I’m Not Always the Boss

JB’s best friend shared a story during his best man speech at our wedding. He told of our list of “rules” that we used to have hanging on our wall when we first moved in together several years ago. I had 4 rules for JB. He had 1 for me: “Abigail  is not the boss all the time.”

True story.

I let him think he’s the boss sometimes. You know, cuz we’re married and stuff.

And so it goes for coaching. I am not the boss all the time.

My friend asked me the other day if I coached/trained myself or if I had some input from other coaches or joined other teams for my training. It’s honestly been so long since I was able to join another human being outside for a run that I hadn’t given much thought to getting back into social running.

Mostly, I’m ashamed of my slow-ass right now. Maybe my new shoes will make it look like I’m going faster?

Neon shoes = speedy Abby

Getting back to running and exercise in general hasn’t been easy. Physical restrictions from the surgery and doctor-imposed restrictions keep me from jumping out there every day and going balls to the wall. My body just can’t take it these days, so my 5 miles and 20 pounds will have to do.

I think I’ll be ready to hit the heavier stuff right around the time the doc gives me the ok to go over 20 pounds. It all works out.

As far as running goes, I am definitely not the boss all the time. I seek out advice from people who are faster than me and who have been running for longer than I have. Success means a lot to me and those coaches who repeatedly get clients to reach their goals are the guys/gals I want to run with.

I’ve successfully coached dozens of runners through races of all kinds. But sometimes a girl just needs some help!

I like a team run for tempo and speed work. I never want to set my own speed work and I really prefer to be a part of a speedy pack of runners for tempo runs. My long runs are my time, though. I run by myself, just me and the road, and try to relax into the solitude.

Here’s the thing, all the pros have coaches. There’s something about having someone else give you an impossibly hard workout that they believe you can do and that translates into you believing you can do it, too. Not that any of us has low running self-esteem, but it’s too easy to say, “I’m just going to run 5 easy miles” instead of, “My workout today is 400, 800, and 1600 repeats on the track at X pace.”

So, yes, I have help. Not a lot, but as much as I want/can tolerate being who I am (see above anecdote for reference).

I am, among other things, the girl who will find any way at all not to sit in her chair all damn day. JB says I’m “owling”.

Coaches can be a great asset to your training. Just find one whose attitude about running gels with yours and who treats you in a way that is productive for you to run your best. Me? I don’t respond to threats or yelling. Only nice coaches need apply. Do you have a coach? Do you love him/her or are you running for the hills as soon as your paid time is up?

If you’re looking for a coach, check out your local running club, running shoe stores, and lululemon for the running coaches in your community.

Now go out and run!

When To Get a Run Coach

Ahhhhh, marathon season. In the age of social media, blogs and internet articles, advice is in abundance. What should you eat? How many days should you run per week? What should your mileage be? How do you deal with a pesky IT band problem? What are the best shoes for you? The “answers” are everywhere and everyone swears they’ve got the silver bullet to get you across that finish line.

But sometimes you need a coach.

Ryan Hall has famously dropped his coach after a bummer finish in Chicago. Kara Goucher split from Alberto Salazar this fall and I haven’t found out whether or not she has a new coach/team yet. There are plenty of other examples of famous, extremely successful professional athletes who don’t have coaches. Gina Colata from the New York Times wrote about the conundrum between getting a coach and going it alone this week (she’s keeping hers, by the way).

So, how do you know when you should bother trying to find a coach?

1. You’re changing your distance. There is a HUGE difference between running a half marathon and a marathon. They are completely different beasts and should be treated as such. A coach can help guide you through the trials and travails of adding on mileage without beating your body up.

2. You want to get faster. Sometimes it’s a simple difference in workouts that will make you faster. Sometimes it’s having someone tell you what your goal pace for a weekly speed run should be. Sometimes it’s being held accountable for your workouts and effort. Coaches can help with all of this and have lots of tricks to help you PR.

3. You keep getting injured. Good coaches are excellent at being bossy. They tell you when to back off the speed or mileage and when to see a physical therapist/acupuncturist/massage therapist/orthopedist about a nagging injury. They’re also the ones who can help with strength-training routines to combat common injuries (or, at least they should be).

4. You need motivation. Coaches are excellent motivators. I remember Coach Mustache my freshman year of high school. He never said an unkind word to me or berated any of us the way you might imagine a coach would and we all ran our BUTTS off for him. He just knew how to motivate us (Conference! Regionals! Sectionals! State!).

5. You’re new. Get. A. Coach. Pleeeeeeeease. There are some tricks and tips they can offer you that will make running so much more enjoyable, thus increasing the odds that you will keep on doing it. Remember, “most people don’t run long enough on their first wind to realize they have a second.” Don’t be that guy. It can be discouraging. Get an expert’s advice.

There are certainly bad coaches out there and, as noted in the NYT article above, there isn’t any national overseeing body that certifies running coaches. However, making sure your coach has some sort of education where anatomy and physiology are concerned is key. Also, your coach should be a runner. That might go without saying, but I’m going to go ahead and say it since a certain trainer seems to be spouting advice all over TV about how to run a marathon and he/she HAS NEVER RUN ONE. I mean, seriously.

If they haven’t been through the hell at mile 23, I’m tuning out. Just being honest.

Anyway, there are great coaches out there and it’s even better to join a team where you can commiserate with others about how much hill workouts suck and that marathon course is super-fast and what’s your goal time at this weekend’s race? Teams are great and they usually have multiple coaches with different training styles, so find one you like. Find one you gel with. Find one you trust. And then GO FOR IT!

Now go out and run!