New Year, New Goals, Is it Time For A Coach?

Happy New Year
Here’s to a new year full of great PRs! (Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps)

Happy 2013 everyone!  Like many running websites, Facebook pages and twitter feeds, SaltyRunning is full of talk about race goals and resolutions. Because of these goals and resolutions, most of us will log hundreds of miles and training hours.  Sure, we all have our training plans mapped out, but is that enough?  What about getting a coach?

Thinking about being coached can seem somewhat intimidating for first-timers.  When we generally think of coaches, we think that their only interest is with elite/professional athletes and those who will commit to 100 miles per week.  But that simply isn’t true. Individuals coach because they absolutely love the sport and want to work with people who want to improve, whether that’s improving a marathon PR of 5:00 or 2:40.  Regardless of ability, they want to help improve athletes who share their same passion for the sport.  And, no matter what the time shows on the clock, if you’ve improved, they’re pretty psyched!

Here are some other great benefits of having a coach:

Accountability:  A coach will keep you honest and hold you accountable for workouts and sticking to your training schedule.  When we’re training on our own, it’s easy to sleep in and skip morning workouts.  It’s easy to run only 8 miles instead of 10.  It may be easy to add on miles when it’s unnecessary.  Coaches will require you to ‘check-in’ regarding training, so it’s much more difficult to stray from your training schedule.  Plus, knowing that a coach is investing time and interest in your training makes you want to stick with the plan.

4*2K workout with snow and 10 degree temps! Coach was right along side giving encouragement and taking pictures.

Motivation:  There’s nothing worse than having to do 400 meter repeats at 5:00 a.m. on the day when it’s 10 degrees outside and just bitterly cold.  Chances are, when you show up to run those repeats,  your coach will be out there as well, bundled up with the goal times scribbled on paper in one hand, and a stop watch in the other.  Knowing that your coach will be alongside you the entire way is a great motivator to get out the door on those tough days.  And when you hit those goal times, she is the first one to give you a high-five or tell you ‘great job’, and having that instant gratification can help motivate you to nail that next interval.  When you reach week 10 of your 16-week marathon training plan and you think you’ll never make it, a coach will reaffirm to you that you can and you will!

Feedback:  Coaches are great for providing feedback on your overall training, form and goals. When you appear tired, sluggish and just off from your goal paces a coach can determine whether current training is too much to handle and overtraining is occurring. While you’re working your butt off to hit those interval goal times your coach is watching your form for efficiency and making sure that your posture is upright and relaxed. Coaches are also great for helping you set realistic goals because they have worked with many athletes of all abilities.  Sure, we all want to make the Olympic Trials, but a coach will help you not bite off more than you can chew when it comes to setting race goals.

Athletics Boulder group run coached by Jay Johnson. (I am one of the yellow jackets)!

Support:  Your running coach has been there.  He probably ran at the collegiate level and maybe even beyond.  Coaches know how training can wear you down both physically and mentally.  Sure, we all have friends and family who support our love of running and crazy race goals, but having someone you can talk with who has experienced this first-hand makes a BIG difference. Coaches have experienced the doubts, the training/life balance issues and just the general tiredness of training.  It’s great to have this extra support.

Running Groups:  Many coaches work with several athletes at a time and try to schedule workouts and runs so that people can run together; in fact, they encourage it.  We all know that group running and workouts are beneficial and fun, and this is a great motivator to train.  It also gives you a chance to meet new people, share experiences and goals.


Having a coach is a great way to enhance your training and race better. Do you currently have a coach? If not, have you considered one?

Native Ohioan now living in Boulder, Colorado. I love to run, tri, train, eat good chocolate, drink good rum, and laugh (a lot). I am a CPA by trade and work for Newton Running.

Leave a Reply


  1. I have (on-and-off) a coach for weekly workouts as part of a group, but he doesn’t design individualized training plans. I find the group workouts very helpful, but I wonder if I would benefit from individualized coaching towards my particular goals. Given the cost, though, I don’t think I would do it unless I had a goal that I was close to but unable to achieve — if I were to run a couple marathons right around 4:01-4:05 but I wasn’t able to go under the 4-hour mark, for example.

  2. I would LOVE to have a coach. The trouble is the cost. I may be wrong, but don’t they usually charge a fee? It’s one thing that we can’t take on in our family budget right now. I have a few friends that have paid McMillan to plan their marathon training, but even that is costly (from $100 or more). Are there any “free” coaches out there or ways to find one?

    1. It’s true, many coaches do charge monthly rates. And, if you want more personalized attention, the cost usually increases. There are a lot of great on-line training plans and articles to help with motivation, especially in Running Times and RunnersWorld. Another option is to check with your local running store to see if they know of any college coaches (or even store employees) that can help with a plan. Many times, these individuals are looking for a second gig and won’t charge much, if at all. Sometimes, they may even let you jump into a workout. My coach will let people jump in a few times without charging just because he loves seeing people have fun and improve. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

  3. I have a coach and I love it for all the reasons you listed. It’s also great to have someone who is more knowledgeable then you helping you work towards you’re goals. It’s great to have a coaches experience, especially when you’re injured or can’t figure something out.

    1. I agree with you 110%! I am also very fortunate to have a coach who understands that I’m a little older than most people training, and although I want to run hard, my other love is triathlon, which I will not give up. He also understands that sometimes, I may need a little more physical and mental rest. Today for our workout it was 1 degree! That’s right…1, and coach Jay was out there right along side of us. Happy 2013!