Updated: Jan 4, 2021
Happy New Year friends! The beginning of a new year always feels like a fresh start, but that is especially true as we turn the page on 2020. Hello 2021!
If you are hoping to chase down some big running goals this year you may also be considering hiring a 1-on-1 running coach. Working with a coach is a great way to take your training to the next level, regardless of what your goals are, but finding the right coach for YOU is important!
Below are some questions I recommend asking a potential running coach.
Questions to Ask When Hiring a Running Coach
What is your background? Schooling, coaching certifications, years coaching, personal running experience, etc.
There are a ton of great coaches out there, all with varying degrees, certifications + experiences. It is helpful to ask yourself ahead of time what your preferences are as an athlete. Do you want a coach with a lot of years of coaching experience or are you ok working with a newer coach? Do you want a coach that has a specific certification? Do you want your coach to have faster PRs than you or are is their training and coaching experience more important.
What is your coaching philosophy or approach to training?
A coach's answer to this question will help you determine if their training will work for you. Are they a high mileage coach? Do they focus on quality over quantity? Is their training individualized based on the athletes? Do they have a specific method they follow? Do they use miles or minutes? Etc. There are many different coaching philosophies that work well but you want to make sure that their coaching philosophy lines up with you as an athlete.
What would you anticipate a regular week of training would look like for me during "X" season?
Before you start working with a coach it can be really helpful to know what a week of training might look like when you're training for a marathon or during a 5K training season. Does this training schedule align with the aspects of your life outside of running?
Have you worked with athletes like me before?
This question gives the coach the opportunity to talk about how they've training athletes like you before and the success those athletes had. This doesn't just apply to athletes that have run similar times as you - think about what other things describe you and affect your training? Have they trained moms, athletes that work in the industry you work in (especially if that industry presents challenges to training - healthcare, flight attendants, shift workers, lots of work travel, etc.), athletes that have a similar level of training age, athletes with similar goals to yours, etc.
What can I expect from you communication wise on a weekly/monthly basis?
Every coach has a different communication style + rhythm. Asking this question will help you identify which coaches will meet your communication expectations. It also gives them the opportunity to tell you how to best communicate with them.
As an athlete, what can I do to get the most out of this relationship?
As a coach it's easy to spot the similarities among the athletes that improve the most during your time working together. Knowing what a coach's most successful athletes do can help you identify what the coach expects of their athletes and do those things so you can improve as well.
Can I see some testimonials from current or former athletes?
It's always a good idea to see some testimonials from current and former athletes to get an idea of what they enjoyed about working with the coach and hear how they improved under the training.
Why do you coach? or What is your favorite thing about coaching?
The answer to these questions say a lot about a coach and can help you identify if they are the right fit for you. There aren't any wrong or bad answers but the answer can help determine if they'd be a good fit for you!
Other Things to Pay Attention To
What they call their athletes - runners, athletes, clients, etc.
None of these terms is necessarily better or worse than any of the others but you may find that you have a personal preference.
The chemistry / do you jive?
Above all else, a coach-athlete relationship is just that... a relationship. After your interactions + conversations do you like them? Do you trust them with your training? Are they someone you would feel comfortable sharing "life stuff" with if it came up and impacted training? Is this someone you could see yourself working with for an extended period of time? All good things to reflect on before hiring them!
How long they talk to you / how communicative they are to your inquiries before you're an athlete.
When you're in the search process take note of how much time potential coaches are able/willing to spend talking to you and answering your questions. Are they quick to respond to e-mails + texts? Their communication style before you start coaching is likely indicative of what it's like as an athlete.