by Mark Yabsley.
Surely training for, and running, a half marathon is pretty easy? All you have to do is to search online, find a training plan, follow it and then run your race.
In simplistic terms, this is true. Unfortunately, whilst training and racing is not rocket science, it does have its complexities and everyone has their own idiosyncrasies and individual needs. But who needs a running coach? Does this just not add more pressure?
Any good coach should adapt their style to suit each athlete, as there is no “one size fits all” for coaching - just as no generic online plan fits all! A coach will ensure they work with you to get the best out of you. They should encourage, motivate and inspire you to achieve your full potential, but never push you beyond what you can actually do.
The most common pitfalls I see as a coach is people either overtraining and not taking adequate rest sessions, which are the most important sessions in your plan, or people not being able to stretch their goals to reflect what they are truly capable of achieving. And herein lies the crux: many of us have self-imposed limitations, so a coach can be your belief, even when yours falters. Equally, a coach can foresee any likelihood of overtraining injuries or underperformance due to insufficient rest. Yet probably the biggest reason I hear from people seeking coaching is to add a degree of accountability to ensure you do what you set out to achieve, particularly when many of us have such a perpetually hectic schedule.
How does a coach work? To start with, they will take a full running profile from you, which is the bedrock to tailor your training and to create a plan to help you reach the goals you desire and a coach can help to ensure these goals are realistic! Coaches can offer coached sessions, either as a group or on a one-to-one basis. A coach can look at other factors, such as correct pacing, technique, speed, hills, strength and conditioning and nutrition. Finally, a coach can help with the final pre-race preparations to ensure you are race ready and nothing is left to chance. Coaches have a wealth of experience and it is always best to learn from someone else’s wisdom than trying to work it out yourself.
Bear in mind, the hardest distance any runner covers is the six inches between the ears, which is particularly applicable to distance running. Therefore, a coach can help you to win your “inner game” and to deal with any challenges your training throws up. After all, whatever is happening in your life, you bring to your running.
Given I have already said running is pretty straightforward, what can go wrong? Whilst the basic precept of running is simple, there is complexity to it, which can be overlooked. As I have already stated, a coach will help you navigate many of the pitfalls. However, what if the problem is you? By this, I mean we all have biomechanical anomalies. Some are within the remit of a coach, such as correcting technique imperfections which can make you either inefficient or injury prone. However, if it is something more structural, such as a tilted pelvis, scoliosis or similar? Many of us will be ignorant of such imbalances until injury strikes. Sadly, this is all too common, but does not have to be a death knell for your goal.
Working in partnership with the team at Bridge to Health, I can refer runners to the team for an assessment, which will establish what the issue is and offer manual therapy to correct it. With your agreement, we will then work in tandem to create a supportive programme to give you the best chance of still achieving your aims. Equally, the arrangement is reciprocal and the Bridge to Health team can refer a runner to me for a running analysis, which will explore whether technique is the issue.
Running is not rocket science, this is true, but there is certainly a great deal which goes into doing it well! Coaching is a multi-faceted addition to your race preparations, offering a shortcut to give you the best chance to achieving what your hard work deserves.
What is the true value of a coach?
The answer is simple; having someone in your corner every step of the way.
Why have a coach at all?
This can be answered with a simple question: do top athletes in every sport have one? Of course they do. Nowadays having a coach is not just the preserve of the elite, as anyone wishing to reach their goal can benefit from the insightful wisdom a coach can provide.
What is the value of a running coach?
That really depends on how much you value achieving your goal!