This is a companion article to Coach Joe’s “Are you a candidate for online coaching?” Some runners do very well with self-coaching. A few even make it to elite levels self-coached. But, it is rare.
How do you know if you might become a better runner with a coach? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, it’s an indication you may need a coach.
- Do you stay stuck at performance levels for extended periods of time without improving?
- Do you read all kinds of articles from Runners World, Running and other publications and then wonder how to apply it to your own training?
- Do you run the same workouts week after week?
- Do you run at the same paces day after day?
- Do you find that you change your scheduled workout frequently?
- Do you run many races with a wide variety of distances?
- Do you find it hard to have motivation to get key workouts “done”?
Every runner gets “stuck” or “plateaus” on performance from time to time. It’s the nature of improvement. It’s not all “success” – a linear climb to faster performances. But, remaining year after year at a specific level may mean you’re doing the wrong things and it’s time for outside input. (Oh ya, on the depressing side, it could mean you’ve reached your maximum potential. But, that’s a whole other article.)
Reading and learning are great. Sometimes information overload can stymie your efforts to make changes. One article says run on your toes the next one says not to; one says go long, the next one says run short; one says do hills, another says don’t; Olympians train doing this so doesn’t that mean I should be doing it too? The trick is to be able to take knowledge, synthesize it into relevant applicable pieces – to your goal races. A good coach educates along the way. A good coach will help you apply workouts uniquely to you and your goals.
Runners who run on the same courses and at virtually the same paces simply will not improve. Variety is one important element to improving conditioning. After 6-8 weeks, our bodies have adapted to the nature of the workouts we are running. After that, there is diminishing return on your workouts. A coach can help periodize your training to continue your progress. By the way, even if you run only for fitness – not to race or set PRs – you will greatly enhance your conditioning by running in phases too!
The flip side of this are runners who run something different all the time or they make changes to what might be on a schedule. They run with different people and adapt their workouts to the other person (whether the distance or pace is right for them). Mood cannot dictate a training schedule. Some flexibility is good and a knowledgeable coach will have ample alternatives that will still fit the grand scheme of your training program without wasting time. Some change is good, but only through consistency and following a well thought out plan can you make more predictable improvement.
It is easy in the beginning to improve at almost all race distances. It’s a function of just going from sedentary to fit as a runner. However, racing that isn’t part of an overall development program contributes to staleness as well as stagnant performances. Some variety is good. Expecting to excel at both the 5k and the marathon is unlikely. A coach not only helps you target peak race efforts but also assess your abilities to race at your best distances. By the way, it may not be very intuitive as to which distances you will excel!
Finally, it is difficult to get some runs in. Almost everyone from time to time has motivation wane. A coach is someone who can infuse some energy into those workouts. A coach also offers the “accountability” many of us thrive on. Whether it’s an online coach or that coach you see at the track once a week – you report back on your week. For many of us – if you know you will have to report on your week – you just have that added “umph” to get out and just do it!
So, as you think about your running performances, if you aren’t quite satisfied with your outcomes, more of the same won’t change your results. It might be time to consider change. It might be time to consider a coach.