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What I tried this week: Finding a run coach

Jessica Kuepfer was an injury-prone runner who felt she wasn’t reaching her true potential as an athlete. She hired a run coach last January and has just celebrated her first 12-month cycle without a single injury. The past year has been decorated with personal records at her races. In the first of a two-part series on training with a coach, she explores the process involved in looking for the right one.


Full disclaimer: this newest topic of “What I Tried This Week” did not actually start just this week. In fact, I’ve actually just celebrated a year with my running coach. However, very non-coincidentally, I also just celebrated my very first calendar year without a single running injury.

So what goes into finding the right coach? I wanted to break it down for you and examine what it looks like to search for the right coach– and explain the benefits when you find the right one.

First of all, why pay the money for a coach?


Well, it’s certainly not for everyone but I need a coach more to tell me what not to do than to tell me what I should do. I still ask for permission to do races that we haven’t planned because I’ve discussed my performance goals with my coach and I know that he has my best interests in mind.

Kuepfer- Feb 8There’s also comfort in logging in to my training app and seeing exactly what I’m supposed to do for the week without crunching the numbers or trying to wrestle with the science myself.

I think it’s absolutely worth noting that a coach isn’t just for an elite, speedy or experienced runner. Having one is beneficial to any runner who has goals and wants to have an accountable partner to help them get there.

After deciding to use a coach, the next hurdle is finding the right one. It can feel like a tough search. Your coach will most likely end up knowing more about your life than your own family. What I mean by this is that your body cannot tell the difference between physical, emotional or chemical stress — it’s all just stress. So if you’re having a rough week at work, or are going through a break up or you haven’t been eating well, your coach needs to know. That way, you can adjust your training plan accordingly. For this reason alone, you should have a coach who feel comfortable opening up to.

The biggest thing for me when I was searching for a coach was trust. I needed to know that I aligned with his coaching philosophy and that he would have my best interests at heart.

There are many different coaching styles out there: correspondence, face to face, personal running sessions, personalized run plan, group training … the list goes on. In the end, you need to choose what is best for you. Do your research, have meetings and in the end, go with your gut.

I searched for coaches online, talked to friends and had conversations with professionals. In the end, I chose someone who had experience working with me through my running injuries, knew my running history and was one of the most respected coaches in the area. And I chose well, because 2015 was my biggest year in terms of athletic performance and 2016 is shaping up to be even better.

Next week, I will discuss what training with a coach looks like. In the meantime, you can find me on twitter @lacesandlattes and my personal blog.