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What it’s really like when you hire a running coach (and is worth it?)

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If you’ve ever — or never — thought about hiring a running coach, this post is for you! I asked my best friend all my most-skeptical questions about using a coach. 🙂

I’m handing the blog over to Kate again today! If you’re a long-time blog reader, you may remember Kate’s previous blog appearances. Some of my favorites:

I’m thinking about hiring a running coach

Kate has worked with a running coach for just over a year now, and I’m also considering using her coach as I get into formal training for the Boston Marathon. I had a ton of questions about her experience, and I thought her answers would be helpful for my running blog readers as well! If you have other questions, leave them in the comments and Kate will chime in. And if you’ve worked with a running coach, please share your experience!

Oh, it should be noted — this is NOT sponsored by Enoch and he didn’t weigh in on any of this. Heck, Enoch doesn’t even know I exist unless he notices that I like his Strava workouts. Basically, we’re not trying to sell you on Enoch, but sharing Kate’s experience with a coach. We hope it’s helpful! Alright, over to Kate!

I am currently watching the NYC Marathon and wondering if it will inspire me to go out and get a run in today. It did inspire me to enter to win an entry into the 2019 NYC Marathon but thinking about running another marathon isn’t something I really want to do right now. I’m coming off 6 months of marathon training – Grandma’s Marathon in June (recap here) and Chicago Marathon in October. And I’m really enjoying some unstructured downtime. But Teri asked me to share about my structured training with a running coach so let’s get to it…

Why should I work with a running coach

Last year, after my first group run with The Florida Track Club, I was introduced to Coach Enoch, and he invited me to run with his team the next morning. Despite the 6am start (I wasn’t a morning person at the time), I showed up for the steamy August team run and had a blast meeting and running with new people. I immediately joined the team which offered three runs per week. After a few months, I upgraded my team membership to get additional training from Enoch to train for a half-marathon. Even after moving back to NC from FL, I kept working with Enoch through his e-coaching program to train for the Chicago Marathon.

running coach

What distance(s) does your running coach train you for

I trained with Enoch for a half-marathon and two marathons (with other races in between – all PRs). Having a coach for the marathon was a game changer since I’m less comfortable pushing myself with longer distances. That being said, I believe your running goals drive the benefits of hiring a coach. I think it’s especially beneficial to consider a coach if you’re training for your first race at a certain distance (or just started running), trying to run a PR or coming back from an injury.

What do your workouts look like each week

One of the perks of working with a coach, compared to using a training program online or in a book, is that a good coach will tailor workouts to your current level of fitness, goals, and life. (Running is not my full-time job!) My training for Grandma’s Marathon wasn’t as intense as Chicago since I started training only 8 weeks out from the race. We wanted a BQ while remaining injury free. For Chicago, my training looked like this:

  • mileage ranged from the high 40s to low 60s with 5-6 runs per week
    • one rest day
    • two mid-week workouts (combination of tempo, hills, speed)
    • one long run
    • two to three 50-90 minutes recovery runs
online running coach

Best part about having a coach

Gosh, this one is hard since there are so many things that I appreciated about having a coach. Top three:

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  • Having my workouts delivered to me via Training Peaks and never having to worry about making decisions about my runs
  • Communication with my coach. Enoch would text me throughout my training to check in throughout the training program, especially when he could see that I was struggling. He’d offer encouragement before hard workouts and race day. He even texted me at 4:30am before Grandmas marathon.
  • Race day nutrition plan. My detailed and tailored plans from Enoch kept me from experiencing GI problems or bonking which happened in both of my pre-running coach marathons

Why would I hire a running coach when there are so many free training plans online?

Two years ago, I asked the same question, and I am so happy that I gave coaching a try. Here’s why:

  • A good coach should tailor a program to you and modify the program, as needed, throughout training. A generic training program cannot do these things.
  • I learned new and different workouts that I plan to continue to run even when I am not running a structured plan.
  • A tailored program is incredibly important, regardless of your speed, to maximize fitness, prevent injury, and set realistic goals. Personally, I think this is even more important when you have a life outside of running and/or setting new running goals (including being new to running).

When I was training for Chicago, my husband and I moved from FL to NC, traveled to Scotland for two weeks, and I started a new job. The combination of all these things could easily derail marathon training. But, Coach Enoch worked with me to set up my training plan around my life so I could still run a strong and healthy marathon. During training, I also started having some leg pain so Enoch switched out a recovery run with a recovery cycle which prevented a potential side-lining injury.

Running coaches near me vs online running coaches – compare and contrast 🙂

I’ve trained with Coach Enoch at a distance and in-person. With technology, I personally believe the difference is negligible. My running coach used Training Peaks to not only deliver workouts but to get my statistics from each run. Training Peaks loads workouts from your Garmin (or other GPS watch) and delivers them back to the coach. It also holds you accountable to doing the runs since your coach can see your workout.

Enoch did provide me with form guidance when I was running with him in-person, but that can be done by recording a video and sending it to your coach. BUT if you have the option to run with a coached team, I strongly recommend it.

When I trained with my coach in-person, he watched me run twice a week, and I had the camaraderie, support, and push/pull from other strong runners. (I was upper-middle of the pack on TeamFTC). Running with TeamFTC is one of my favorite life activities and I am still mourning the loss of those Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning team runs.

team florida track club

How do I find a good running coach

I happened to luck out by being in the right place at the right time, again. I met my coach at a brewery the same way I met my husband. Distance coaching is a blessing and a curse because there are numerous options (but many should not be “coaching”). Tips to find a coach:

  • ask your friends or local running store for recommendations
  • google and yelp can be helpful in finding local runners — search websites such as TrainingPeaks or Road Runners Club of America
  • Personally, I don’t think you need to limit your options to coaches with coaching certifications but make sure to read testimonials or ask for recommendations from runners who have trained with the coach.
  • When you hire a coach, you’ll want to make a mutual commitment for at least several months so do your due diligence.
  • This is a great list to help you choose a coach and tips to be a good coached runner. A coach’s social media can also give you an idea of their personality and support for their athletes.

Any parting words?

While I won’t train with a coach for every race that I run in my life, I will reach out to a coach when I am trying to achieve a new goal (I’ll be training with Coach Enoch again for Boston in 2019) or feel like I need more help with my running – whether I am running flat or returning to running after an injury or life event. Now off to enjoy my running downtime with a little tennis with my husband. Happy running!

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    One response to “What it’s really like when you hire a running coach (and is worth it?)”

    1. I have PR’d at every distance since getting a coach! I was similar to you in that I did my own training plans, adapting them from online and through reading books I would determine my goal paces and times. However, getting a coach has freed up SO much time that I didn’t realize I was spending trying to figure out workouts and planning etc. They also can see current fitness and predict times better than I can. I love my coach and found him through a running group that welcomed me right in. I saw how fast they were all running and thought “I want that.” There are many running groups in my area but I clicked with this team. My coach understands life>>running and adjusts workouts as needed. I am about to move away and plan to continue using him as my coach because as you said, with the app delivering your workout it really doesn’t matter! I’ll just miss having my running group around but know I will find a new one.

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