Online coaching, Running club, or something else?

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02/09/2009 at 08:27

When I am training for events, I follow training schedules, and while I think schedules are very good, they only seem to work when all goes well, whenever life chucks a spanner in the works (illness, injury, family comms etc etc), like it does, regularly, then its hard to get back on track with a training schedule.

Now, I am never going to be anything more than a back of the pack runner, however, I would like to try and become the best I can, and I feel I am not quite achieving that due to the lack of expert direction.

So my question is this, is online coaching a viable option for a slow runner like myself?, or would a running club provide me with the expert advice and direction when things go off the rails

If online coaching is a viable option, does anyone have any recommendations?

02/09/2009 at 09:59

I think a running club could be your answer Dan. Most clubs have experienced road running coaches. You will get weekly help, and guide to get the most from your training.

Online coaching?....You'd be just a well chatting on here. It's cheaper

One thing I will say about schedules is, try to understand what the schedule is trying to do. Some of them are poor. I've looked at the RW smartcoach, and all it seems to do is, vary the mileage/pace depending on what information you give it. This is a very simplistic way.

Once you understand all the training levels/intensities, and how to balance them into your programme, it's not too difficult to plan your own personal training schedule. I would be happy to help you. It's best to have a forthcoming target/goal to focus on.

There's some excellent coaches/books out there. I'm a big fan of Lydiard. He basically invented periodisation. Daniels is very good too, he really gets into the physiology of running. You can learn alot from how the elites train, a few books from past greats and Kenyans.

02/09/2009 at 10:11

Thanks for the feedback, how indepth do running club coaches go with individuals?, or does it pretty much vary from club to club?, I have a club in mind, other than just turning up and sucking it and see, is there someway I finding out the pedigree of the coaches?.

I think I will have to get some books on the subject, although I know breifly the training sessions / levels and intesities, I think I could do with either me know more about it, or "hooking up" with someone who does.

Ultimately what I would like is not only the pre-run schedule looked at and customized to me on a week-week basis, but also the post run data analysed, and being told, that run was good, that was bad, too fast here, too slow here etc etc, and combining that with how I felt on the run, and also when things do go wrong somewhere to turn for individual advice, which to me is individual coaching, I understand this has a cost involved, but if its going to help, I am prepared to give it a go.

 While forums are great for advice, I do still feel that its a bit impersonal, and it can be hard to "sift" the advice given.

As you said, training schedules are simplistic, and they also have a tall order of fitting everyone.

I do have goals, I think I just need that "something else" to assist me in achieving them.

Edited: 02/09/2009 at 10:12
02/09/2009 at 10:16

I would agree with what Zanzinger says about schedules. Most of them aren't too hard to decipher, so adjusting them to suit your needs is fairly easy. However, when you ask about coaching/club etc, what is it exactly that you are looking for? Someone to do thinking for you so all you have to do is run? Someone to give you the motivation to do the hard runs when you don't really feel like it? Someone to notice when things are going wrong and advise you how to get out of trouble? Or do you just want the best schedule for you that there is?

 I am a personal trainer and running coach, and I would say the clients who perform best, and achieve the most are those who I see face to face most often, and have a strong coach/athlete relationsip with. If all you are after is a personalised schedule that you can adjust for yourself, all you need to do is do some background reading, and spend some time learning what works for you. If you don't want to spend that time yourself, then there are plenty of online/real life coaches out there that can do the donkey work for you. Noakes says in his book "The Lore of Running" nobody can effectively coach themselves, you need someone looking in from the outside to give an objective perspective. I would agree with that............................but obviously I coach myself and it works ok!! The advantage of having a coach is they will do a lot of the thinking and motivating, and paperwork for you, the disadvantage is they will only be able to write a schedule based on the information that you give them. The less you give them (race times etc with smartcoach) the less accurate and useful the schedule. The more types of communication your coach has access to ie verbal, visual, emotional then again the more accurate the schedule. The disadvantage of an online coach is, all they have to work with is emails. I don't believe that is enough to do a good enough job.

 Probably far too detailed an answer.................but it's a interesting subject for me! Hope it helps.

02/09/2009 at 10:16
online coaching seems to work well in triathlon and I know a number of people who use these. but with tri I think much of the online coaching is more focused in juggling time and resources to fit a specific schedule and allow for time constraints over 3 disciplines. the best online coaches are the ones who are real people who are there at the end of a phone/e-mail as or when needed rather than a computer generated program - the difference however is price.

