Something we often get asked is “What is the value of coaching?”
Probably the biggest misconception about coaching is that coaching is just about creating a training plan. Of course, this is a big aspect of it and is certainly a key role of a coach. But a coach (or should I say, a good coach) provides so much more than just a training plan.
I like to say that coaching bridges the gap between knowledge and implementation. What this means is that there is often a disconnect between someone’s knowledge of training and their ability to put it into practice. There’s a difference between being able to plan a single workout or week, versus being able to put together a cycle of training and understand the bigger picture of how everything fits together. Training is all about finding the right balance between stress and recovery, and the toughest part of a coach’s role is to optimize this balance in order to gain as much adaptation as possible.
The part of coaching that is often missed is the more personal side of things that relies on a good relationship between the athlete and coach. One of the key parts of this role is to motivate athletes; and this is generally through encouragement and accountability. Many athletes find it difficult to stay consistent – and so this constant source of accountability becomes a key factor in maintaining their discipline and motivation.
However, an often-overlooked side of this is the need to control an athlete’s motivation and workload. Running is a sport that requires huge amounts of patience, but as athletes we often want to push ourselves harder to try and achieve quicker results. When dealing with highly motivated athletes, it’s just as important for a coach to be able to hold them back as needed to avoid issues such as burnout and overtraining.
A coach also offers the ability to make your training as personalized to your needs as possible. As they understand more and more about you as a runner, they’re able to make your training a lot more suited to your unique needs. Things such as your strengths & weaknesses, ability to recover, injury resilience, stride mechanics, mental strength and other factors will all contribute to how you respond to training and how you’re able to handle different types of workouts. Coaches are often either experienced or elite runners themselves, so they are able to provide a lot of key insights and advice based on their own personal training experience.
Finally, a coach is able to be flexible and adaptable to your lifestyle. A common issue for runners following a ‘plan’ is that they are unsure what to do when they miss a few scheduled runs or have a string of particularly poor workouts. The most common mistake here is to try and ‘catch up’ on the missed workouts and digging yourself deeper and deeper into a hole. When working with a coach, they are able to adjust your training and re-arrange your schedule in order to get things back on track in a sensible manner.