In May, I ran my first marathon. When I signed up back in December, I had every intention of following one of the various free online training plans. They seemed safe and also seemed to work for many people.
Truth be told, once I had made the commitment to train, the actual training plan itself was really the only part of the process that I didn’t think twice about. That is, until I was offered an opportunity to consult with a coach in my area. The consultation went really well. I expressed my finishing goals to her and also what my training method was – a printable calendar with various mileages typed in the little squares. She told me what I had pretty much known all along. That training plan would get me across the finish line – but I wasn’t likely to achieve the time goals I had in mind.
Thus began my marathon training anew – fully equipped with a fantastic coach and ready to try. I know the question of whether to hire a (running/triathlon/biking, etc) coach for your sport comes up a lot. Is it necessary? Is it for me? Is it worth the money?
While that last question can only be answered on an individual basis, here are some things that I found valuable about training with a coach:
1. A coach will keep you accountable.
When training by yourself, it can be easy to brush off workouts or not give it your all. No one will notice, right? However, having a coach isn’t just about not letting yourself down, it’s also about not letting your coach down either. It’s harder to quit or give up when someone else will notice and care. Being financially invested in the process may also help others to stay motivated.
2. A coach will push you outside of your comfort zone.
If you really want to improve in your sport, you’re going to have to do some scary things. (For me, it was cross-training in the pool.) A good coach knows when to push you; when to assign a workout that will test your limits and expand them! After all, that is how you improve.
3. A coach designs a training plan for you.
The one-size-fits-all training plans that you can find online are fine – but having a training plan that changes based on your performance is advantageous. Your plan will be tuned for your pace, your goal pace, milestone races along the way, and any other unforeseen commitments.
4. A coach will accept no excuses.
A great coach always push you to do the best that you can do, even when your confidence wavers or your body doesn’t want to cooperate. In turn, you’ll finish up each day feeling like you truly accomplished something – and have someone to tell about it who cares!
5. A coach will help you determine and achieve your goals.
It can be really easy to get carried away when defining your goals and set the bar way too high or low. A coach will help you target in on realistic goals – ones that may still be a challenge, but won’t be impossible to achieve. Alternatively, a coach will recognize when your goal is a lazy one. If you can already compete at the level of your goal, you’ll probably (hopefully!) be encouraged to aim higher.
6. A coach is a reliable person to express concerns to and ask questions of.
Any time I had a question about my training (tightness in knee, recovery nutrition, race pace, etc.) I knew that I could ask my coach. (They’re trained and certified to respond to these questions!) I always got the answers that I needed along with referrals to local shops for massages or gear that I might need. Having someone at your disposal that you trust with important training questions takes a lot of the guesswork out of training.
7. Having a coach is an opportunity to learn.
I learned a lot about running, mental strength, confidence and so much more just from my conversations with my coach. I was able to apply these skills to my training and also other areas of my life – in both professional and personal situations!
8. A coach is part of your team.
If you’ve got a coach that you really click with, she or he very quickly becomes one of your biggest supporters. It’s really motivating to have someone else to cheer you on and celebrate you in your training journey, especially someone who knows exactly what that journey involves!
9. Ultimately, having a coach is a collaborative practice.
Objectively, it may seem like hiring a coach is about giving up all of your control. While you are allowing someone else to dictate what your workout schedule involves, it’s really a lot about teamwork. A coach can’t do her/his job without your effort and feedback – and you can’t do yours without committing.
You’re hiring a coach to help you. Help them help you! If you loved a workout or particularly disliked one, being open and honest about it is the best way to improve your coaching relationship and training plan!
Hiring a coach is all about telling yourself that your goals are worth achieving. Invest in yourself! If you’re interested in hiring a coach, ask around! See who other athletes in your area know and trust. Don’t necessarily limit yourself to coaches in your town, state, or even country! While I really enjoyed getting to know my coach in person, there are many awesome coaches who are willing to do distance-coaching!
Kelsey is a graphic designer, blogger, and runner from New England. She's a lover of adventure, food and mornings. In addition to running her blog Spice & Dice, Kelsey's latest ventures are designing a cookbook and training for a marathon.
Main Photo Credit: gpointstudio/Shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Jacek Chabraszewski/Shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: bokan/Shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Brocreative/Shutterstock.com