What Is a Running Coach — and Should You Get One?
Running coaches are like secret weapons. Whether you’re new to running or trying to attain a specific running goal, a running coach can guide you through the process, help you sidestep obstacles, and keep you on-track from start to finish.
Is hiring a running coach the right move for you? Here’s exactly what running coaches do and how to decide whether you need one.
What Does a Running Coach Do?
A running coach’s duties vary depending on the level of service. Some coaches simply provide a basic training plan. Others offer more involved services, including:
- weekly check-ins
- prescribed strength training and cross-training
- stretching and mobility routines
- nutrition counseling
“A good running coach should provide structure, motivation, accountability, and teach you things about running and training that you didn’t already know,” says Caleb Masland, USATF-certified running coach and founder of Wicked Bonkproof Run Coaching.
Most running coaches offer training and communication via email, phone, Skype, or an online training platform — though you may be able to find an in-person running coach if needed.
3 Reasons to Work With a Running Coach
1. Take the Guesswork Out of Training
A running coach will lay out exactly when and how much to run, what types of running workouts you should do, and when to back off or ramp things up. This is especially helpful if you’re just starting to run or if your training has stalled.
And if you have a big goal you don’t know how to accomplish — like finishing a 5K, setting a PR in an ultramarathon, losing weight, or improving your cardiovascular function — a running coach can outline the best plan to get you there.
2. Get Motivation and Support from an Actual Human
Run coaching apps can be a great tool for some runners, but many runners may need a human touch to stay motivated. “You can only get so many positive automatic texts from a training app before they stop being valuable,” Masland says.
3. Avoid Overtraining or Undertraining
Your training schedule says you need to do five miles today, but you’re not feeling up for it. Should you power through or take it easy? Even if you’re an experienced runner, it can be surprisingly hard to step back and see the bigger picture when you’re deep in the training trenches. A running coach can give you objective feedback and help you figure out how to adjust your training as needed, Masland says.
How Much Does a Good Running Coach Cost?
Similar to personal trainers, there isn’t a standard rate for running coaches. Even coming up with a ballpark is difficult, since it depends on what services are offered and how experienced the coach is, Masland says. (For the sake of comparison, Wicked Bonkproof currently charges $129 per month for one-on-one coaching, and $179 per month for a premium coaching service.)
How much you decide to spend on a running coach will ultimately depend the level of support you need (and can afford).
How to Find the Right Running Coach
The best place to start your search for a running coach is to ask your local and online running friends for recommendations.
Once you get a few names, reach out to those coaches to have a conversation about their background and their training philosophy to find out if you’re compatible. “A good coach-athlete relationship is a two-way street with mutual respect and lots of support,” Masland notes. You’ll be working closely with your running coach, even if it’s online, so it’s important to find someone who feels like a good fit.
If you don’t have a network of running friends you can turn to, or if your running friends haven’t worked with a running coach before, there are a few online resources you can try:
- TrainingPeaks — an online endurance training platform with a database of accredited coaches
- USA Track and Field — search their database for USATF-certified coaches
- Road Runners Club of America — search their database for RRCA-certified coaches
At a minimum, your running coach should have a coaching certification from one of these organizations. “This way, you make sure the coach you’re working with has a good foundational knowledge of training principles,” Masland says. Depending on your goals, you may also want a coach with a professional running background (though not everyone needs a coach with professional running experience).
As with any trainer or workout, it may take a few tries before you find the right fit — but when you do, it can take your fitness to the next level.