Be your own coach

Several years ago I attended a seminar on preventing injuries. Big surprise, right? I think the biggest thing that stuck with me was when the presenter said “be your own coach”.

I know many runners who swear by their coaches. Although I’ve never hired a coach, I have thought about it and I have had some not-so-personal coaches.

USAFit Albany
This is the group I have run with during the summer for the last 4 years. There’s a head coach for the marathon and the half marathon groups. Then there are quite a few assistant coaches. Almost all of the assistant coaches are runners who have run with the group for at least a season, but most of them are not actual certified running coaches.

Don’t get me wrong: many of the assistant coaches are very knowledgeable.They are incredibly dedicated, having to get there before the group and stay until the last runner comes in. Some are very accomplished runners, too. But they’re not someone you would go out and hire to create a training plan for you.

I highly recommend USAFit to any runner, and many of the people in the group are like me, people who have been running with this group for years. They welcome fast runners and slow runners and never put anyone down.

Most of the halfs I have trained for with this group have gone well, but last year I did end up injured during my taper and that went was just okay.  Even though the group tends to shrink over the course of training, there are still a lot of people under every coach.

Runner’s Connect
I also worked with runner’s connect most of last year, so I was straddling 2 training plans and 2 coaches when I ended up injured last fall.

Runner’s Connect is an online community of runners, and the coaches coach multiple runners. Although I liked my experience with Runner’s Connect, I did feel that it was an overly aggressive plan for me and the time goal they picked for me seemed overly ambitious.

I ran 2 halfs with them and didn’t do well at either; I never came close to that time goal. One seemed mostly due to a freak heatwave (weeks of 50 degree weather before hand, race day dawned at 70 and went up from there). I ended that half feeling really strong, but my time definitely left something to be desired.

The second, as I mentioned, I was injured. Again, my time was disappointing and the last 4 miles were painful.

On more than one occasion I brought up the fact that the times on training runs seemed overly aggressive for me. I wasn’t hitting those times and I was frustrated. I was told it was a confidence problem, but I really don’t think it was — I think those times were simply too aggressive for me. They may have looked good on paper, but they weren’t working for me.

The coach adjusted my plan when I brought this up, but it just seemed to be a continuing problem for me and sometimes the coach wasn’t available due to travel or other obligations and I was asked to post to a forum for other coaches to help.

Many people love runner’s connect. I enjoyed many aspects of it, but in the end, it wasn’t the right fit for me.

So what about be your own coach?
I think about this a lot. There is so much conflicting advice out there. The presenter’s point was that only you know your own body and only you know how you’re feeling; both are valid points.

I continue to try out plans, and I’m getting a bit better at being my own coach — knowing when to back off, when to shift things around, when to adjust plans.

Yet I keep wondering if I could do even better with the right person to guide me. Someday, maybe, I will find the right coach and become the runner I think I can be. Not fast, just faster. Or maybe I’ll learn how to be my own coach — only better.

Are you your own coach? Or do you work with a coach?

Thursdays are for thinking out loud

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23 thoughts on “Be your own coach

  1. I am my own coach, yes, with input from other runners, which helps. I have a local friend who is a certified coach and she has helped with some pointers. If I could afford it, there is no doubt I would hire her for one-on-one. I know she would listen to my goals, needs, and body, aggressive enough to push me, but not to what I feel are unreasonable goals. But it’s moot as it is out of the question.

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  2. I am a running coach. But I was not and did not have one when I was running my best and Boston Qualifying every year. I really think it depends on the kind of person you are. It is certainly possible to immerse yourself in all things running and figure out the kind of plan your body will thrive on. Many are not willing to do that work, and many prefer the motivation of having someone working with them or working in a group.

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  3. I am working with a personal running coach for the first time this training cycle. I have been my own coach for my past few races, and this time around I wanted to learn from someone else. I think there are pros and cons to having someone coach you and being your own coach. It just comes down to listening to your body and trusting your instincts, which we all have to be able to do for ourselves.

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  4. I am definitely my own coach. But, my hubby gives his input as well. So we coach each other. But, neither of us are pros. I have thought about using a coach but maybe when I can run a full hour and start considering some races.

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  5. When Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC wrote about what to look for in a running coach, I had already been tossing around the idea of wanting a running coach! This is great info, I’m glad you shared your info on Runners Connect too! I’d like someone just to give me good pointers, I have an idea what I can do just need a little guidance! Thanks Judy for this, very much appreciated!

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  6. I’m training with Runner’s Connect, and it’s my first experience of having an actual “coaching” program, so I don’t have much to compare it to. They do say that the predicted time goal for your goal race is what your body is capable of, but maybe after a few training cycles. I’m aiming for a time that’s about 5-6 minutes slower than their predicted time for me. I guess we’ll see how good it works come October!

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    1. I hope you do well! I know a lot of people who do PR with RC & I really enjoyed my time with them — in the end, it just wasn’t for me (Jeff was my coach & I often wonder if he was just too busy).

      I stuck with it for a yr, & both my halfs that yr went badly, but I don’t really know if it had any connection. I’ve run 2 halfs this year so far, and one was a PR, but still nowhere near what they were predicting for me & pushing me towards.

      Just my $.02.

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      1. Ah yes, Jeff has disbursed a lot of the coaching to other coaches at this point. The site has grown so much that I think he just has too much going on. I don’t have a personal coach through them, so I just direct questions to all of the coaches and whoever is available at the time gets back to me. It’s kind of nice having different perspectives!

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      2. That was probably a big part of my problem. I started with them in the beginning, and I liked having a personal coach. Only he was often unavailable. Often right before a race. It was just another nail in the coffin of RC for me.

        Glad it’s working for you. 🙂

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  7. I think there are pros and cons to both options. It’s definitely important to know your body and what works for you, but it’s also great to have a coach to push you out of your comfort zone and help you learn things that you might not have otherwise. At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to explore a bunch of different options to see which ones fit.

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  8. I was always my own coach, but I never started making great progress until I started working with Becky. That whole thing about being accountable? Well, having a coach makes you accountable. Plus she makes me do things I wouldn’t do on my own. She gives me objective feedback, and is kind of a sports psychologist too.

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    1. You are very lucky to have Becky. Then again, you are also a talented runner! Many yrs ago I used to work out with a personal trainer – I felt the same way about her – she pushed me & made me realize I was much stronger than I thought I was. I wasn’t a runner then. I was also much thinner & thought I was so heavy! Ah well.

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  9. I am my own coach. I would probably be a coach’s nightmare since I don’t like to follow a plan. If I had the time and the money, I might try one. But as you said, I spend enough on my running as it is.

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  10. This is a great post! Too many times moms in my group do the run on their training plan when they know they are injured or not up to that day and end up wondering what happened. Only you know how you feel on any given day and if your body is able to perform the way you want it to. The last few years I’ve realized this more and more. With age comes wisdom right?

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