Lately, it may seem like everyone and their Instagram followers has a running coach. Of course world-class Olympic athletes have coaches. And sure, it makes sense for runners trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials. (Indeed, the ready availability and increasing popularity of run coaching may have helped feed the enormous boom in this year’s Trials qualifiers.) But what about us non-elite, non-Olympic, pretty average runners? Do we need coaching? Or is it an extra “thing” to spend money on in this supposedly cheap sport? Read more >>
By now, we’ve all seen Mary Cain’s op-ed and video in the New York Times reporting physical and emotional abuse by Alberto Salazar and his coaching team during her time with the Nike Oregon Project. Cain describes how, deprived of the food she needed to fuel her training and constantly hounded about her weight, she spiraled into injury, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Her running career, which had been stellar until she joined the NOP, was over.
But the problem goes much, much deeper than just one coach and just one athlete. Read more >>
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how not every runner should be a coach, even with the easily-available and quick online certification options. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t become a coach.
If you’ve done a self-evaluation and decided that you have the knowledge, experience, and gumption, there are many paths to becoming a running coach. Personal training certifications are all similarly formatted or in an online format and similarly priced. University degrees obviously take a little foresight, but many of those degrees aren’t focused singularly on coaching. Finally, some great coaches don’t have a certification at all, and that’s an option worth considering, too. Let’s break down the options.
About five years ago, I was scrolling through Instagram when I saw that a friend had become a Running Coach™. I absolutely loathed my job at the time, and after applying and subsequently getting rejected for dozens of new jobs, I decided that I was up for a similar career change. I knew right then that I was going to become a full-time blogger AND coach. If this friend can be a coach, I can, too! I looked up the certification she had and found that it only took one weekend of classes and a couple hundred dollars. I absolutely didn’t have the money, but it was an investment in my future, amirite?
Every day I scroll through the ‘gram and find hundreds of bios that state, “I’m a runner AND a Certified Running Coach!” It appears that literally everybody is a coach of some sort these days. I’m going to tell you the hard truth… Not every runner makes a good coach. Whether they are fast, slow, professional, or not, their running performance does not correlate with their coaching performance. Read more >>
Whether intentionally or not, everyone lies to their coach. This is a terrible idea. Why do we do it?
What’s that? You’d never lie to your coach? Are you sure? Because there are a few different ways it can happen. You might not even be aware you’re lying!
There is lying by commission, such as:
- Yes, that pace felt quite easy! When actually you were huffing and puffing.
- My foot is fine. Well, there was that one little twinge, but I won’t count that.
- I ran too far because I got lost. Which you knew would happen, but it was a beautiful day and you just felt like running further.
- Strategically stopping and starting the watch to manipulate how the workout appears.
Then there is lying by omission, which is even easier:
- Failure to mention that recurring hip pain.
- “Forgetting” about a local 5K and racing it anyway.
- Simply running too far (or not far enough) but not saying anything about it.
New year, new you! Is this the year you take your running to the next level? And maybe that has you considering hiring a running coach to help you get there. But how the heck do you pick one?
Since 2016, I’ve gone “coach shopping” five or six times and I’ve worked with four different coaches. I’ve talked to about 20 coaches on the phone and looked at countless websites. I thought I knew what I was doing at the beginning of this process, but it turns out I did not. I learned an awful lot along the way, however, so if January has you asking yourself how to go about hiring running coach, here are some of the lessons I learned.
It was my team’s big day: the 5k run we’d been working toward all semester. I was waiting on the course, eagerly anticipating the moment when I would catch just a tiny glimpse of each of my girls as they came around the corner. Once they got to me, they had less than a half a mile to go! I was grinning from ear to ear, cheering at the top of my lungs, “You’re going to DO THIS! You’re almost there! GO, GO, GO!”
Is it a midlife running crisis? A cry for help? An acknowledgement of defeat? All I know is that this spring, after more than 20 years of training solo, I was ready for a change. I just wasn’t sure exactly what kind.
I’ve been running consistently for years, sometimes casually and sometimes more structured or high mileage training, but always self-directed. Sometimes my self-coaching led to PR’s, and sometimes the results were not so hot: over-training or injury.
This year, I decided it was time for change.
What makes a coach a good one? Are the best coaches the ones with the most technical knowledge, the most popular or trendy training theories, or the ones who get the best results? Or maybe there’s something else that makes a coach truly great.
I’ve been pondering this question a lot lately. I’ve had my share of coaches as a high school athlete and then as an adult. My children are now in sports and have their own coaches. I’ve coached adults and recently I started coaching kids too. Knowing what I’ve experienced, I’ve felt a crushing sense of responsibility and I’ve wondered what I can do to ensure I’m upholding my duty to my athletes.
As I’ve contemplated this I’ve realized there’s a more important question that needs an answer: what is a coach’s duty to his or her athletes anyway?
Looking back on my college running career, I can pinpoint many tangible advantages of playing sports at the collegiate level. It helped pay for my education. I traveled to new places and ran myself into the best shape of my life.
