I am always amazed by the number of people that will pay $3.59 DAILY for a coffee creation, but balk at paying for a running coach (for this article I will only discuss running coaches. I will cover other health professionals in another article). I am equally amazed at the number of people who are picking coaches that have no business coaching. So here is a dummy's guide to selecting a coach.
There are a lot of "coaches" out there that are only in the market for your pocketbook, not your health. I use parentheses because some coaches are not coaches. And people are becoming injured because of them. So how do you pick a running coach? Here are 7 things to look for when selecting a running coach.
#1) Are they certified? A certification should come from USA Track & Field, Road Runners Club of America, or USA Triathlon. However, anyone with a little money can get a certification. So just because they are "certified" does not mean they know what they are doing. See point #2.
#2) Personal Experience. Personal experience goes a long way. If you have never run a marathon before how can you coach someone and say "push through the pain at mile 21?". They have no clue what the pain feels like at mile 21! It would be like saying a pilot telling a passenger to go fly a plane.
#3) Coaching Plans. This is a BIG one. If you see a coach advertising one-plan-for-all, run fast. Run far. No pun intended. A coach should sit (or discuss over the phone) your goals, your past running history, injury history, future goals, time commitment to training, nutrition, and a host of other things. A coaching plan is for you and you alone. The person who wants to run a sub 3 hour marathon should not have the same plan as the person who is running a marathon for the first time.
#4) Fees. Back to the first sentence that started this article. People will pay whatever they want for things they like [daily coffee creation], they won't pay for things that will make them better. Yes this frustrates me. People have money for what they want, not what they need. It all comes down to priorities. Elite and professional athlete's know that a solid coach can help them achieve their goals. And you should approach it the same way. A coach should be not be "cheap". A coach should not be priced out of this world either. However, you pay for what you get. A good coach will be worth every penny. Its kind of like a buying a knock off bag on the streets of NYC versus going into the store for the real thing. A fake bag [coach] will always disappoint.
#5) The Coaching Plan. A real coach will give create a plan for you and only give it to you a week or month out. If you saw your year long plan at the get-go, you would probably have a heart attack. A wise coach knows this and will protect you. Let him/her worry about the big picture, you concentrate on your workout of the day/week. The coaching plan should not be done by a computer or a program. I have seen plenty of computer generated programs that guarantee a Boston qualifier. Don't buy into that hype/plan!
#6) Contracts. A coach should have you sign some sort of disclosure agreement. A coach becomes your friend, your advocate and learns a lot about you. Your personal information, frustrations, highs, lows are all a part of coaching. Don't let your personal information become viral.
#7) Personality. The bottom line is that a coach should be fun, balanced, easy to work with, available for you, and have YOUR best interest in mind. A wise coach will work with your schedule, your injury's, include strength training, and other workouts that appropriate for you. And a coach should not have a criminal background.
I do not like to see people get injured because a coach only had money in mind, not the health of the runner. A good coach is just as important as your 8 glasses of water every day (or your cup of coffee). Please research and choose wisely!
Now, if you are looking for a coach, here are 3 that I personally recommend.
Melanie Hevel (@xcwomac), Josh (@SpeedySaquatch) and Kevin (@KGranato). They all have different talents and credentials. But most importantly they are honest and smart about coaching. If you have any questions, please let me know!