Journey2Ultra Running Coach Journey2Ultra

Different Running Training Plans, Do I need a Running Coach?

Off the shelf or an individualised running training plan from a coach – what does the science say and what works best?

After the elation of crossing the finish line and completing my first ultra-marathon had disappeared, I started to reflect. Having followed an off the shelf, fixed plan from an online article, I thought I had done a lot of targeted training and felt disappointed with the outcome – I expected to be a lot faster. My wife, waiting in the cold, for hours at check points will vouch I wasn’t as fast as I thought I would be! I knew I could run faster, but I had made mistakes in both my training and race execution. The challenge, I didn’t know what to do to improve.  Did I need a running coach?
One year later and after finding a coach (who I am still with today!), I ran the same race, improved my time by over 25%, made fewer mistakes and had a far more enjoyable race and training experience. The difference? I found a running coach who provided a running training plan, that was specific to me, compared to an off the shelf fixed plan, supposedly applicable to everyone.  A principal I now use in my own coaching practice.
The benefits of tailored coaching and an individualised training plan have been confirmed in a recent study and are nicely summarised in the article below. The study compares the performances of a group of athletes given a fixed plan with a group given a tailored plan, that was regularly updated based on objective and subjective feedback (what I do as a running coach each week). Very simply, when tested, the group provided with tailored, regularly updated individualised training plan improved twice as much as those on fixed plans.
On its own, Improved performance is a great argument for an individualised training plan, but what else can be gained from individual coaching? Most of us don’t have the luxury of being professional athletes and have real life to deal with. Sickness, work, and family commitments all can, and often do, get in the way of training, and I have found these factors aren’t adequately considered when following a fixed plan. In contrast, tailored coaching gives you regular opportunity to reflect on your running performance and set individualised goals, that will enhance your motivation and maximise the effectiveness of your training in the context of meeting other life commitments.
Tailored coaching also helps you bounce back and refocus your training at times when despite your best efforts, the race didn’t go the way you had planned. Give me a shout and we can about talk how developing your own plan will improve your running performance.