I started training with a running coach this November. It has been something I’ve always been interested in but never took the leap to do. I think one of the reasons I didn’t get a coach was that I wanted to try to learn how to create training plans myself. I went through Road Runners of America Coaching certification (many years ago!) and read often about strength training for runners and nutrition. It was just fun for me to geek out about running and how to improve or train smarter. Also–there is the cost of having a coach which was a deterrent for me.
My coworker, Jay, decided to find a coach through TrainingPeaks and started to see some great results. He gave me some idea of what his workouts were like and mentioned how he enjoyed the “quality” workouts over “quantity” of workouts or miles.
As I started to see how much I was putting on my plate, I was realizing that it might be nice to have someone else design my workouts. Who says I couldn’t still learn from that experience? I decided it was time to bite the bullet and hire a coach. I wanted to do it at some point in my life and now seems like the perfect time. I want to TRY to get back to my old marathon PR before I decide to start a family and not know what types of changes my body will go through. And I was just curious to see what it would be like to train with a coach. I don’t have to worry about designing the perfect workout because someone else would do it for me. If I had questions about the design, I could ask Coach.
Here’s what I’ve seen so far with my experience with a coach…
I’m more motivated with a coach. I am a pretty determined/motivated person but having a coach keeps me even more accountable. I’m paying for her expertise, so I want to try to do my best to stick to the plan. When I followed the Hal Higdon plans for my past 2 marathons, I was more likely to maybe skip a track workout if I wasn’t feeling like it. Now, I pep talk the shit outta myself so that I get it done. I sometimes say, “If Coach thinks I can do it….I better at least try.” And…”I paid for this…I better get ‘er done.”
I like the ability to do a lot of the workouts at home. As my days get busier and busier, it is nice to have the ability to do workouts from home versus have to get to a location to do a workout by a specific time (for fitness classes). I would say that I can do almost all of the strength workouts at home. The ones I try to do at the gym are the workouts that have box jumps because I don’t want to be too disruptive to Dave or our neighbors. When it gets nicer outside I could do these outside though! I can see myself still doing the weekday workouts at the gym because I like getting my workouts done early in the morning close to work. I like not being on a super crowded T and being close to work after my workout so I to Republic Fitness (Disclaimer: I have a partnership with Republic Fitness).
I keep track of how I feel and how my workouts go in a more consistent way. My coach sends my workouts through TrainingPeaks. She asks that I put comments about how it goes and race reports so we can learn for what to do in the future. Previously I was okay with keeping track of how I felt (I used a google spreadsheet) but using TrainingPeaks is my new forum to keep track and I feel more obligated to do so because I want to let Coach know how I feel. I can also ask Coach questions on the workouts and she responds very quickly. I can also email her if that’s easier.
It’s challenging me in new ways. Whenever I have a routine, it feels easier. With my workouts always changing now, it takes some brain power to figure out how to do them. Sometimes I have two workouts a day which requires some coordination and planning ahead. However, if I know there are busy days traveling or with something coming up–I let coach know so we can make sure the workouts she plans are feasible for that day. I will say though…being 2 months in–I’m getting familiar with the types of workouts that I am doing and it’s getting less overwhelming trying to plan my week! It’s also challenging me to run faster than I normally did during my previous training cycles. Previously I would run an easy, conversational pace for most of my runs except for dedicated speed/hill days. Now most of my runs have a specific pace and purpose. I am generally doing cycling or fartleks on days for more recovery workouts (versus just a simple easy, conversational pace).
I’m focusing a lot more on strength. In past training cycles I would try to get to one class a week at least to get some strength in. Coach actually mixes in strength a lot more than I’ve done in the past. I would say that I have 30-50 minutes of some type of strength work (includes core work), 3-4 times a week. I know how important strength work is to prevent injury and also help improve speed, so I’m excited to see how my spring races go! The strength might be a dedicated strength day or it might be 30 minutes of core the same day as a run or some cycling.
I’m incorporating different types of cardio. Coach has me including some cycling and also some rowing to get some other types of cardio in that aren’t running. She will typically have people do some swimming but I requested no swimming because it’s not really something I like. It has motivated me to actually get some use out of my trainer that I got for free with credit card points that I was intending to use for my Pumpkinman HIM training but rarely used! I actually would LOVE to get a Peloton bike but can’t drop that much cash at the moment.
A lot of you have been asking…so is it worth the money? I haven’t really had a major race yet so I don’t have any crazy PRs to say “YES!! It is worth the money for a PR!” However, I am planning on running a half marathon in April and Bostons Run to Remember in May. [Don’t forget! You can get $10 off if you use my code!! (code: lilmissrunshineRTR)]. It will be interesting to see my Run to Remember results because I’ve run the race before and if I can break 1:35:43 which is my fastest half (Hyannis 2011).
What I CAN say about my investment is that Coach is pushing me harder than my last 2 marathon cycles of training and challenging my speed goals. I used to be better about track workouts when I was an active member of my running club (now my membership fees are pretty much a donation and if I went to run club no one would recognize me!). And when I don’t have run club to keep me accountable, I kept making excuses and skipping the track workouts or cutting them short. Coach is inspiring me to get those track workouts done and giving me more confidence in how high I should aim. I’m also strengthening running specific muscles in a more efficient way. I miss my boutique fitness classes but want to try to do her workouts as much as possible. I also am still able to mix in classes if I want to. For example, I’m heading to an Everybody Fights class this month. Coach will coordinate with the classes I want to go to–I just have to tell her by a certain date for the upcoming month.
I am planning on sticking with coach until Chicago Marathon which will be a huge test to see how the different training has an impact on my marathon time. All my previous marathon training has been some sort of mix with Hal Higdon’s training plans and fitness classes. Right now Coach has me aiming for a 3:20 which is 3 minutes faster than my PR way back in 2010. My fastest marathon back from injury so far is just under 3:35. If coach can get me to a 3:20–I will be very impressed! Even if I don’t hit the 3:20, I’ll be excited to see how much I can beat my last marathon time!
How much does it cost? One-on-one training with Coach Christina Enger is $100/month with a 6 month commitment. If you get to the 6 months, you can then go month to month. It’s a huge commitment but I also understand why it’s there. You can’t really see results if you are only using a month of the plan. I’m fortunate that I don’t pay for a gym and it’s not an added cost. If I had to pay for a gym, I might have to consider going to a more affordable gym option so that I could still pay for coaching. Having the gym can be helpful in the case you need to do treadmill work if it is too icy out or like 0 degrees out and you don’t want to get sick!
If you have any other questions about my training with a coach–please feel free to ask in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Questions for you out there!
Do you have a coach? What is the biggest benefit you see? How much does your coach cost?
What is preventing you in getting a coach if you don’t have one?