Some of you may remember that I broke my collarbone just over a year ago and had major surgery to repair it. I was able to get back to running and even ran the Promise Land 50k this Spring. I did finish the race but I was very much undertrained and it was a death march for the last half of the race. I felt bad most of the day and in the subsequent weeks started to question if I wanted to continue running.
Over the summer, I tried to get into a routine and get fit again but I kept having small injuries that would sideline me for a couple of days. I never got into a rhythm. I was inconsistent and swung the pendulum from not doing enough to overdoing it on a near weekly basis. It was frustrating and I felt like crap most of the time.
I changed jobs recently and one of the amazing benefits my new employer provides is a Wellness Benefit. Each employee has $150 per month to spend on things that improve our wellness. Do you want to take a knitting class? Paid. Do you want to join a gym? Paid. Do you need someone to cut your grass because you work odd hours? Paid. Basically, any service that helps lower your stress and/or keeps you healthy can be reimbursed by the benefit. Come work with us!
All of that means that I had $150 a month to pay for the services of a running coach and my running has been so much more fun and productive since then.
I’d long followed David Roche’s writing and social media. I appreciate his approach to training and to the sport of ultrarunning. Namely, his approach focuses on research and science but grounds all of that in the fun and adventure that is at the core of ultrarunning. However, his was full and he referred me to my now coach, Yvonne Naughton.
After a few introductory emails, Coach Yvonne and I hit it off quite well. I think she had a good sense of what I needed. I don’t need cheerleading or empty congratulatory pep talks. I need direction, consistency, information, and data. She provides that in spades. And while I like to act all spartan and hard about running, she still gives me the constructive push and cheer when I really do need it.
Regardless of your goals or current fitness, here’s what I think everyone should get out of a good coaching/athlete relationship. These are things that Coach Yvonne and I focus on to make sure our work together is productive.
Consistency. One of my favorite benefits of working with Coach Yvonne is that she does all the planning for my runs. She has a long-term plan which we talk about and she gives me week-to-week plans for workouts. If I have special demands on time or activity, she works it in to the plan and adjusts everything to keep me running and healthy. I stay on track not just in mileage but in effort and focus.
Feedback. Coach Yvonne gives me feedback on every run/ride/walk that I do. I tell her how it went and she tells me how my body might react and what to expect the next day. There are few surprises and when things go especially bad, she offers ways to work out of it.
Encouragement. Yes, I said I don’t need a cheerleader. But, anyone that’s been a runner long can tell you that the occasional nudge is important. Specifically, I have a very short memory about my progress. One bad workout where I don’t get my negative splits and I forget that two months ago, I was barely doing 12 miles a week and felt horrible the whole time. Coach Yvonne reminds me of how far we’ve come and where we are headed.
Safety. Coach Yvonne is an accomplished ultrarunner and she has the experience and training to know when soreness is more than that. She knows the signs of overtraining or fatigue. She can spot, just in the way I talk about a run, how it really went. It also helps that she’s a medical doctor. But, the important point is that an experienced second opinion is vital if you’re wondering whether you should do that speed work when your ankle hurts.
Fun. Runners love to talk about running. I’m sure my wife is happy that Coach Yvonne is around to listen to me wax on about the trail I ran last weekend. I am lucky to have a great running community around me and I see my coach as an extension of that.
I am remarkably privileged to have my coaching services paid for through my job. I am deeply grateful both for the benefit and for all the things that got me to a place where it’s possible for me to take advantage of it. I recognize that this isn’t possible for everyone because of budget constraints. I wonder if there’d be a way to have some of the outdoor/running companies do some fundraising to provide coaching services for runners who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
If it is something that your budget can absorb, I highly recommend getting a running coach and setting some lofty goals for yourself. This has been the most fun and strongest running I’ve done in years. I’m rediscovering why I fell in love with this sport and I’m so excited for what could happen during next year’s races. I’m thinking Lynchburg Ultra Series and possibly my first 100 late in the year or early 2020.