Do I need a running coach?
The short answer to this is ‘no’, not everyone will need a running coach. But there are lots of ways a coach can help with your running, and you don’t need to be an elite athlete to have one – all levels of ability can gain something from taking on a running coach.
Accountability – Let’s be honest, we’ve all had those times when we’ve skipped a training run. While skipping a run when you don’t feel up to it is fine every so often, it will soon have a negative impact on your training. Having a coach to hold you accountable makes this a lot less likely to happen. Likewise, being accountable will decrease your risk of picking up an injury from over-training.
Goals – A coach will work with you to set achievable goals. They will plan your training around your ability, and will have the knowledge and experience to give you the best chance of achieving those goals.
Support – Any coach will want to see their runner achieve the goals they set themselves. A good coach will really get to know you, and will offer tons of advice and support.
So why not use a free online training plan? Some runners can use one of the many free training plans available online and have a degree of success following it. But a running coach will write an individualised plan especially for you, so that when life gets in the way, they can plan around it and help you reach your goal. Online training plans don’t know your ability and won’t be able to tell you if your training is working for you, a coach will.
Some things to look out for – With all the will in the world, as in all life, you won’t get on with everyone, and the same goes for coaches. There will be some coaches that won’t be a good fit for you, and that isn’t a negative thing about either you or the coach. If things aren’t working, don’t be afraid to find another coach, most coaches will understand this, and there will be one out there that does work for you.
There are a lot of people online selling themselves as running coaches, most will have a qualification but a lot won’t. Just because they have been running for a long time, doesn’t mean they have the expertise to help you. Check that any coach you want to work with has a qualification from a relevant governing body, here in England any coach will ideally hold a qualification with either UK Athletics or England Athletics. It’s important that they can prove they know their stuff and won’t give you bad advice.
Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned competitor, the right coach could be just what you need to achieve your goals and take your running to the next level.
Neil is an England Athletics qualified Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF), who specialises in trail and ultra running. If you would like some help achieving your trail running goals check out our coaching page.