There are many running groups in the area. Some are guided by experienced runners and well accomplished racers (even nationally ranked). Others have well meaning volunteers. These may be good starting points for gaining information and insights into running. However, just as in basketball or football or any other sport, a good athlete or dedicated volunteer do not necessarily make a good or knowledgeable coach. Coaching requires a special skill set. Certifications, related degrees (Ph.D., D.C., M.D., M.S., etc. also do not mean “coach”). Ask the key questions to determine if they are the right coach with the right knowledge for you.
First, there is no single “best” coach. Second, it depends greatly on what your goals are, and what your own values and personality are like. Coaches are only as good as the match between them and their athletes. How do you know you are getting the “best” for you? Here some key questions to ask. Some questions may not be important to you others will carry more weight in your decision making. To know what you are looking for and optimize your “match” answer the questions for yourself first.
Questions for You
What are my short, intermediate and long term goals for my running?
Do I run for fun, recreation, health, competition or social outlet?
Do I want to meet one-on-one with a coach or in a group setting?
When can you meet with a coach or a group to run with?
Where can you meet to run with a coach or group?
Do you want a written plan, week-to-week, and month-to-month to reach your goals?
How often do you want to meet a coach?
Do you need or want email/phone support outside of training sessions?
How much have you budgeted for paying for professional coaching?
Would you like a uniform?
Do you want to travel with running as your excuse?
Questions for Prospective Coaches
Could we meet to interview each other for the best coach-athlete match?
What are your fees for coaching? (Ask this first. If you cannot afford this coach, it doesn’t matter what he/she has to offer.)
What are the payment plans, options, timing, etc.?
What is your background for running coaching? (Be especially careful here. Being or having been a good athlete, years of racing experience or being a dedicated volunteer do not rank high here.)
What certifications in coaching to you possess? (These may not mean everything but they indicate continuing education. Be sure to follow-up and find out how they keep up with new knowledge.)
What are the latest changes in your training routines you have made due to recent findings in training approaches?
Can you give me examples of people you have coached – performances, backgrounds, etc.?
Could you give the names of a couple runners you coach as references?
When are you available to meet?
How often are you available for phone & email support (Are there any charges for this)?
Can I see your intake/application form? (Every service should have a form to gather initial information on you. If they do not have one, beware!)
Will you come to me or my neighborhood to coach or do I go to you? (Perhaps they are in the area you work instead.)
What do you do if a session needs to be cancelled or rescheduled? (Are you still billed?)
How will I receive my workout schedule, in what format, and how frequently?
How do you tailor your training plans for each individual?
Do you arrange or coordinate social events around running?
Do you arrange or coordinate races for your runners?
Do you have uniforms? What is the charge for them?
Do you sponsor health-related information workshops?
Do you offer or obtain discounts for members?