It might seem obvious that you should hire a coach to help you train for big (or even small) races, but not everyone uses a coach. As a friend put it, having a coach is the most money he’s ever spent to not do workouts. Just because you have a coach doesn’t mean you’ll do what they say. And not all coaches are created equal. Some are more hands-on than others. Some might be too intense.
Unless your coach is monitoring your heart rate and can see how hard you’re pushing yourself, much also depends on what you choose to tell them: how tired you really are, how much your foot actually hurts, how hard you’re really working (or not). The body doesn’t lie—but you might. If you exaggerate or fudge, you’re the one who’ll suffer in the end, because they’ll keep ramping up the workouts on the assumption that you’re fine and you’re doing everything they tell you—and not significantly more. Or less.
Besides which, coaching can get expensive. There are all kinds of workouts available online, some of which can be downloaded for free. So, why pay for a coach? Is it worth it?
Well, I’ve gone it alone and I’m now being coached, and I can say that for me, yes, it’s worth every penny.
I’m not the type of person who needs extra motivation to work out. What I need is more like a leash. Someone to keep me under control and stop me from doing stupid shit. When I hired a coach, I made the decision that I would listen to her—otherwise, what’s the point? If I think I know better than she does about how to get from here to a marathon finish line (or the start line, for that matter), I might as well go back to coaching myself.
The thing is, I don’t know better. After the Ironman in Florida, I was dealing with a variety of old and new issues that I knew I couldn’t handle alone. I needed a strength training program that would focus on my weaknesses, and I needed someone to ease me back into running in a controlled, cautious way, so that my knee wouldn’t blow up. That’s what I’m paying for.
Cookie-cutter workout plans won’t do that. They’re not designed for someone coming off an injury, and there’s no accountability. No one emailing me to ask how my knee feels after that run on a scale of 1 to 10.
I’m too keen to follow a plan. You put numbers in front of me, and I’ll do what’s on the page. That can be a good thing; it can also be very much NOT a good thing. Slowing down is not my favorite pastime. Being cautious, having patience? Ditto.
While going it alone gives you the freedom to move workouts around to suit your schedule or the weather, it also gives you the ability to fudge on things you shouldn’t be fudging on—like recovery weeks (yes, you need them) and strength training (doesn’t matter if I don’t do it three times a week, does it? Yes, it does) and running more than you’re supposed to.
My experience so far with having a coach has been excellent. The progression has been slow and steady, but guess what? It’s working. I was skeptical in the beginning, and maybe even a little frustrated, but I’m a true believer now.
Again, it’s not for everybody, and you do have to find the right person, but once you do, it’s a game-changer.