an online coach can help you become an even better runner. A coach who is tracking your workouts can provide that extra motivation to not skip runs. This regular consistency is one of the best ways to improve as a runner.
Creating New habits and Breaking Bad Ones
Now you might be thinking that if you’re a beginner, you don’t really need a running coach. After all, you’re not chasing a marathon PR, you just want to finish your first 5k.
But that’s not true. In fact, it might even be more important to hire a running coach as a beginner.
“The earlier a runner can use a coach, the more likely that they can adopt better running habits earlier on to promote a stronger running career,” says Keith Laverty (IG handle: @trail_lightning).
“There are so many factors and subtle aspects of the training process that can be entirely missed without a coach. Such as how to structure a program, how to choose new running shoes, what strength exercises to incorporate or how to prevent injuries during the training process.”
Training Customized for You
If you are training for a big race, you know the importance of a good training plan. You’ll likely be tempted to find a free one online somewhere.
Free training plans are great because, well, they are free. But when you hire a coach, they custom-tailor a plan specifically for you. This means it’s created to your current and near-future ability level. And it’s designed around your available training time and lifestyle.
With a free plan, you’ll run into difficulties when the plan needs to be changed. If you miss a session (and you will!), you likely don’t know how to adjust for it. But your running coach does!
Knowing What to Expect
Like anything, it’s important to know what you’re getting into before hiring an online coach. In order to get the most out of your experience, you should expect a lot of communication and back and forth with your coach to figure out your needs.
Personalized Training Plan
At a minimum, your coach will assist you in tailoring a training plan specific to your running needs. This is why communication between coach and runner is so important: so you get the program that is best for you.
This may not just be for a specific race. It could be for maintenance, or building a strong base ahead of race season.
According to Annelie Stockton, a coach for Team RunRun, runners can expect not only a training plan specific to them, but also the flexibility to adjust for changes in schedule, and answers to questions when they arise. Coaches are an external voice that advises runners on which to push it and when to rest.
Stockton says, “Runners typically have a great work ethic and love to push themselves. I believe one of the most important things a run coach can provide is scheduled rest days and easy days that will benefit their runner, help them improve, and keep them healthy long-term.”
Running isn’t just about the legs, and coaching isn’t just about tempo runs, intervals, and rest days. A good coach will also dispense advice on nutrition, gait analysis, cross-training, equipment and gear suggestions, and more. Different coaches will provide different services, but this should always be clearly stated on their profiles.
“The types of services that online coaches provide is unique to the coach and often based on their experiences and backgrounds. Many coaches are qualified to provide services in nutrition or gait analysis or other things that a runner might want help with, so these are things to ask about in screening questions when trying to find a coach that is the right fit,” says Maxx Antush.
Finding a Running Coach
Ok, so you’ve decided to invest in a coach. The next question is how do you find one.
Running coach Anita Campbell suggests searching online and finding a couple coaches that you might like and then emailing them with questions and information about what they can provide. Many coaches are even willing to have an initial phone call just to make sure it’s a good fit for you and the coach.
As Campbell notes, “Remember that a coach can be a great coach for one person, but that doesn’t mean they are going to be the best coach for you. It needs to be a good fit for both sides and the best way to do that is by communicating as clearly as possible your background, goals, expectations, and questions.”
Determine Your Needs
To find the ideal coach, you’re going to have to do some self-reflection about your needs. What type of race are you interested in training for? How much time can you dedicate to running? Do you also want nutritional advice?
In addition to their experience running, there are coaches with knowledge in exercise physiology, biomechanics, medicine, nutrition, psychology, philosophy. The list goes on. Each coach brings something unique to the relationships with their runners.
You could even think about your ideal running coach and write down characteristics that you’d like before searching online. This will streamline the search process and help you confirm that you’ve found the right person. Even if it seems silly, write the characteristics down. Pick what is going to work best for you.
Where to Look for a Coach
Practically, you can find a running coach by searching online or asking your running friends for referrals.
Another good place to look are coaching platforms with a network of coaches (the coaches mentioned in this article can all be found on Team Run Run).
Make sure that you take the time to reach out via phone or email to get a feel for their communication style and if that works for you. Think of it as a job interview or a roommate interview.
It’s probably a good idea to have a shortlist of at least three coaches who you think might be a good fit, and then contact all of them with a list of the same questions. Bonus points if you write down how you’d like the questions answered and then see which person matches up the most.
And remember: it’s okay to realize that someone isn’t going to be a good fit. You’re saving yourself and that coach time if you recognize this sooner rather than later. And you’re saving yourself some money by hiring the right coach first.
At the end of the day, it’s all about you. You need to feel comfortable with your coach. You need to be able to relate to them, and respond positively to how they motivate you.
Getting the Most from Your Coach
Now that you’ve decided on a coach, it’s important that you make the most of your investment.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
As with many things in life, frequent communication is key. It will help you stay on track and meet your goals and let your coach know where you are.
It’s important that you discuss with your coach early on what good communication looks like to you. Do you check in every few days? Weekly? Do you want to communicate via email, text, phone, video calls?
Your topics will range from how training is progressing, how you feel overall, what your stress levels are, anything non-running going on in your life, upcoming races and events, and so forth.
Anita Campbell notes, “Communicate effectively and provide consistent updates for your coach on how your training is going. Be an active participant in your coach-athlete relationship. Let your coach know your thoughts, good, bad and sometimes ugly. Good communication and honesty are key.”
The important part is to be truthful. Sure, if you miss a day, it could take a lot to fess up to a coach. But that’s when you’ll experience growth. Your coach will help you take a step back and figure out why you missed that day in the first place to ensure success going forward.
For example, if you’re training too hard, maybe your coach will adjust your schedule to make the runs more reasonable, and then you won’t feel the need to skip any in the future. Or perhaps you’re dealing with an illness, and your training plan should account for that.
Whatever is going on, your coach is there to help
As Team RunRun coach Keith Laverty notes, “[A] coach can really tailor and optimize your training program around your personal and work schedules, consider training volume and workouts with your experience in mind and what you do or do not respond well to, tailor the program to a race’s course profile and conditions, and finally, be your biggest cheerleader and a motivator to work through some of the negative thoughts or self-doubt that so many runners deal with.”
Don’t forget to ask questions! Maybe you’re an inquisitive person and asking questions comes easy to you—you want to understand. But maybe it’s harder. Just make sure that you know what you need to succeed.
“A coach is available for questions/concerns/etc., provides feedback, is understanding, and listens to their runners,” says Stockton. “As a coach, I am here to help you to push yourself, but I also know when to back off, when to rest, and when a break is needed.”
If you’re not comfortable talking to someone about your running and any other pertinent life information, then you’re not going to get the most benefit from hiring a coach. Save yourself some money and wait to hire a coach until you know that you can be open and honest.
In the end, hiring an online running coach is an investment and a commitment. But if you want to improve your running, it’s worth it.
Before searching the internet for someone who is going to be a good fit, figure out why you want to hire a coach, what your needs are, and how your coach can meet those needs.