For the last few months, I’ve been running about 30 miles a week, putting in miles day after day, often in the cold, wind, and sometimes rain. I had times when I didn’t feel like running, but instead, I did every single mile on my schedule at the prescribed paces. Why did I subject myself to so many miles, and often in less than ideal weather conditions, even when I didn’t feel completely up to it?
Well, because my coach told me to.
I’d never really considered myself much of a runner and though I enjoy running and tennis, for most of my life, no one would have described me as an athlete. My primary activities in high school and college were band and chorus. But, after years of casual running, I ran my first half marathon two years ago, and I loved it. I trained for months using a plan from a book and was thrilled with my 2:06 time.
For the following year’s race, in February 2018, I was determined to run the half marathon in 2 hours or less. But, as I trained, I kept getting injured. Frustrated at the pain and the missed workouts, I was searching for a solution when I saw an email about a new running coach in town. I quickly called him and set up my first appointment.
Although I joked that hiring a private running coach as a 40-something non-professional athlete was part of a mid-life crisis, it turned out to be a fantastic decision. Within minutes of seeing me run, Coach Dylan Allen diagnosed the cause of my recurring injury—problems with my running form. He also taught me that running too fast on my easy days was actually hindering my endurance. Without adequate time to train for the 2018 half marathon, I cut my goal to running a great 10K (which I did!).*
Fast forward to two seasons working with my coach, and I have not only been injury free all this time, but I now have three PRs (personal records) under my belt. My greatest running accomplishment was running a half marathon in 1:55 in February 2019.
Maybe you don’t have running goals, but I’m sure you have a professional or personal goal you’re aiming for this year, and perhaps hiring a coach could help. Here’s why:
First, a coach can see what you can’t. We all have blind spots. I was literally unable to watch myself run and therefore, I couldn’t see that running in more of a hunched position, rather than pushing my hips more forward, was causing injuries. I’ve benefited from an outsider’s view in my work as well. When I hired a coach to review some of my online lectures, he found small verbal habits of mine that could be distracting; I never would have heard these myself.
Think about your work and what a coach might see that you aren’t able to because you’re in the midst of it. Could an outside observer help you create better presentations, improve your body language in a job interview, or spot flaws in your resume?
I see this in my work as a coach all the time. When I’ve helped others improve their professional presentations or teaching, I’m able to hear the little things that an audience experiences (“ahs” and “ums”) that the speaker doesn’t even know she’s using. When I review job descriptions for companies, I’m able to see the tasks and responsibilities they inadvertently left out, because as an outsider and an expert, I’m more capable of seeing what’s missing from the list.
Second, a coach is an expert in something that you’re not. You’d think that running with proper form is something anyone could do, but it’s really not. Even if I could see myself run (maybe by watching a video), I wouldn’t have the experience or expertise to improve my running. But my coach did. As a novice runner, I also lacked the knowledge about the purpose behind the paces I should run on different types of training days.
Again, when I’m in the role of coach, I’m able to quickly identify the best course of action because it’s my area of expertise. I recently conducted a series of mock interviews, and I helped interviewees restructure their answers to typical interview questions in a way that better highlighted their skills and experiences. And, when a manager called me this week for advice on broaching a sensitive and difficult topic with a new employee, I had tips that I could readily share.
Finally, a coach can set goals that you perhaps can’t set for yourself. Even if they seem like stretch goals, a coach can give you both accountability and confidence. Nearly every week during my training, when Coach Dylan gave me the schedule of runs for the week, I would say, “I can’t do that!” It looked like too many miles, or too fast of a pace, or too many workouts back to back. But, it’s easier to follow a schedule when someone else plans it out for you, and every single time I ran what he scheduled, I learned that I could do it.
I told my coach more than once that his biggest challenge would be convincing me that I could run my half marathon in 2 hours, and every time, he replied, “Of course you can!” Turns out, he was right--I beat my goal by 5 minutes and won 1st place in my age group.
What are your professional and personal goals this year, and how can coaching help you meet them? Do you need help getting ready for job interviews? Maybe you want to improve your skills as a manager or leader? Call me to learn more about how I can help you meet your career goals!
And, if you are like me and want to reach some running goals, check out Allen Endurance Coaching and tell him I sent you!
*One of the take-aways that I had from Jon Acuff’s book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done (see my blog post about this) was that if you’re having trouble finishing something, cut your goal in half. Small wins can keep you motivated, and that was surely the case for me when I saw how much my training paid off in my 10K.
Above: Crossing the finish line, all smiles after 13.1 tough miles
Below: Coach Dylan and me