In my [copious amount of] free time, I’ve noticed a lot of talk on Twitter, running blogs, and such about running coaches. Why would anyone get one? Is it worth it?
Steph took me on as her charge in November 2010 and I’ve kept her as the head of my running brain trust since. That poor girl has put up with far too many neurotic emails for what I’ve paid her.
I originally approached Steph with a very specific, calculated plan in classic Meggie Smith fashion (ie very specific and detailed). I wanted to qualify for Boston in the spring of my 3rd year of medical school (New Jersey Marathon 2011) in hopes of running Boston 2012 right before I graduated medical school. Check it off the life checklist [because life always follows a neat and linear checklist-like plan, right?]. To be honest, I initially thought I’d have a coach through NJM 2011 and then I’d go on my merry way.
Turns out I didn’t qualify for Boston in 2011 (or 2012), I really liked having Steph has my coach, I took a year to do research in infertility, I decided I hated the marathon, then decided I liked it again, and finally, by some stroke of luck, actually qualified for Boston right before I graduated medical school.
[Wow, Steph, you’ve been through a lot with me!]
The cash flow as a med student is slim to none (or rather retrograde seeing as you are paying tuition) so there were plenty of times where I financially questioned keeping her on. Luckily, I was able to pick up enough babysitting and tutoring jobs to make it work, but below outlines many of the reasons I came up with to keep a running coach.
In the end, the decision was always fairly simple. Running made me happy and training to become a “better” runner made me even happier. And, we should invest in our happiness, right?
[Unless it’s cocaine or cigarettes that is making you happy. Then, please, don’t invest in that.]
WHY I’VE HAD AND KEPT A RUNNING COACH:
1. EXPERIENCE + 2. OUTSOURCING OF THINKING + 3. TRUST/DOUBT ISSUES
My first three reasons for having a coach somewhat go hand in hand so its hard to talk about each separately.
Let’s get real. I’m not training to run a world record or become the next Mary Cain. I could, indeed, read a book or follow an online training plan.
What does reading a book require? Time! And time is money in my world.
You know what else I don’t have a lot of? Running experience. I’ve played thousands of tennis matches since I first started competitive tennis at 14 years old. There are certain elements of the game that you only learn through experience; those unteachable tricks, tips, and expertise that you take for granted once you know them. I imagine running is the same. Steph is the experience I lack and the expertise that I need.
Last, as a member of over-thinkers anonymous, sure I’d read the book, but then I’d spend a month thinking “should I do this workout or that workout” or, we’re getting even deeper here now, “what physiologic system is this working and am I working the right one?” I’m sure I’d wonder if I was pushing myself too hard or not enough. I’d probably doubt what I was doing constantly and change my plan more than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends.
Knowing me, I’d make the process of coming up with a training plan way too complicated and time consuming. Solution? Have an expert do it for you.
Boom! Plan handed to you. Time and mental energy reserved for other things. Plus, if you trust your coach (which I do), its fool proof! Follow the plan and you can’t fail (or, at least, my chances were minimized versus making my own plan).
This is one I don’t struggle with that much. If you give me a plan or list, I’m fairly good at following it [translation: slightly neurotic about following it]. However, on days where my motivation waned, having someone to report back to (albeit virtually) usually gave me whatever kick I needed to get out the door. Plus, let’s get real – if I’m paying someone to give me these workouts, I’m going to do them. Not doing so would be like having a gym membership and not using it (ie throwing money down the drain).
5. TO SEE IF I COULD BE BETTER THAN I EVER DREAMED
I think this is probably the real, subliminal reason I’ve had and kept a running coach. When I first started running, I always thought of myself as “destined to be a slow runner” (sometimes still do). I figured the best I could get was hobby jogging. My reasoning? If I didn’t like running for the first 23 years of my life, I probably wasn’t very good at it, which is why I never picked it up as a kid. And, I was very happy with that [hobby-jogging] for a while.
Somewhere along the way, I remembered that at some point, I was a pretty good athlete. I had fleeting thoughts that maybe, if I put some work in, I could translate that athleticism to moderately good running. Keep up with my friends. See how fast I could get.
Turns out, with a little work, I became faster than I ever really thought when I first got Steph as a coach. It’s been fun to sort of discover myself as a runner with her by my side.
While I may have reasoned keeping a coach in a very linear fashion (I pay a you, a professional, to render me a service), I like to think that the coach-athlete relationship I have with Steph is a bit more complex than that. I like to think (I can’t speak for her, obviously!) that Steph is somewhat invested in my success and accomplishments; that we’re more of a team than a purely business relationship.
Steph’s belief in me has often been more than I’ve had in myself. A lot of times, that’s my mental “wild card” in races — if Steph believes I can do something, I should, too.
BOTTOM LINE: Having a coach has saved me time, mental energy, and has made my running and racing experience that much richer.
TELL ME: HAVE YOU HAD A COACH? WHY OR WHY NOT? WERE YOUR REASONS SIMILAR TO MINE?
Until next time…