After a busy weekend training in the Peak District with a great group of trail/fell/mountain running specialist coaches, I found myself asking ‘What makes a great running coach?’ Do runners out there who may be thinking of getting a coach know what to look for? After all, a running coach is a running coach, surely? Well, yes, on paper I guess that is true; all qualified coaches have ticked the same boxes and met the same standards. If you’ve seen the e-Harmony ‘This is Steve and his companion and they’re both vegetarians’ dating advert though, you’ll know that the ticking of boxes does not always result in a great match when it comes to love. The same can be said of the search for a running coach too!
Looking around the room and across the fell-side this weekend, I saw eight very different coaches, eight coaches who could all help you to improve your uphill running or your endurance. So how do you know who to choose? Which coach will be best for you? Just like dating and the search for a partner, it’s important to find someone you ‘click’ with, someone you feel comfortable with, that’s for sure, but what other qualities and skills should you be looking for? Here are some suggestions to get you started, many of which apply to finding love too!
Someone who takes time to get to know you, and your running, really well is key, just as it is in any relationship. A coach who listens carefully and knows that you lack confidence running on steep downhills and have no childcare on a Thursday night will tailor your training accordingly, ensuring it suits you as a runner and works for your lifestyle.
A coach who includes and involves you in planning and decision-making is key; after all, it is you who has to implement the plan. You need to know and agree what you need to do and why. The more ownership you have of the plan, the more you are likely to actually stick to it!
Someone who is a role model will inspire you and make you want to work hard. If you want to run off-road, what better motivator can there be than knowing your coach shares a love of that type of running too? Knowing that your coach is out there battling the elements too can help you get out of the door on a vile day; asking yourself ‘what would my coach do or say in this situation?’ can be a great help when a decision needs to be made.
Knowing what good running looks like, both technically and fitness-wise, is key; it’s the bread and butter of coaching. A coach who understands the body’s energy systems and can target training accordingly, or who can demonstrate correct ankle flexion and help you to achieve the same, will be key to you reaching your goals.
Someone who can give you precise feedback and tell you what you need to do to improve will be worth their weight in gold; after all, high quality feedback is at the heart of good coaching. Nervous about a coach who uses video as part of their feedback? Don’t be! Seeing yourself in action, coupled with feedback and actions from a specialist coach, can transform how you run.
A coach who can keep your interest is essential; after all, running should be fun! A coach with a repertoire of different sessions and strategies will keep you interested and engaged far more than just ‘going for a run’.
Achieving a good balance between supporting you and challenging you is not easy, but a coach who knows you well can do just that. A great coach will move you just far enough out of your comfort zone that you are challenged but not overwhelmed.
A great coach will be constantly seeking to improve themselves too, both in their own running and in their learning and practice as a coach. They’ll have new ideas to try out and fresh ways of looking at things; in short, they don’t stagnate.
Finding the perfect coach for you can be approached just like that search for a partner. Ask around; do your running friends know of anyone suitable? Have friends-of-friends used a coach? Do some research online; be specific – if you want someone to coach you for the 3 Peaks fell race, then search for a fell-running coach. See if you can have a taster session; just like a first date, it gives you a chance to get to know each other and see if you ‘click’. And, just as with dating, if you make the right choice
, you may end up finding yourself a coach for life.
Mud and miles trail running and coaching www.mudandmiles.co.uk