However as I look back on my experience, it was the intangible advantages that collegiate athletics gave me that really enhanced my life. I developed a hard work ethic, built mental toughness, but, most importantly, formed lifelong relationships with mentors and friends.
While some locker rooms, weight rooms and track complexes are nicer and flashier than others, at the Division I level, most universities have roughly the same facilities. The main difference between any two programs in the NCAA that can make or break your college athletic experience is in the relationships with your coaches and teammates. It’s these relationships that will help you reach your full potential.
When I started running in my twenties, I didn’t have any running experience. I ran my first ten marathons using training plans from various books, with a fair amount of success — mostly Pete Pfitzinger plans.
I had never considered a coach; until I knew some Ironman triathletes, I didn’t even know that was even a thing. After coming back from an injury and running two consecutive marathons much slower than pre-injury, I started training seriously again.
When I was trying to finagle a seeded spot for the Monumental Half Marathon in 2014, I got a prompt and considerate email from the elite coordinator, Matt Ebersole. His email signature had a link to his coaching website — a-ha! This is a real thing! People do this!
In fact, more than 7,000 runners have trusted Matt with their training. Perusing his site, I had the distinct sense that he would be a good fit to coach me.
After kicking the idea around for a while, I finally took the plunge last January and I couldn’t be happier. I was right; he’s a great coach for me. Like any good coach, Matt has his philosophies and insights that I wanted to discuss with him and share with you.
So, in a complete reversal of our usual conversations, Matt and I spent time talking about him and his coaching philosophy.
High schoolers, do you know what you need to know about running in college? What can you do during your high school years to make you more desirable for your college’s team? Any chance you might score a scholarship?
As a former DI runner and now a DI college cross country and track coach, I have watched hundreds of young women go through the NCAA recruiting process, which can be both scary and overwhelming. I have outlined a few tips to help make you a more marketable potential student-athlete (PSA) at the collegiate level! Read more >>
All ten North girls, decked out in their new team warm-ups, descended from the bus on the first chilly morning of the season. In spite of a lingering cough, Sydnie slipped back into the role of leader for her team. Fellow-senior Ashleigh, done with her last summer obligations, was ready to kick off her farewell season. Lone freshman Cheyenne was sufficiently recovered from mono to make her high school cross-country debut. However, only eight were there to race, with sophomore Calina on the sidelines still recovering from a knee injury alongside newly-limping Vidhi.
As the runners hatched warm-up plans, the coaches plotted out their strategy. For North, this, the Mentor Cardinal Classic was the first race of the season with both a varsity and a JV race. The coaches decided that Cheyenne, Mollee and Caitlin would run in the JV race, so Cheyenne could experience less pressure in her first high school race and Mollee and Caitlin would have an opportunity to race with more runners at their level, rather than mostly alone like last time.
This decision left Sydnie, Natalie, Lydia, Ashleigh and Hannah together on the starting line of the varsity race. On paper, before this season, these five varsity runners would be seeded thusly: Sydnie, Natalie, Ashleigh, Lydia, Hannah. But so far, Natalie and Lydia have been leading the team together with Hannah holding steady behind them. How would the two seniors change the dynamic? Would everyone fall in line? Read more >>
Late August summer mornings are made for cross-country, with their damp warm air, piercing sun from the east shining down on lush, freshly mown grass. Though this particular late August morning wasn’t as hot as some, it was still hot. The course for the day’s race meandered through the mostly unshaded grounds of South High, either North High’s sister or rival school depending on who you talk to.
After the starting shots rang out, echoing against the school’s brick walls, the race swarmed off into the distance behind a speeding Gator. I pictured the North girls spread out behind it: Sydnie in front charting the course for Natalie, Lydia, Hannah, Vidhi, Mollee, and Caitlin, all scattered further back throughout the pack.
As I surveyed the school grounds before me, my focus broke when I spotted Coach James out of the corner of my eye. He hustled past with his clipboard in hand, jogging toward his chosen vantage point.
“Hey! Salty!” he said with a hug and then blurted, “Syd’s out. She’s at the doctor, sick!”
Sydnie, the number one runner on the team, the one aiming for a berth at the State meet this year, but most importantly, Sydnie, the leader of the North girls’ cross-country team, was not there at the first big meet of the season.
“It’s ok, though! This is an opportunity for the other girls to step-up,” he said as he ran toward the sound of the Gator. Read more >>
For the first meet of the season, the North girls climbed onto a bus with their coaches and the boys’ team for the War on the Shore, an annual meet nearly an hour away in rural Ashtabula, Ohio, so close to the state border they were competing against Pennsylvanian teams.
Neither of the senior girls were racing today; top-runner Sydnie was focused on the bigger meet coming up on Saturday and Ashleigh was busy with a couldn’t-miss 4-H project. With the two most-experienced runners out, juniors Natalie and Vidhi stepped up to lead the team in a series of pre-race drills and a warm-up run. Coach James then gave them a few pre-race words of encouragement and lead them in a cheer.
But this being the first meet of the year, the first meet ever for some of the girls, the jitters were palpable. Read more >>
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