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
–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.
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!
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.
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.
-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.
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!
Online Running Coach Recommendations:
- Tom Craggs – Running with Us
- Lift. Run. Perform.
- Endure Strong (with Des Linden and Jared Ward)
- Laura Fountain
- Amanda Brooks
- Purdue Performance (with GB elite runner Charlotte Purdue)
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.