To Hire a Coach or Not…That is the Question…

I have gotten this question a few times and I thought it was a good time to address it. 

It takes a little bit of a back story though (IE: this post will be lengthy)…Most people know that I swam for 15 years competitively before running.

This is what I looked like swimming…looked (not look since I would probably not make it that far)


I loved swimming, I loved having a set training plan and I really enjoyed the entire team aspect.  Everything about swimming followed a plan: the practice, the time we practice, the amount we practiced, the distance…everything.

I had many great coaches throughout club, high school and college.

Each coach helped me to succeed. In college I did extremely well in conference championships.   This set routine and schedule wore on me and by junior year of college I became extremely burnt out. 

I was burnt out from having an exact training plan to follow.

I was burnt out from going to practice every day at an exact time.

I began to enjoy running because I had no responsibility.  Running wasn’t stressful and I didn’t have any training plan to follow.  I could run when I felt like it and train when and how I wanted.  I wasn’t training by any means but I could do what I wanted (You can read my full running story here).

During junior year of college, I decided to try out for my cross country team.  I made the team.  We were not conference champions (in fact I think we were close to the bottom).  Our primary goal for each race was make it across the start and finish line healthy.  It fairly clear I thrived on that environment of training (I still do).

Probably one of my first instagram shots of cross country


It was the type B training I needed and wanted after so much “type A” training.  In summary:

Running: Relaxed, casual, do what I wanted

Swimming: Follow an exact plan, be at practice at a certain time, etc

This laid back approach translated into my running for a few years after college.  It’s obvious I still thrive and enjoy this training.  I enjoy going out for an easy, relaxing 10 mile run.

My cross country coaches and I.  (those bangs are embarrassing)
My cross country coaches and I. (those bangs are embarrassing)

Fast forward to now: I have been running off and on for about 5 years now.  I work at a running store and I know how I train isn’t conventional.  In fact I know my training is enough to make most coaches cringe.  I’m fully aware that I run 9-10 min 12 mile runs and mostly race below 7 min pace.

I race more often than most runners.  Since most of runs are easy, I enjoy “the thrill” of running faster with races.

Do I think every race will be a PR?  No, of course not…

Do I choose to train for a few goal races each year in hopes they will be PRs?  Yes…

See Atlantic City half last year or the Nike Women’s Half in 2013

I’ve only been running 5 years now.  I’m also 24 years old.  Road races of every distance will be here when I’m 30, 40, 50, 60…100.

I want to be able to run races when I’m older without being burnt out.  I want to have a different mentality about running when I’m older.  Unlike swimming where I have absolutely no interest to get back into the pool.

That is the biggest reason I chose not find a coach for a very long time after college.  Running is life long and with so many various coaches, philosophies and mentalities this is no reason to “just pick” the first coach that you find.  There is no need to rush anything.  If I found a coach, ran high and intense mileage now, I would be burnt out before I’m 30.  Why rush that?

I could write another post about this as well but along similar lines, I still feel young to be competitively racing marathons.  I have a long ways to go before I’ll “peak”, and there is no reason to beat myself and body up at 24.  I would like to still be competing (and faster) at 30.

I have always said there will be a point I will not progress as a runner without the help of a coach or doing speed work.  That is science.  Repeating anything for multiple years will lead in a plateau or injury.

After 5 years of running, I’m approaching that point where my training will have to train.  I’ve gone back and forth debating getting a coach.  I know I have a lot of credentials for what I am looking for in help (most of which I will talk with a coach personally, not put on the blog).

I’m not high maintenance when it comes to coaching but I am looking for someone with experience as well as success.  An important factor for me is that I’m also not looking for someone online.  While it doesn’t have to be daily or weekly, I am looking for someone who I can see occasionally.  I don’t want an internet or give me a plan coach.  I’m 100% not using my blog to look and seek out a coach either but explaining and reflecting upon many years of sports and coaching. I’m also not looking for advice of whether I should/shouldn’t hire a coach…I’ve made up my mind.