Getting a coach has always been something I’ve been interested in. I didn’t want to have to worry about writing a plan and wanted someone who has some expertise help me figure out what works best. My coworker had a coach he has been with for about a year now (or maybe even a little longer!). He couldn’t speak more highly of his experience and was seeing results. I started with his coach, Christina Enger, in December 2017. I was debating waiting until Chicago Marathon training started so I could save some money but ultimately thought it would be good to get adjusted to the new training and see if it was something that worked for me. You commit for 6 months when you sign up with Christina and once that’s up you can go month to month. She sets the 6 month minimum because you don’t have a good period of time to adjust and try the training, it would be difficult for you to understand how the training is working for you and if it is right for you. My 6 months with Christina finishes up at the end of May. I started to look back at how my training went. Did I want to continue with her? Did I want to try a new coach? Did I want to train myself? Christina helped motivate me and push me more than I thought I could be pushed. I ran faster and harder in training than I ever have. I was consistently doing strength workouts and track workouts. Track workouts are something I was really struggling with getting done in my Portland/NYC marathon training; I would come up with excuses and not do them. I didn’t run as much mileage or as far as I did in the past but the miles were quality. There was a good mix of strength and running to prevent injury and increase speed. Christina was always really responsive and adjusted my workouts whenever I needed them adjusted–whether it was due to travel, being sick or just being burnt out from work. She understood that there is life outside of training and a need to balance that.
Although I had a great experience with Christina, I decided not to continue training with her for Chicago. You are probably wondering why I’m quitting if I had such a great experience! I have run 8 other marathons and got a pretty good feel for how my body reacts to the marathon training. I have found that I really like Hal Higdon’s training plans. He has more of the methodology of running at a more comfortable pace with a few days specific to harder work like hills, tempo, speed. Christina’s methodology is that your training should always feel harder than your race day.
When I got to thinking about my Chicago training, I missed Hal’s format of training. At first I felt like I was a quitter because maybe my excuse was that her training was “too hard” but I reminded myself that it’s okay because every runner needs to train differently. And I have used Hal’s training in the past as a baseline and was able to make some great PRs (3:41 to 3:23). Another thing that helped my decision was that I have been thinking about trying to start to save more money for my wedding (I swear…I’ll get married some day!), buying a house someday and future thoughts of kids. Christina was pretty affordable for the amount of attention she gave you but it still is an added expense.
I knew it was the right decision when I felt really excited about looking at Hal’s training plan and started to build it into my calendar. I liked having a Coach to come up with my plan but I think I also like engineering my own plan. Training with Christina helped me go into my Chicago training with a new lens on Hal’s plan. I used to think I could only run ‘X’ pace, but I think that I can make adjustments giving the past 6 months. I am going to use the advanced 2 plan as a base and modify slightly by adding some strength for injury prevention.
When I told Christina the news that I was no longer continuing with her, I told her that I could see myself going back to her in the future. I liked changing up my routine and challenging myself in new ways…but for Chicago, I want to make it a certain experience for my training. Having said that, I could also myself exploring other options for coaches in the future. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and try new things. You won’t know how your body may react to a certain type of training until you try it! Talking to other coaches, they understand that it’s a really personal thing and you need to sometimes see what works best for you.
Do any of you use a coach? What do you like/dislike?
What’s your favorite training methodology? Do you like less mileage and faster or maybe more mileage and just a few days faster?