I have been thinking a lot lately about if I want to hire a running coach. I’m not quite convinced yet, but I’ve thought about it enough to start seriously considering what to look for in a running coach. I thought I’d share the things that I’ve considered and things that you might want to look for as well if you find yourself searching for a running coach.
What is your coaches philosophy on training? Do they exclusively coach their runners using Galloway or Hanson’s or [fill in the blank program]? You’ll want to figure this out early on. Are you a 3 run a week gal and your coach believes that in order to be successful you have to run 6 days a week? That’s something to consider – especially if you aren’t looking to change in that regard. Ask your potential coach about their philosophy on coaching – if they can’t answer this question, that’s a bad sign!
About your Coach
What is your coaches background? What is their running background? Have they received any formal training? I do not believe at all that a successful running coach has to have run in college or professionally. However, I do think they should have some serious running experience. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are an elite runner (particularly if you are a beginning runner), however they should have significantly more experience running that the person they will be coaching. For example, I’ve run four marathons to date. If I decide to enlist a running coach, I will seek out someone who has significant marathon experience. Honestly, I’d probably look for someone who has qualified for Boston or has at least come close. My reasoning behind this is that I want someone who has experience in what it takes to get faster.
A word on training and certifications. Training is important. Understanding the science behind running is important. However, I encourage anyone who is looking for a running coach to do their homework. Many many runners in the U.S. become certified as a running coach through the Road Runners Club of America’s course. While the RRCA is a great organization, the certification course consists of a weekend of learning and an open book exam. My opinion is that a RRCA certification is a beginning for a coach and not an end. I do not think that a certification is needed to be a great coach but an understanding of the science behind training and running is. Where a coach gets that information doesn’t matter that much to be, but they need to have it – and will not get it over one weeklong course. I see a number of running bloggers take the course and then immediately begin to market themselves as a running coach. Proceed with caution. For an example of a training program that I actually think carries some weight, go check out Angela over at Cowgirl Runs. She has been seeking her marathon coach certification through the North American Academy for Sports Fitness Professionals. The program is much more intensive than a weekend and typically takes a minimum of five months to fully complete. My point is to ensure that you know what it means when someone talks about being an “RRCA Certified Running Coach” or a certified Marathon Coach (in order to use that title, one must have successfully completed a marathon).
Online or In Person
I have a number of friends who have a coach that they only communicate with online. More rare are friends who have a coach that they see in person. I really think this is personal preference, but I think that I would want to be able to actually meet with my coach from time to time in person. I think that everyone is different and for most it might not be a big deal to never have met your coach, but I think that if I go the coach route, I’ll want to work with someone that I’ve actually met in person.
The bottom line is that you are going to have to decide what are the most important things you seek in a running coach and then search for the person who best meets your needs. There is also of course the issue of price. I’ve seen coaching packages ranging from 35$ a session to all the way up to 150$ with a three month minimum. Chances are there is a coach in your budget range – you might want a newer coach if price is a concern. Just something else to consider.
Have you ever hired a running coach? Any tips?