|Sorry about the swear...|
Over the past year, I've gotten a lot of questions about my training plan for my last marathon and also about my coach. I write a lot about my coach, Becky, who I work with once weekly and who trained me to run a 1h 10min PR at my last marathon. How did I end up with a CrossFit coach instead of a running coach? How does a runner find the right coach?
A couple of years ago, frustrated with slowing mile splits and nagging injuries, I decided to look into hiring a running coach. This seemed so self-indulgent to me--after all, only celebrities and elite runners have coaches, right? First world problems....But I wasn't ready to accept my slowing down as an inevitable part of the aging process. I figured that it would be worth it to see what a coach might have to offer. After ruminating out loud about this one day at my yoga class, a fellow student mentioned that a new coaching business opened around the corner from the studio.
How great! It was meant to be, right? Impulsively, because that's how I roll, I headed over there right after yoga class. The storefront was closed, but I knocked on the door, and the coach let me in. I told her what I was thinking about and she gave me her spiel. She was a former collegiate athlete, she told me. Talked about what she would do for me. I'd have to stop running. There would be "lots of drills". She'd rework my running form. She talked a lot. I couldn't get a word in. Wasn't this all about me? How does she know what I want and what I need if she's doing all of the talking? Doubt began to form in my mind, but I signed up for an evaluation the following week.
I left, feeling unsettled about my conversation with her. The evaluation was really expensive. And her philosophy, to have me stop running while she reworked my form? Do I really need to change my form? I've resisted all the fads: Chi Running, Barefoot Running, Changing from heel striking to forefoot striking, Running in costumes--ok, that last one doesn't have anything to do with form. I'm in my 50s, and the idea of reworking my running form just didn't feel right to me. I've been sidelined for injury and illness a few times in my 20+ years of running, and coming back is always hard. When I first was put in orthotics, it took my 8 weeks to get used to them. I didn't want to stop running. I didn't want to do anything drastic. I was looking for a way to run healthy.
|What a relief! To be done with my sweaty run? Or to have dodged a bullet in the form of an overzealous running coach?|
Becky told me that she was not a runner and didn't know much about running. She also told me that my running would be my own. I liked that. Meanwhile, as I worked with her over time, I noticed a gradual, positive change in my running. I started having fewer aches and pains. My stride became more efficient (economy!) and my mile splits started becoming faster. Feeling encouraged, I did everything she asked me to do. Eventually, we moved on from the rehab to more CrossFit type exercises. She had me start lifting weights, doing intervals, and some plyometrics. We worked on core strengthening, which has always been my nemesis.
|No longer my nemesis! :)|
|Becky and me, pre marathon!|
|Nothing like someone by your side to push you on!|
2. One size fits all is not the way to go. Make sure that your training plan is personalized to your abilities and needs--my biggest mistake with my first marathon was using a training plan that was one size fits all (I followed one of Hal Higdon's plans). If you find a coach, you want a coach who interviews you, gets to know you, and develops a customized plan based on your needs. In addition, your coach should be willing to modify the plan based on progress or lack thereof. Nothing should be set in stone.
3. Does the coach incorporate cross training into the mix? I'm a huge believer in not living on miles alone. As a matter of fact, if all you do is run, you may stop seeing progress and even become injured. Unless you are an elite runner or a genetic mutant, a lot of high mileage is going to break you down. I'm not saying you have to do CrossFit. Time in the gym, weights, intervals, cross training activities, and yoga are all important components to making you a stronger runner. And there's plenty of evidence to support this.
4. Your coach does not have to be a runner. I know this seems counterintuitive. Having running experience certainly is a plus. But no matter what their background, make sure your coach has training, experience, and certification to back them up. They should have background in training athletes, physiology, nutrition, sports psychology, and biomechanics. Ask for references. Anyone can advertise themselves as a coach. The woman I first met with, the running coach, only had experience as a collegiate runner--no certifications, no formal training. Yet, she's got a booming coaching business. Heck, I could be a coach too!
5. If it doesn't feel right, move on--I'm a huge believer in going with your gut. If you don't like what the coach is having you do, tell them or find another coach. Don't waste time and money working with someone who isn't a good fit. It may take a few tries to find the right coach.
So where do you find a coach? I already talked about virtual coaches, and RRCA and USATF has a listing of all their certified coaches on their website. Some local high school cross country coaches will coach runners on the side. Check with a local running store for names of coaches. Running clubs are also another good resource. Talk to running friends. If you want to go an alternative route, like I did, check with the local gym or CrossFit box.
I have to say that working with Becky is the best thing I have ever done, fitness-wise. I have never refused to do anything she has asked me to do, although I came close last week when she had me carry that 50# sack on my back while doing lunges. She is tough but listens to me. We make a good team. She doesn't shower me with praise but when she tells me good job, I know she means it. I know how lucky I am.
While I at first balked at paying for a weekly coaching session, the returns in the form of strong running and self confidence have been amazing. I used justify this because I don't belong to a gym, so I don't pay monthly fees for that. I don't drink Starbucks and I pack my lunch for work. Now I figure that this is a priority for me and something I'm willing to pay for. You have to decide what's important to you. At age 52, becoming a stronger runner is a choice I made. No regrets.
Do you have a coach? Virtual or live? Runner or non-runner? Share your experience!
I'm linking this post up with the DC Trifecta: EatPrayRunDC, Mar on the Run, and You Signed Up for What? for their Friday Five link up! Be sure to head on over to their blogs and see what everyone else has to say!
I'm also linking up with Jill Conyers for Fitness Friday! It's always fun to check out the blogs on this link up too!