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How to Choose a Running Coach

A common misconception among runners is that only elite or professional athletes require the services of a coach.  On the contrary, all runners can benefit from the coach-athlete relationship, particularly those that are new to the sport or are chasing a big goal, such as a Boston qualifying performance.  Coaching can help your running form.Unsure where to begin in your search?  The following are tips when choosing a personal coach.

Ask Around for Recommendations
Many athletes have no idea how to get started in their quest for a coach.  If you have running friends, are part of an online running community, or there is a local running store in your town, start by asking for a recommendation.  Most coaches advertise solely through word of mouth, which can make them difficult to find unless you ask the right people.

Keep Budget in Mind
Before going through the process of interviewing a coach, be up front about your budget.  Depending on the experience level of the coach, this process can be expensive.  Most plans range from $50 - $100/month. 

Question to Ask
Once you find a coach that you believe suits you, ask plenty of questions in order to best determine whether he or she is the coach for you. 

What is your coaching philosophy?
Find out if the coach develops plans that are individualized to each athlete, or if s/he believes that everyone can benefit from the same style of coaching.  Find out the type of mileage that is recommended, and ask about his or her philosophy on speed work.

How hands-on are you?
Next, find out how often you will be expected to check in with your coach, or if the coach will contact you.  Some people prefer to be given a plan and be left alone, while others thrive on constant contact.  Find the coach that best suits your needs in this regard.

How will we assess progress?
Will your coach help you set process goals, and if so, how will they be assessed?  If adequate progress is not being made, what will be the next step?

What is your coaching experience with athletes like me?
If you are a beginning runner, look for a coach that has experience with the common issues that newbie runners face.  On the other hand, if you are an elite runner, you should look for a coach that has plenty of experience coaching athletes at your level.

What happens if I get injured?
If you become injured during the coaching cycle, can the price that you paid be credited towards another time when you are healthy?

Do you provide advice on cross training, strength building, and mental toughness?
Finally, find out what is involved in the coaching process beyond running advice.  How does the coach develop the whole runner?

Shop Around
Don’t be afraid to shop around and interview numerous coaches.  Finding the perfect coach for your needs is paramount to success, and you will learn more about what you do – and don’t – want in a coach in this way.