One of the questions I get asked most often is what it’s like to be a running coach; I mean, what do I do all day?
What I’ve come to realise over the last year of launching my own business is that this career is a bigger responsibility than I ever initially considered. Clients put their trust in you to achieve their goals, and to get them there without injury and reaching their peak. It’s a tough call when you don’t even get to meet a lot of your athletes in person. Currently, having just relocated, every single client of mine is online now, with clients coming into me usually via Twitter where they’ve often been recommended by somebody else, or via email direct from my website. Quite often I prefer to have at least one initial telephone call with clients I haven’t met in person, as it can be challenging getting to know a client properly via email. However, we do live in a digital age, and it’s surprising nowadays how comfortable people are with being coached over email. In essence, I work in a way that best suits my client.
My initial consultation usually consists of me asking questions such as what your weekly training load is currently, what your goals are, and what your current performance is, so that I can assess whether these goals are achievable, or whether we need to set some more attainable ones together. I also have a look on Strava or whichever tracking tool you use to look at data such as pace and heartrate on recent runs to see what adjustments need to be made there. Clients quite often simply want more structure, and somebody keeping an eye on them to help motivate them to actually do the workouts. Others are taking on events for the first time (I’m coaching a lot of first-time marathon runners at the moment) and simply don’t know where to start so come to me for advice and experience.
Fitting together the puzzle that is a training plan is very challenging. When I first started offering online training plans, I considered writing up some ready-made training plans for different distances. However, consider how many different variations I would had to have written up to take into account individuals’ training frequency, what their bodies can handle, which days they prefer to train, past experience and performance, goal pace, how to fit in running club sessions …. it would prove impossible. This is why every single plan I write is carefully thought out and individually crafted. I also send every plan out with the proviso that we update it after each phase because it’s impossible to know how the athlete will respond to the training I recommend. We may need to give more rest in between long runs. We may need to do shorter, sharper speed sessions. We may need to factor in a new job or something else that inevitably crops up throughout life. Every plan is different and constantly changing.
Once I have sent the plan out, and it’s been agreed, I keep in touch with clients however they prefer. Some, I have a weekly telephone catch up with. Some send me emails with the past week’s plan annotated with how they’ve felt during each workout. Others text me their progress or drop me a direct message on Twitter with any questions about particular workouts. I also keep an all-seeing eye on workouts posted online too. The digital age we live in truly is marvellous isn’t it.
So most of my time is spent looking after clients and writing/updating training plans, but I also love to get out and coach people in person too. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the smile on somebody’s face after they’ve just smashed a hill session they didn’t believe they could finish, or run their furthest distance ever. I’m in the middle of planning a big relaunch of my running groups in the Bolton and Wigan area after relocating last month, so look out for beginners groups, trail adventures, guided runs and plenty of fun coached sessions.
Of course I also have to fit my own training in somewhere too. Luckily, my work is VERY flexible but I usually prefer to train in the morning, so that will usually be the first thing I do after I’ve done the school drop off and the dog walk. A run sets me up for the day, waking my brain up; the power of endorphins!
So in a nutshell, that’s what I do, aside from all the related planning, accounting of running my own business, advertising and of course keeping active on social media, particularly #ukrunchat which is where I meet most of my clients. It’s often difficult switching off from a job like this, because I always like to be on hand to answer any queries from my athletes, but I do always try to switch off the tech at 9pm to wind down before bedtime.
I get a lot of people asking me what it’s like to be a running coach, and would I recommend the Leader and Coach in Running Fitness courses through UK Athletics, which I absolutely would. I LOVE my job; it’s very rewarding helping people achieve their goals. I hope this article has given some insight into what it all entails.