Let's talk about the word “Coaching,” and what I think it means. I see it used a lot in circumstances I don’t necessarily agree with. It should go without saying that all of this is my opinion.
Definitions of coach include: verb: 'to train or instruct (a team or player), and noun: 'a tutor who gives private or specialized teaching.'
Obviously the word is used in a lot of situations, including a horse-drawn carriage, so let's not go too crazy with the definitions... but here's what I think.
First and most essential: coaching has to be individualized and responsive to changes.
A customized training plan is not coaching.
A group that’s given the same workouts to train for the same race isn’t being coached.
People that are getting monthly or even weekly advice about running, whether individually or as a group, aren’t truly being coached.
People that are given a full training plan for a race, finish it, and then are immediately given another plan for a different race aren’t truly being coached.
I do not intend any of this to mean that these things aren’t worthwhile, they’re just different. They’re all valid methods of guidance, and can certainly have a lot of value for people. But they’re not the same as coaching.
So what really IS coaching?
Well, here’s my philosophy. If you disagree, that's okay! I just think it's helpful to understand the differences. I don't intend this to say that this approach has more or less value than any other, it's just different.
Coaching is a Relationship
Coaching is a relationship. It’s not one way. There should be frequent communication - at least a few times a week. It should be fully centered around YOU. You should feel like your coach is willing to answer questions. Whether about the training itself and the reasons behind what you're doing, or about running, fueling, pacing, gear, etc. After all, coaching isn't just a training plan, it's about having a partner in your training.
Coaching is Fully Customized
As an athlete, you have a different athletic history, different physiology, a different schedule and different goals than the next person. True coaching sees and embraces those differences, and is fully customized to not only adjust for them, but USE them to make your life and training better. Not everyone can and should train for the same race in the same way even if their paces are the same.
Coaching is Supportive of Your Whole Life
You’re a human being who has a life, a job, perhaps a family, and other hobbies. You’re not JUST an athlete. You should feel like the training plan is being made to fit YOU, not vice versa. This might mean throwing a 'traditional' weekly schedule out the window and crafting something truly unique and customized. Of course the caveat is that there isn’t always a perfect solution, and there are times you will have to choose between effective training and a perfect fit with your life, but a coach will be straightforward with you and tell you when plan adjustments might have a negative effect.
Coaching is Responsive
You should also feel like your coach is modifying and adjusting your training when necessary. That might be due to sudden jumps in fitness, mild setbacks, life stress, or other changes that can affect training.
Coaching is Long-Term
Your coach should have an overarching concept of your long-term development as an athlete, not just how you’re going to tackle your next race. What are your strengths and weaknesses based on your athletic history? How can training best support you to reach your 5-year goals? What are you doing right now to support where you intend to be in a decade?
See, true fitness progress isn’t made over days and weeks or while training for a single race. It’s made over years. If your coach isn’t looking at a zoomed-out, holistic view of your training as an athlete, then you might be missing out on a lot of potential fitness gains.
So when you’re looking for assistance with meeting your running goals, you should ask yourself what you really need!
Do you want casual advice about running that’s geared toward a group?
Do you want to grab a stock training plan that's just tweaked to fit your mileage and pace?
Are you only focused on finishing a race, and don't care about building your fitness?
Or do you want to set yourself up for success by entering a long-term relationship with someone who cares about your training and your life, communicates regularly, is willing to answer questions and help with non-training-plan things, and fully customizes your training?
Only YOU can answer this question, and it might even change at different times in your life. That's okay!
I want to reiterate: I am not saying that the scenarios I described don't have value. They may be effective for many people and if that's what you need - great! But I do not believe they are the same as coaching.
If you're looking for a coach, I'd love to help you smash your 2021 goals while starting your progress toward your 2025 goals. I specialize in 'all-in' coaching, with daily check-ins, unlimited communication, unlimited training adjustments and an awesome training group on social media. If you think that might be helpful, reach out on my main page for a free consultation!