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What to look for in a Running Coach

We want to start this blog off by just mentioning that we are in no way taking a dig at, or being disrespectful to other coaches out there. Nor are we trying to claim that we are better than any other coach. Our main priority as a coaching business is to help runners make an informed choice that is right for them, and this is what we're attempting to do with this post...

As a runner, you're constantly looking for improvements. Looking towards the best shoes, the best compression gear, maximising your nutrition, sleep & recovery. For some, this pursuit can lead them to working with a running coach. Someone who can develop a plan, get the most out of their training, see things from a calm & balanced point of view, and guide them towards the success they're after. But it can be difficult to decide which direction to go in. Which coach do you go with? Do I want to be a part of that team or another one? Whats different about them?

We sat down with our brilliant partners Coopah Running (@coopahrunning) to discuss what things people should look for in a running coach.

#1 - Experience

The first question you can ask yourself is "Are they are runner themselves?"

Now, we're not saying at all that you can't be a good coach if you aren't a runner. If you're a good coach, you're a good coach. An important aspect of a coach's job is to make key decisions at critical moments in a training plan or during race preparation. From our experience, it helps if the coach knows exactly how the athlete is feeling at that moment. It helps if the coach knows what the athlete will be going through during an interval session, how a tempo run feels, how the legs feel after a long run and how nervous you get leading into a race. We believe this is a huge benefit to both parties, you can never have too much experience and being able to call on that experience helps massively when designing a training plan and making key decisions.

#2 - Qualifications

This is quite an important one. Is the coach a qualified coach? Again, there will be great coaches out there who don't have an official qualification, but as with any profession, we think it's important that the qualification is there if people will be paying for a coaching service. Things to look for are UK Athletics (UKA) qualifications (or the relevant organisation in another country) as either a levelled athletics coach or a run leader - both involve passing a course where coaching knowledge and skills (specific to running) are developed and assessed. By having this qualification, you can be confident that the coach has been assessed on his or her ability to develop a training plan to target various fitness components, as well as their ability to deliver it to people competently.

#3 - Are they Athlete-Centred?

A coaching business is about the athletes, not the coach. In the current days of social media, there is a need to display a certain level of competence. Social media is available to highlight any success that the team has with its members, as well as inform people of the benefits of that particular team and provide content to help people - quick side note: we dislike the fact that social media plays such an important role, but recognise its need in order to connect with the running community. However a coach should always keep in mind that ultimately, the most important thing about their team is the athletes they coach. The coach is never bigger than the team and the ultimate goal is to help other people improve, not big themselves up. This is something we continually self-assess at NewEra. We never want it to be about us, but rather about the brilliant team we coach.

#4 - Current members

There is no better way to find out about a coach, than by asking current or previous members what its like. At NewEra, of course we like it when our current members recommend us to other people. However, we never want them to lie or sugarcoat anything. We want our members to be honest, to us and to other people. We want people to have as much information as possible so that they can make the best decision for them - ultimately, if a coach-athlete relationship is initially built on false information... it won't last very long. Ask yourself the following questions:

Do their current members seem happy?

Do they seem to be enjoying their running?

Are they successful and improving under their coach?

Is the team environment a positive one, where members support each other?

And if you don't know the answers... ask them.

#5 - Whats the training like?

In order to improve and get the very best out of yourself, your training needs to be specific to you. You will have a certain physiological and mental make-up which contributes to how you respond and adapt to different training modalities. The role of a coach is to figure out what works and what doesn't for each and every athlete they coach. What works for one person, won't necessarily work for another. Not only this, but every runner will have different goals, as well as strengths and weaknesses. Your training needs to be built around those 3 things; achieving goals, maintaining strengths, improving weaknesses. Your training needs to be designed to get you on the startling of your target race(s), in the best possible position to produce your peak performance, and remember; every runner is different so copying someone's training isn't what's best for you.

Look for specific training that is designed for you and you only. Ask the coach what the training will be like, talk to current members to see if the promises are lived up to. Gather as much information as possible before you make the decision and make sure you feel confident that the training will be right for you to improve.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, we are in no way suggesting or claiming to be the right choice, or better than another. This post isn't here to dig at other people, but instead to help those of you who might be considering working with a coach. It is your job as an athlete to do your research before making a decision about a coach. Get a feel for what it will be like, talk to others, talk to the coach and if the boxes are ticked and you feel happy about it, take the leap!

Discover your potential.

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