The Pros and Cons of Working with An Online Running Coach

Working with an online running coach

It seems like over the last 6+ weeks, we’ve managed to do a whole lot virtually. Doctors appointments, physio and personal training sessions, dates and dinner parties. Who would have known that a great Saturday night would be Zoom cocktail making following by a virtual quiz!

Something that I have done virtually for a while though is my run coaching, working with someone that knows a lot more than I do about training, helping me build up speed and endurance. Working with a running coach has helped me go from a 4.54 marathoner to a 3.38.

They have risen in popularity over the last few years, with people investing more in themselves and their ‘free’ hobby to achieve their big goals. Whilst there are plenty of online plans available, from Couch to 5K to ultra marathon, there are many wanting some a bit more bespoke.

I probably spend more than the average runner on…running because I’ve somehow turned this hobby of mine into a side hustle. But the truth is, coaching can be expensive.

However, there are a number of options for different price points when it comes to coaching. With semi-personalized plans available through to a holistic approach that includes running, strength and nutrition. I believe there’s a coaching option for every budget and level of runner.

The Pros and Cons of Working with An Online Running Coach

Working with an online running coach

The Pros 

they can be more affordable. 

Without the need for in person contact, (which is usually expensive) online coaching can be a really affordable way of getting a plan tailored to your fitness levels and race. You also have a lot more input in terms of days of the week, number of sessions and flexibility etc than you do with a plan you download from the internet.

-online plans.

Most coaches use online plans to track their runner’s progress (we use it combined with Garmin data that syncs up to Training Peaks) so it doesn’t actually make much of a difference whether they are set in person or online. Unless of course you’re an elite with a coach with you for every session!

-course specific training.

I first started working with an online coach when I ran my second marathon, NYCM, because Gia was offering a great NYC marathon specific option and she knew that course like the back of her hand. And it helped me shave 45 minutes from my time! Many coaches have first hand experience of their local races as well as the bigger races such as London Marathon!

accountability. 

During this time of uncertainty, having someone to be accountable too can be invaluable. However I think it’s also really important that you communicate with your coach about how you are feeling as emotions are running high during lockdown, and everyday stress can massively impact your running performance and recovery.

-specificity.

Whilst there are some really great downloadable programs out there (Hal Higdon, Asics, and RunKeeper have some semi-customisable options), having a coach that will create a program that fits with your life, fitness, niggles and personal needs is incredibly helpful. During this time, we aren’t sure when our next real race will be, it might be a great time to work on raw speed, building a base or just running for enjoyment/de-stressing – whilst you can find these specific styles of plan online, a coach can build one that is specific to your current situation and goals.

Working with an online running coach

The Cons 

-it’s still expensive!

In the past I’ve paid £100+ per month which for me is a little too pricey. When you’re not training for anything in particular, it can be hard to justify this monthly outgoing. There are coaches charging less (and some charging more!), you just need to do your homework. However, at the time of people tightening their belts during the pandemic, this still might not be affordable and a free online program could be the way forward right now.

– the time change.

A lot of coaches that I know of are based in the USA. Meaning that as you’re getting back from your run, they’re going to bed (or are fast asleep). This isn’t ideal if you want instant feedback on whether you should change/skip a run. When I was working with Ash, because of the time difference to California from London, there wasn’t the instant feedback/communication. So if you’re looking for that, then finding someone on your timezone/locally might be a good option.

– less personable?

If you can see your coach, have them watch you at the track, analyse your form and spend time with you on your long runs. I think there’s definitely an advantage to that. Doing everything online needs trust from the coach that the runners is really doing what they say they’re doing, and not pausing their watch etc. And from the runner to know that the coach really is giving a personalise programme!

– no group sessions.

Local running coaches often have group sessions that you can attend as part of your training (or at a price on top of this), which can be a great way to get your speed workout or threshold/tempo session done whilst being pushed, or just to make running friends! Plus the face time with your coach can be invaluable.

Working with an online running coach

I absolutely loved working with Ash for the past few years, although I took a full break from coaching after getting a little burned out from running/training and feeling like a coach was just one other person I was letting down. I realise that mindset is a little ridiculous, but honestly, I just needed to give myself a break. But I’m hoping to go back to her soon if she’ll have me lol!

Right now I’m about to start testing out the Peloton running plans and I’ve started using their strength sessions too. In the past I’ve been wary of using online strength programmes due to my own reluctance to go to the gym and the fear of doing a move wrong however this lockdown has forced us all into home workouts and online strength, turns out that it’s not so bad!