I know one triathlete who is coached from NZ - he's just qualified for the World Champs in Kona so has done pretty well with it but he has talent and the discipline to work the programmes given

but undoubtedly specific training is best done 1:1 and face to face if possible

and as ZZ says, experience can tell you a lot and you can devise your own plans depending on targets
02/09/2009 at 10:25

I think one of the key elements for me is when things go wrong.

I can, and have, followed smartcoach plans for 18 months, and I have improved, but I feel they are not specified enough to an individual, also, when you miss a run, or two, due to injury/illness or something else, where to go from there.

Also, the post run analysis, what you are doing right, what you are doing wrong, what should you be doing next, was that run too long/fast/slow/short, because week 1 felt like this, week 2 should be this, that sort of thing.

Training schedules just go off into the distance without regard to how you are doing, and for many people, this is probably ok.

I guess its just that point of contact to fall back on if and when I need to, combined with specific training advice is what I need, if i can get that at a club, fine, I'll join a club, if I need to look elsewhere, I will look there.

I know it sounds like a lot, and I am not looking at wanting to be babied in anyway.

02/09/2009 at 10:28
Fin wrote (see)

However, when you ask about coaching/club etc, what is it exactly that you are looking for? Someone to do thinking for you so all you have to do is run?

Not really, I would like to know the whys and wherefores about specific sessions so I can, at some point, do it off my own bat

Someone to give you the motivation to do the hard runs when you don't really feel like it?


Someone to notice when things are going wrong and advise you how to get out of trouble?

Yes, infact, and emphatic YES

Or do you just want the best schedule for you that there is?


Edited: 02/09/2009 at 10:28
02/09/2009 at 10:29

Try a club first, it's cheaper, then if that's not enough try a coach. You never know you may find a coach who also does personal training. I advertise at the local running shop, and coach with a local club, so those might be good places to start.

A personal trainer who specialises in running should be able to offer you all the things you say you'd like.

02/09/2009 at 10:34
Unless of course you're based in South Wales..........................cos I know this really fabulous running coach I'd like to recommend!
02/09/2009 at 10:38

I can honestly say that up to a certain point I learnt most of what I know about running from here - or from books that have been recommended on here (Noakes, Glover, Pfitzinger & Douglas). However since then it's been a case of really understanding and appreciating what training plans are getting me to do and why, and adapting it for my own personal needs/abilities (e.g. tweaking quantity/quality for a 2nd marathion schedule as I got fitter) and benefitting from the club set-up.  Within the club there isn't really one coach who keeps tabs on what I'm doing and sets out training sessions for me, more a small group of experienced runners who train together and offer advice, share ideas, moan about niggles, suggest sessions, race together/against each other, etc.

As Zanzinger says once you understand about training at different intensities and the different 'systems' they stimulate - VO2 max, LT, endurance, etc - (Pfitzinger & Douglas, Advanced Marathoning, is particularly good on this IMO) you can use this to adapt fixed schedules to your own needs.  Joining a club and/or getting a coach might then be good for getting feedback on "am I doing this right" and the motivation this will give you.

02/09/2009 at 10:44
Dan - just reading some of your posts above again. I'd definitely recommend joining a club.  Even if you're not getting the services of a dedicated coach you will end up training with experienced runners of similar or better ability, and even if it's just once a week meeting up for a particular session this'll give you the opportunity to discuss your weekly training in detail, compare it with what other people are doing (you are bound to get new ideas for sessions, etc), and just have people to bounce off so you're not working blind.  You'll also be training with people who can help assess your progress over a period of time (with race/training times) and give you feedback.
02/09/2009 at 10:50

Club it is then , maybe that will cure the "aimlessly training because my schedule says so" feeling I sometimes get, it will be nice to get some feedback on my training, and hopefully the club will provide that.

No, nowhere near South Wales!!!

02/09/2009 at 10:56

I am a club runner - i run with a great club who have tons of great coaches at lots of different levels- however the coaches develop schedules for everyone and don't really seem to do one-on-one.  Saying that i haven't ever arranged to sit down and chat with them - it's doesn't seem to me to be the 'done' thing if you know what i mean. However my club is pretty big - so that might be the issue.

I have tried email coaching with a guy i found in the back of runners world. He was brilliant and clueless at the same time.  He was one of those 'i've been running for ages and i'm dead fast therfore i will make a good coach'-    BUT despite this i found that having an objective outsiders point of view on what i was doing was really great.  Hence the brilliant AND clueless.  Didn't really know how to deal with someone at my paltry level so we happily parted company (i did get a marathon pb so not a total loss).

