Posted by: Joe English | April 4, 2008

Question: Am I a candidate for on-line coaching?

Here at Running Advice and News, me and my colleagues do a lot of on-lone marathon coaching. In another forum yesterday, I was asked whether a particular runner might be a good candidate for on-line coaching. It’s an interesting question, because in my experience most runners can be coached over the Internet — but there are a few situations in which coaching “in person” might also be more appropriate. Let’s explore this topic a little more.

First, to give you a bit of background, I mostly work with runners in person in Portland, but a larger and larger majority of the people that I coach live in other places around the world. I have clients from as far away as South Africa, China, and Australia. In a typical coaching relationship, the coach will work with the runner to determine their goals, do diagnostics on them, and then develop a training plan to get them to those goals. Communication can range from infrequent updates to daily communication, depending on the complexity of the athletic goals and the needs of the runner.

When working “in person”, the runner has immediate access to the coach to ask questions and the coach can provide feedback on form and technique very easily. But even with “in person” coaching, there is a high-level of communication over e-mail and the phone. What I’ve seen with the large groups that I’ve coached is that the majority of their questions come up after they have left their training runs and we end up resolving them through e-mail or on the phone, rather than in person. So the differences between in-person and on-line coaching are relatively small. But with that said, I’ve found runners particularly suited for on-line coaching tend fall into one of four general categories:

1) Runners that are highly motivated and want to follow a training plan on their own — there are a lot of people out there that just want a plan to follow and they’ll do the work. They follow up with questions that come up in their training over e-mail and we can discuss data from their workouts over e-mail as well. It’s a fairly simple relationship, especially if the person uses e-mail frequently. On-line coaching is also less expensive than in-person coaching, so this tends to be a good deal for these runners.

2) People that don’t live near other runners or running groups — many of my clients live in remote areas like Montana and Alaska. There just aren’t a lot of running groups or coaches there, so they seek the help they need over the Internet. On-line coaching is great in these situations, because the runner can get expert help from wherever they are. People that travel a lot fall into this group as well, because they can get help from their coach when they are traveling.

3) Runners that are highly specialized — Some folks just need very specialized help and they can’t find that specialty in their area. I’ve worked with runners and triathletes who are, for example, diabetic, have particular nutritional issues or are training for ultra-endurance events.

4) Runners that are just not that social — Some people just don’t have a need to be around other runners when they train and they just want their training plan so they can get on with their training. On-line coaching is great for these folks.

There are also come types of runners that aren’t particularly well suited for an on-line coaching relationship. These would include:
1) Runners looking for the camaraderie of a group setting — The opposite of the “not so social” runners, some runners really need the social connections that come with other runners. Sometimes a group also gives some runners the motivation that they need to actually get out and do their runs. The group setting can then be a positive influence for them to get them to come out and do the workouts.

2) Runners with form problems or those struggling with injuries — If a runner is struggling with a form or technique issue, they may need a coach to watch them closely and to work with them on drills or other exercises to help correct issues. While we can do some of this through video analysis over the Internet, it is easier to do this type of coaching in person.

3) Runners that need close personal attention — Let’s face it, some runners just like to spend a lot of time talking or running with their coaches. This type of relations most likely needs to be conducted in person. Although, I’ve found that once I’ve spent a season coaching most runners in-person, we can move to on-line coaching and continue to have a great relationship and this still seems to work well for the really “needy” folks.

So if you’re curious about on-line coaching, post a comment here or on the Coaching Services tab of Running Advice and News. We can start by exchanging some e-mails or talking on the phone and deciding who might be the best coach for you and what program would be best for you. Using a coach is a great way to get to your marathon running goals and a super way to take it to the next level.

Drop us a line!

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running Advice and News



  1. […] Posted on 6 July 2008 by coachdeanhebert This is a companion article to Coach Joe’s “Are you a candidate for online coaching?” Some runners do very well with self-coaching. A few even make it to elite levels […]

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