We’re actually in the process of doing up our home gym/shed to enable us to do more strength workouts in there. It seems we weren’t the only ones with this idea as weights sets and benches are sold out everywhere near us!

You can read a round up here of some of the best strength for runners online programs.

Online Running Coach Recommendations:

The above are coaching platforms or individuals that I know/have worked with or been recommended by a (fast) friend. If you’re looking for an autumn or next spring marathon training plan or personalised coaching, these would be my go-to starting spots.

14 Comments

  1. 31st October 2018 / 7:24 am

    I had a training plan for a specific event (Manchester marathon) which worked out cheaper than paying a monthly fee (it was a one off cost). I found it worked really well- it made me more accountable for each session, and it definitely made the sessions more challenging and varied. My coach was uk based too, so when we had all that snow in the winter/ spring she was able to advise when I had to cut sessions short or swap them. I used Miles with Michelle if anyone is interested. And I hit my goal exactly, knocking 18 mins of my PB. I also got PBs at 5k, 10k and HM during training.

    • 1st November 2018 / 8:58 am

      Thank you so much for this recommendation – it turns out, Michelle is based really close to where I live and is exactly what I’ve been looking for!

      • 1st November 2018 / 1:01 pm

        I cannot recommend her highly enough! Good luck!

  2. 31st October 2018 / 1:06 pm

    I’ve been working with an online coach for two months now and I do find it helpful as a way of making me more accountable for my running. It’s definitely a much more affordable alternative to face-to-face coaching, and I like the personalised plan which is really helpful for me as I sometimes work shifts. I don’t think it can ever fully replace face-to-face coaching, but it’s a much more accessible alternative for everyday runners.

  3. 31st October 2018 / 4:47 pm

    Just a few days ago I watched this really great Ted Talk about getting a coach. Is an online running coach and someone who has been coached both in running and with my run coaching business, I’ve seriously come to value how helpful a coach can be for an outside POV, motivation, and accountability: http://bit.ly/2zlmt2q

  4. Nicoletta
    31st October 2018 / 6:08 pm

    Great, thank you for your input! very much appreciated!

  5. The Newbie
    31st October 2018 / 7:20 pm

    Pausing your Garmin to trick your coach?! Do people do that? My coach is across the country from me. But lying to her? What’s the point of that?! I’m only cheating myself?

    • 9th May 2020 / 9:39 am

      My coaches always knew when my Garmin was paused! You can see it in the back end stats! (note I never paused it to trick them, I just had a couple of tough runs when I stopped a lot so they queried it).

      • charlotte
        Author
        9th May 2020 / 9:56 am

        Haha Oh I didn’t know that! Good job I’ve always been honest when I needed to pause!

  6. 6th November 2018 / 4:24 am

    Just a few days ago I watched this really great Ted Talk about getting a coach. Is an online running coach and someone who has been coached both in running and with my run coaching business, I’ve seriously come to value how helpful a coach can be for an outside POV, motivation, and accountability: http://bit.ly/2zlmt2q

  7. 18th November 2018 / 4:08 pm

    I like using a training plan, but to be honest spend a lot of time second guessing myself -maybe I’d benefit from a running coach!

  8. Amanda
    6th May 2020 / 3:06 pm

    What a timely post! I just started using a run coach two weeks ago and have enjoyed not having to worry about planning my runs (as they’re programmed for me!!) I also wanted to shoutout Andy Speer’s Peloton Total Strength program. He does a great job breaking down form!

  9. 9th May 2020 / 9:37 am

    I’ve used a coach a couple of times, face to face when I wanted to really nail down the specifics of running and improve my form and virtually when I was training for the speed project and honestly had no idea where to start! I think you’re totally right that you need to do your research with online coaches, although I found Tom and Rach from Run Namaste Eat wonderful, even though we were in different countries they were so supportive and involved in my training, it was brilliant!

  10. Heather Dobson
    11th May 2020 / 1:16 pm

    Good afternoon,
    I have enjoyed reading your blog and this has been something that I have been interested in for a few months now. I recently completed a half marathon and although I was pleased with the achievement, I would have liked a faster time. I also experienced an injury whilst I was training which I think could have been avoided if I had consulted with a professional running coach. I am looking for an affordable training plan to improve my time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. Would you have a recommendation for this type of online training. My aim is to complete my next half marathon in March 2021.
    Kind Regards
    Heather