I recently got a message via Facebook from another runner friend and he asked me about my experiences with online coaches. Here's what I told him. The names and some details have been blocked to protect the innocent. ;-)
FYI, it's a long response...
"Oh boy, coaches. This is going to be long winded.
Here's why I wanted to find a coach: I have lofty goals in this sport (one among many is to break 3 in the marathon) and I know I'm not disciplined enough to coach myself. I'm also not knowledgeable enough, yet. I have all the books on marathon training and personally, it's just too much thinking for me. I just want to run and not have to think so hard about it.
Okay, so let me tell you about the coaches I've experienced thus far.
FIRST COACH was Coach A, whom I love to death. He's a local runner who's marathon PR is 2:1@. I paid him $60.00/month. He met with me in person every week and called me after every hard workout. He really cared! I love his coaching style. However, following his programs led to an injury that I'm still trying to 'come back' from. I'm no longer fighting the injury... but I lost so much fitness from all the down time, it's like I'm back to square one as a runner. His programs were based mostly on so-and-so style of training, and while I really liked it, my body just could not handle it.
It was MY fault for not speaking up more when I started to feel that things were going sideways. I was a stubborn, stupid runner! Now I know that. He is constantly apologizing because he blames himself for my setbacks. But seriously, I lied to him most of the time, telling him I felt awesome and to give me more hard stuff to run.
He's always willing to help me, but truth be told, I'm a little gun shy of getting injured again so for now he's not coaching me. When I'm more knowledgeable about certain things, I may go back to him!
SECOND COACH was Coach B (strictly online coach). He's a nice person but not very responsive or communicative.
Anyway, his training style was a little different than Coach A's. A LOT of workouts like this: 10 x 1 mile intervals at slightly faster than MGP with 1:00 recoveries. The QUANTITY of intervals he gave me drained me mentally and physically. The workouts were definitely manageable and doable, but I felt beat up IN BETWEEN workouts. It was like my body could never recover, even with two days between hard workouts. I was not improving with any of my races, but getting slower. I wasn't excited to run because everything felt so daunting. The downfall is he would never follow up with me unless I contacted him.
CURRENT COACH: Coach C, A nationally ranked Masters runner who recently ran a 5K PR of about 14:3#. I found him through the running team I'm a member of (which is another great motivator, by the way).
Anyway, I sent him an email off of his blog and told him about myself, my history with races, my recent injuries, and my goals. He responded right away. His first request was for me to call him so we could talk rather than email. He ended up talking to me for over a half hour... pretty much touching upon everything I had emailed him about.
He said that before we agreed to work together that I had to take several days to do some of the exercises he recommended to me for my problem spots (my lower back & piriformis area, and my ankles). I also had to run easy mileage for a week in conjunction with the exercises. Then he wanted me to touch base with him and asked for complete and total honesty with how I was feeling both during and after each run.
Everything went great and my chronic pains were gone. He said he would help me, but not to send any payment until I got through the first couple of weeks of his training and assessed whether or not I liked what I was doing, and whether or not I liked his coaching style.
I gave him a list of important races that I wanted to run this spring, and within a couple of days he sent me a month's worth of training (again, at no cost until I decided if I wanted to continue working with him). After the first week (which included fartlek work and some track intervals, along with moderate mileage (40), I knew I wanted to work with him.
Almost 8 weeks later, we're still working together and I have improved with my last two races under his coaching. I do not feel beat up after workouts and am so excited to run again!
He understands that I have a life outside of running and completely works with that. We email once during the week, and then he dedicates time to talk to me on the phone on Saturdays for a half hour or however long I need to talk about running/training/racing.
I don't know how to describe his style of coaching, but I think it's more like Coach No-Name, including a decent amount of mileage combined with miler training, hill repetitions, tempos (of course), running on soft surfaces, being a good all around runner and then prepping for a marathon rather than being a good marathoner and then prepping for other distances.
He's going to build my mileage up to somewhere in the 70s for my fall marathon prep (which I start training for in September), and then if I feel good and ONLY if I feel good, we'll talk about the 80s for marathon peak week.
Sorry to go on so long. Anyway, I pay him $65.00/month and it is worth every penny! My husband has even noticed how NOT beat up I am now, and how much I like to go out and run. When I was working with Coach B, he said I was always grumpy and didn't want to do anything else. Not a good thing."
Now, on to TYSON GAY! He just ran a 19.58 in the 200 at Reebok. The man is just blessed, and no doubt a hard worker, and very talented. What I really remember about his new personal best is not the race itself, but what he said in the post race interview. He said he just concentrated on his form and staying relaxed, and didn't think about much of anything else. Look at what that got him!!! I think what he said is so important for any of us who race and want to improve... concentrate on things you can control, and whatever the outcome is, it is! It might just be a new PR. Thank you, Tyson, for sharing that wisdom with us.