 I did try another company - they were the opposite.  Tried to get me to do so little that i got very frustrated.  However they were well qualified and did know their stuff, set excellent sessions- just erred a little on the side of caution.  I perhaps should have listened to them and would now be a lot faster   but not all of us ONLY run for the training effect - i need to run to stay sane even if i am technically too tired or overtraining - i do it anyway (very silly - i do know this )

 You might want to have a look at their website and see what you think.  They have a good set up in that they give you a session - you comment on it after doing it and then they adjust for the next week.  Even though i stopped using them - they were very nice, all comments seemed informed and sensible and sessions obviously planned with thought. 

02/09/2009 at 11:01

Here's a question: can a coach work with someone if the coach has the knowledge-base but not the physical ability, or indeed never had the physical ability?

I was having a discussion about this the other day... do you think it matters?

02/09/2009 at 11:05

@Gymaddict, thanks for the link, thats spot on exactly what I was looking for, and £125 for the whole year doesn't seem that expensive, hmm......

02/09/2009 at 11:06

"Didn't really know how to deal with someone at my paltry level so we happily parted company (i did get a marathon pb so not a total loss)."

Yes, this is where I think if you get lucky with the right club and can train with experienced runners of similar or slightly better ability, they kind of become your unofficial coaches, partly because they've been there and know what's required for your level, but also because they can lead by example (e.g. right down to: John's race times are a bit quicker than mine, he does his 400m reps/tempo runs in x time...). I'm lucky enough that our club has an international level coach who's happy to talk to people one-on-one for advice, and yet most of what I've picked up from being a member has come from clubmates training in the same group, many of whom are vets that have competed at a higher level previously.

02/09/2009 at 11:10

A club can be great, but you must be careful too. It's very easy to get into the 'macho' side on some sessions. It's easy sometimes to train too fast for what you should be doing.

The coach won't babysit you, you have to be sensible. If they have groups, go into the slowest one to start with. If the club is doing an interval session, and you don't feel this is right for you, then you must avoid it. This is where a good coach is important.

I suppose some clubs can be daunting. There's usually some very fast runners, but the majority will be average, and there are usually newbie sections. Most don't charge to start with, so nothing ventured.

02/09/2009 at 11:14

A coach is there to coach  - not do the training, so their own ability should be irrelevent. However i think that having done the sport in question at some level helps but we are so blinded by ability that we forget that ability and knowledge are totally different things.

I have seen a lot of prejudice to knowledge  within the running community.  The first running club i fell in with prob has a lot to do with this but blimey - if you can't run a 5 min mile - you might as well have cotton wool for brains cos what could you POSSIBLY know about anything.  (and vice versa - why should a gifted athlete automatically know how to make someone else fast?)

 I also know i have been guilty of this in other areas myself. THere is a personal trainer at my gym who is pretty rotund - not just plump - but flabby unfit rotund (if that makes sense).  I was most surprised to see the words 'personal trainer' on his t-shirt.  Well, then my brother comes in and tells me about the great results he and his mate have been getting with this new guy - guess who?  Not only does they guy know his stuff, he is really well qualified and has worked with some of the top athletes in the country.  So there was i judging a book by it's cover!

 I also had a pt who had an incredibly physique - worked with me for ages but just couldn't understand why i didn't respond to her training programme the way that she herself had responded -  i reckon it's because she had never had a weight problem and just couldn't relate to some of the issues i had and so didn't know where to start to find the solutions.

02/09/2009 at 11:16

The whole club thing is a daunting prospect, but I think I'll go along next monday and see whats what.

They seem to have groups, the website shows 4 groups, Advanced, Experianced 1, Experianced 2 and a beginners group, so on the surface they seem to cater for everyone, each group has its own coach, and they have all the schedules for each monday night on the site, so it least I get some idea of what to expect!!!

02/09/2009 at 11:18
Siance wrote (see)

Here's a question: can a coach work with someone if the coach has the knowledge-base but not the physical ability, or indeed never had the physical ability?

I was having a discussion about this the other day... do you think it matters?

They don't need to be running now. Infact the best coaches seem to be retired runners. They don't necessarily have had to been great runners, but they need experience.

Some top runners know very little about running. They simply do as they are told by their coach. I don't think there's one simple rule.

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