Jan 28, 2015

Should I Hire a Coach?

Six reasons why hiring a coach might be a good decision

Well friends, we've made it through almost an entire month of 2015. Resolutions have been made. Goal races have been signed up for. So, what's the next move? Do we dive headlong into training, or is it time to look to a little professional guidance before we leap? We've put together this article to help you answer this question. Join us as we examine the classic training debate: To hire a coach or not to hire a coach.

You might need a coach if...

1. You are training for a specific goal

You've decided to tackle your first 5K, half marathon, sprint triathlon, etc. That's awesome! Bravo on zeroing in on a well-defined fitness goal for the new year! A coach can help you map out a training plan to prepare your body and mind to attack your goal with a vengeance that is reasonable for your life schedule and current ability level. This will be extremely helpful in getting you to the start line at peak fitness and injury-free, and to the finish feeling accomplished.

2. You are chasing bigger, faster things than ever before

You've completed a few marathons and that was pretty cool, but now you're ready to step it up and chase down that elusive BQ. A coach can design,  and help you understand and execute the necessary workouts to build the strength and speed you need to get there.

3. You are stuck in rut

Whether this rut of yours is of the performance or motivation variety, a coach can evaluate your current training routine and identify areas of opportunity to improve it. Coaches can also provide fresh, new ideas to keep you engaged in and stimulated by your training. Coaches are often handy for helping you to identify and train to strengths and weaknesses (physical and mental alike.)

4. You struggle to follow a training plan on your own

Training by yourself is tough, and sometimes a plan from a book or website just doesn't provide enough accountability to get you out the door and on the run. Furthermore, such training plans usually don't account for the flexibility and modifications that you will inevitably need to make things work for your unique schedule and personality. Having a coach adds the motivating factors of financial investment and good old fashion human-to-human accountability to your training world. Both of these are tried and true motivators to get you training consistently and seeing results.

5. You tend to overdo it

For all the wonderful benefits of racing and training (and they are many,) it is true that many of us who do this sort of thing for fun tend be a little "Type A". Sometimes our intensely competitive drive or our laser focus on a specific goal can be our own worst enemy. If you know yourself to be inclined to push the limits of your weekly mileage, or suspect that you are prone to overtraining, a coach can help set and stick to training boundaries that could make you a faster, fresher athlete.

6. You just aren't sure where to start

Got some goals in mind, but don't know where to begin? Or maybe you really enjoy training but you struggle with setting goals to apply it to? A coach can help you hone in on what you like and what you're good at and help you form a plan to take it to the next level.

Coaches can provide fresh new ideas to keep you engaged in and stimulated by your training.


Chances are you'll be just fine without a coach if...

Obviously, we could all probably benefit in some way from having a coach, whether it is in the form of learning new skills and techniques, improving time management by investing accountability, receiving instruction and feedback that is tailored to our personal strengths and weakness, or just getting some fresh ideas to renew enjoyment and motivation in our training. However, it is true that some athletes are more inclined to be successful without a coach than others.

1. Your goals are maintenance or life style focused

Perhaps the things that motivate your training are intrinsic benefits such as improved stress management, increased energy levels, or the simple joy of taking a little time for yourself. Or maybe you are perfectly content with running 5 miles a day 4 days a week to just maintain fitness. That's awesome! Keep enjoying your happy, comfortable fitness routine sans coach!

2. You are a self-motivated athlete who knows what works for you

Some of us are goal-oriented enough that just having a plan or routine to follow is sufficient motivation to keep us training consistently. Some of us have done this long enough, had enough experiences, and made enough mistakes to be reasonably dialed in as to what works and what doesn't. If you are one of these people, then you just might make it without a coach.

3. You are lucky enough to be part of a local training group

A training group or club is one of our favorite alternatives to having a private coach. Much like a coach, a training group offers awesome motivation and accountability. Local running groups do often offer some sort of group coaching or prescribed training plan geared towards a specific event. Ask your local run, bike, or tri shop if there are any training groups available in your area.

4. You are well versed in the ways of exercise physiology & sport psychology

Then there is always the possibility that you have the working knowledge that it takes to know how to train your mind and body to do what you want it to of your own accord. If this is the case, then more power to you!


A few more thoughts on hiring a coach vs. "canned" training plans

  • "Canned" plans are generally low-cost and require only a small one-time fee. They are also abundantly available and accessible on the internet.
  • Coaching services (remote or in-person) are often not cheap. (~$150.00 per month on average.)
  • While canned programs do offer plans for mileage progressions, resources for choosing appropriate paces workouts, even decent success rates, often they do not take into account your current fitness baseline, your unique life schedule, or flexibility for modifications based on progress, outside variables, and races outside of your specific "goal race."
  • A coach can offer real-life intelligent feedback on what's working and what's not, multi-dimensional expertise in areas outside of just building mileage (cross training, nutrition, injury rehab/ prevention, etc.) and offer real human encouragement just that can't be found in a book or on the internet.

So there you have it readers. We sincerely hope that this post has given you some insight into what types of athletes can benefit from hiring a coach, what types will likely be ok without one, and where you fall on the to-hire-a-coach-or-not-to-hire-a-coach spectrum. Whatever your fitness goals and coaching and training needs, we wish you all the best, and we look forward to supporting you on your personal athletic journey!

Are you a coach? Hey, we didn't forget you!

This year we're expanding our tracking and analysis platform to coaches. Interested in the beta? Sign up at our coaching page.

Article written by Ellen Moss, Social Media Manager, Zone Five Software Inc.