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There are a multitude of reasons to have a running coach. A simple motive is that you have a life and we cannot be experts in everything. If you are fascinated with gait and functional movement like me or you enjoy the planning and programming aspect (planning out your weekly runs leading up to an event), then maybe you don’t need a coach. However, most people do not have the time to train, evaluate and plan like they would want. New runners can grab a Couch to 5K program and you can find a range of different programming for every type of race online. But people are not cookies and cookie cutter programming doesn’t really work. What is right for you the individual? Beginners can be easily perplexed regarding programming because of their lack of knowledge. However, experienced runners can also be overwhelmed because knowing more about conditioning and physiology can drastically increase the number of options. Have fun and ask a beginner about their opinion of Fartleks. Many people can dole out advice to others but have a hard time figuring out what to do for themselves. There is a reason that elite athletes have coaches, but you do not need to be an Olympian to get a running coach.

One reason to get a running coach is to improve performance and break your PR. If you have a specific goal, use a running coach. Improvements in performance can be due to your coach making you accountable to the plan that you make. They can help you with motivation when you need it. They can help with creativity when you run out of ideas on how to improve your performance. Your running coach can challenge you to be better. Reporting to your coach can make you get out and do a run that you don’t want to do, but you know you should. They can also help you stick to your plan and not overtrain. They can remind you to hold back on your speed when you feel that you need to sprint or decrease that distance to prevent an injury. Overtraining will increase the risk for injury and trash your performance. Or maybe you are progressing faster than the generic plan you found on the internet and you need more of a challenge. You need the right balance between training, rest and self-care to perform at your best.

One of the general rules in sports medicine is that you must stop the bleeding. I’m not talking about real first-aid, but the fact that you need to be sure faulty biomechanics are not the actual cause of the problem. With the athletes I treat, I always have them make sure that they go over proper form with one of their coaches to ensure that they are not continually causing the problem. Slight errors in pitching mechanics can cause problems to the shoulder when the motion is repeated hundreds or thousands of times. It’s no different when it comes to running but most runners do not have a coach that they can consult. It’s possible that a slight tweak by a coach can eliminate the problems or help you get an elusive PR. Running clinics are not a bad place to start as they can help introduce concepts and are often free. Making sure that you have proper form is just one aspect of minimizing injury, but it can also be a huge part in improving performance.

Everyone has different needs when it comes to a running coach. Some may need regular work, and some may just need an occasional tune-up. Just like with personal trainers, I don’t think that you need to work out/run with your coach or trainer every time that you go to work out. Their job is to help you meet your goals. You can find a running coach to give you advice through the Internet or you can find one that you can meet up with face-to-face. Do some research on training and testing for certifications and recredentialing.  Ask your running friends about experiences with running coaches. You are usually going to pay per session and often have the option of buying packages of sessions. Use them as needed; maybe more frequently at the beginning and then taper. Before you start, make sure that you have gone to a running clinic recently, even as an experienced runner.

Having a running coach will help you minimize your risk for injury in other ways. Proper form is just part of it and is only one aspect of what a running coach can do for you. One of the main things that a coach can do is help you with programming. You need to make sure that you are running enough for you but not too much. You need to consider the weekly distance and speed that you are running while having enough variation and challenge to improve your performance. Paying somebody to assess, interpret and plan your training will take the burden off your shoulders. Talk to your coach if you have a bad week or you are not feeling up to it one day. The point is that just because you have the knowledge base does not mean that you need to do the planning.

Occasionally, you will get injured as a runner. Your coach can encourage you to find the right treatment to recover and heal from your injuries. One thing to remember is having a certification as a running coach does not make them a medical professional. Their job is to help with your performance and decrease your risk of injury, but they should not be attempting to treat you or even diagnose you. If there is pain, they should be sending you for evaluation and treatment. I feel it is important to make sure that you go to a healthcare professional that is experienced in treating runners and has a specialty in their field, like a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP) or a physical therapist certified as an Orthopedic Certified Specialist (OCS). Certain healthcare providers are also skilled in therapies like Graston Technique or Kinesio Taping which can allow you to continue to train while you heal.

Running coaches can also be an essential part of getting back into running after an injury, regardless if it’s a few weeks or a few years since you have run. It is wise to not rush back into the grind since you will not be conditioned as you were before the injury. Remember that if something about your running helped to cause the initial injury, there’s a good chance that your biomechanics are still flawed, and appropriate rehabilitation will be needed to fix your compensations.

Again, I know that not every runner needs a running coach but there are many reasons that runners could use one. If you have never had a coach, try it out. If you have ever used a pacer in a race, get a running coach. If you have ever blamed your shoes and decided to go buy a new pair, get a coach. Maybe it isn’t the shoe that is the problem, maybe it is the person controlling the foot that needs work.

Article Featured in Toledo Roadrunners Club Footprints – Volume 45, Issue 2 (February 2019)

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DR. ROYER

Dr. Bryan D. Royer has been practicing chiropractic medicine in the Toledo area since 2005. He has a specialty in Sports Medicine and is a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician® (CCSP®). Dr. Royer is certified as a Graston Technique® Specialist (GTS), a Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (CKTP) and a Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES). He is also a Board-Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and he has been voted “Best in Toledo” by readers of the Toledo City Paper five times. 

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