No one can accuse world-class sprinter Usain Bolt of being less than confident. Hailed as the fastest man in the world today, he oozes self-assurance. But, when answering a question about whether or not he would leave the 100- and 200-meter sprints for the more arduous 400-meter run, he replied, "I don't know. I don't want to do it but if my coach decides I'm dominant over the 100m and 200m and let's try something new, I'll definitely try to put my heart into it."
There is a reason that even the best athletes in the world trust their coaches to make decisions about their training and racing.
Whether you are a world-class athlete or a first-time 5K runner, it is important to have an objective, outside opinion on your training because chances are that you fall into one of two categories.
Category 1: You need to be pushed
You know who you are. When you need a good "kick in the running shorts," a coach can provide effective accountability. Knowing that a coach took the time to design workouts just for you, and that he or she is there to tweak your plan based on your feedback is often motivation enough to get out of bed and hit the pavement.
Category 2: You need to be reigned in
If you're the type of runner who doesn't understand when enough is enough, a coach can be a partner who reaches out and yanks you back from the fitness edge before you plummet into overtraining and burnout.
More: 5 Signs of Overtraining
How All Runners Can Benefit From a Coach
A coach is like having an extra set of eyes that can see what you can't in your training. There's a lot of "behind-the-scenes" work that culminates in your perfect training plan, such as understanding how to build our anaerobic and aerobic threshold as well as how to develop both our endurance and our top-end speed.
Cookie-cutter programs that simply run a list of personal records through a program and spit out a training plan fail to take into account an athlete's specific strengths and weaknesses as well as whether the athlete falls into category 1 or 2 (outlined above).
Don't have a coach yet or nervous that you aren't a good candidate for coaching? Take a look at the process a coach goes through when he or she begins working with a new athlete to give you an idea of what to expect.