Things to Look for in Coaching

September 23, 2021

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Chaski Resident Coach Andrew Cantor shares the things that you need to consider when choosing and hiring a private running coach. His insights will help you get the most of theprogram and training plan that you paid for! Know the different professional guidelines when it comes to your next coaching experience in running.

So you are considering hiring A Private Running Coach!

Many runners decide to hire private coaches for many reasons. Those reasons include, but are not limited to, guidance in achieving goals, accountability purposes, overcoming injuries or burn out andfor newer athletes, to learn about proper training.

Coaches provide their athletes with structure, expertise and resourcefulness. Coaches are resourceful as they utilize their own experiences (from their own history of training/racing) as well as experiences with other athletes they coach.

They will also use ideas they have learned from research or other coaches they know  or have studied. All of these resources are generally relied upon in crafting an individualized training regimine best suited for their athlete.

When an athlete is self-coaching, sometimes they may struggle with motivation getting out the door. Conversely, they may push too hard in training runs and therefore overtrain, leading to mental/physical burnout, injury or regressed performances.

Coaches often see the bigger picture, while a self-coached athlete may get too bogged down in minor details which cause undue stress. Private coaches help their athletes understand why they are feeling the way they do and why it is part of the process of achieving the end goal.

Here are some of the main things to look for when hiring a private coach:

  • Open Communication and Honesty - A good coach will provide their athlete with open and honest communication. They will instruct their athlete when to push, despite tired legs or when to back off when the athlete is pushing too hard. A good coach will explain the reasoning behind the assigned workout/paces as well as how the athlete should feel going into a workout or race and during that time, as well as after.  

Coaches will also provide honest feedback on a race and/or workout. An athlete should seek a coach that will tell them when a mistake was made or reassure them when things are not going perfectly. A coach should always evoke positive vibes and be encouraging towards the athlete’s goals.

  • Expertise - Private coaches should have a solid acumen of the sport and event(s) that the athlete is training for. They should be able to rely on their knowledge to calculate training paces and organize training in a fashion that is catered to the individual athlete. Coaches must be able to explain the “why” or the purpose of an assigned run or task so that the athlete understands why they are assigned and can carry them out correctly.
  • Adaptable - It is an absolute must for coaches to provide training specifically designed for their individual athlete. No two athletes are the same. They may be similar but they are not  exactly the same.

All athletes come from different running backgrounds, have different resources/environments and live different lives impacting their training. Further, there are many,  many different training philosophies and methodologies to improve performance.

Some athletes respond and enjoy certain training ideologies while others do not respond well or have access to resources in order to properly train under a certain program. For example, some runners benefit from high mileage while others get injured or burn out after running a step more than 20 miles in a week.

Some athletes thrive off running with lots of elevation gain while others break down. Some athletes do well with prolonged training cycles of 15-20 weeks while others can only sustain a 9 week training cycle.

Some athletes have access to hundreds of miles of trails while others live in urban areas and must run on sidewalks and roads. All of these factors impact the way a coach designs a running program.

It is also important for coaches to be adaptable with life circumstances. Sometimes work and family obligations interfere with the perfect training plan. A coach needs to be able to modify the plan accordingly (and sometimes with minimal notice) to ensure progress is being made while not over-burdening their athlete or making them feel guilty.

For example, if an athlete misses a tempo run because of a work function, an athlete may be tempted to cram it in with another hard session. It is up to the coach to decide if and how to make up for it.

  • Understanding - Two early  questions a coach should ask their athlete are “What makes you excited about getting out the door and going for a run” and “What are your short term and long term goals?”

These questions are important because they shape and provide the foundation of a training plan.

All training plans look different depending on these t things. Coaches need to  understand these factors so that the athlete enjoys the day to day training while also progressing towards their goals.

As I have alluded to in prior blogs, keeping the training enjoyable is one of the, if not the, highest priority. Implementing things that the athlete does not enjoy can lead to undue stress and burnout.

  • Belief - This goes both ways. Coach needs to believe in the athlete while the athletes need to believe that the coach will help them to achieve their goals. By believing in them, the coach will fully invest into the athlete.

If the athlete believes in and trusts their coach, they are far more likely to believe in themselves at the start line, improving their chances in achieving their goals.

I am a firm believer that athletes do best when they are having fun, feel good (physically AND mentally!), believe in their training and most importantly, believe in themselves!

When considering hiring a private coach, one should do research by browsing the coach’s website (or their company’s website), their social media (or their company’s social media) and reach out to other athletes who have this coach.

It is also wise to contact a potential coach and have a conversation to get more information on the coach’s background/experience, training philosophy and areas of expertise in order to best see if it is a good fit.

I am currently taking on athlete’s myself! Feel free to reach out to me via social media @andrewcantor with any questions or inquiries.

Please check out my other blog posts: Chaski Blogs by Andrew Cantor

Happy Running!

— Andrew Cantor

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