Working with a coach for even just a few sessions can net you some big benefits. But if you want to reap all of the rewards on our list, consider working with your coach for an entire race season.
Read on to learn what a running coach can do for you that you probably can't do for yourself.
Run Pretty1 of 8
The absolute most important thing a coach can do for you is teach you how to run with proper form. If you've been running on your own for a while, your form can be really hard to change. The hardest part about trying to fix your form yourself is that it is tricky to identify your own mistakes. A good coach will give you tips and cues that can help you adjust your posture, stride and cadence.
Improper form can lead to running-related injuries, and it could be making you run less efficiently (read: slower). With time, persistence and your coach's voice in your head, you'll straighten up and run right—and you'll forever be a better runner for it.
Run Enough (But Not Too Much)2 of 8
One of the toughest things for any runner is determining proper training volume. That's because what's "proper" varies widely from person to person. Many variables go into this equation, like how long you've been running, how old you are, whether you're male or female, how much you weigh and whether you've been injured before (and how recently).
A good coach can take all of these variables and turn them into a solid recommendation that will help you improve your running performance without putting you at risk for injury. After working together for a few weeks, your coach will get an even better idea of your ability to handle weekly training mileage, so this is one reason you may want to stick with your coach for a whole season, instead of just a few sessions.
Run Hard3 of 8
Apart from assessing running form, this may be the hardest thing for you to do on your own. Very few runners push themselves as hard as they should on their speed workouts or hill runs, and yet this is exactly what's needed to really become a stronger runner.
The solution to sub-par training? Hire a coach! A good one won't let you get away with taking it easy on your hard days, unless you have a legitimate physical issue.
Run Easy4 of 8
Did you know that you've probably been running at the wrong pace? If you're like most recreational runners, you head out the door and run at about 75 percent of your max effort for whatever distance you've decided to run that day. But rushing to simply complete the day's mileage won't make you a better runner. In fact, it will probably make you an injured runner.
In contrast, if you run most of your miles at an easy pace, you'll maximize training volume while putting minimum strain on your body. Here's a funny thing, though—for most of us, running slow is mentally very difficult. That's where your coach comes in. He or she can help you find—and stick to—the proper pace for your easy and long runs.
Rest and Recover5 of 8
Here's another little known secret: You don't become a stronger runner during your training runs—you become a stronger runner after them. The physiological adaptations that improve performance actually happen during rest. So, if you're not resting properly, then it won't matter how spot-on your training regimen is.
There's a lot that factors into good recovery. Too little of it will leave you worn down and injury-prone, but too much can negate any fitness gains you've made. There are also different types of rest—active rest, total rest, sleep—and you want to make sure you're getting the right mix. In conjunction with all of your other training variables, your coach can recommend the number and type of rest days you should be taking during the various phases of training, as well as monitoring (and making recommendations for any necessary changes to) your sleep habits.
Run Strong6 of 8
Lots of runners never ever pick up a weight, especially during race season. For some, this can be a fine strategy, but for others, it can lead to a string of nagging injuries. If you have a particular injury that keeps coming back year after year, chances are it's because you have a strength imbalance. Weakness in certain key muscle groups leads to compensation from others. Over time, this compensation creates imbalances and, ultimately, injury.
A good coach can spot those weaknesses and suggest running-specific exercises to correct imbalances and improve your form. A coach can also give you some direction about which cross-training activities will be most beneficial to you in the off-season.
Compete at Your Best7 of 8
If you're considering hiring a coach, you might have a specific goal or event in mind. Whether your aim is to place in the top five of your age group, improve your 10K pace by 20 seconds or simply run a specific distance without walking, a coach can help you get there. Not only can he or she help improve your running performance over time, but as the day of your big event approaches, your coach will give you invaluable advice on when to taper your mileage (and by how much), what adjustments to make to your diet (if any), how to use meditation or visualization exercises to mentally prepare and what you need to do logistically to toe the starting line come race day.