Back in the day (read: when I started running, pre-internet and pre-GPS), if you wanted to improve your running, you either went DIY or you found a local running coach you would meet up with on a regular basis.
But times have changed.
Today, with the internet, video chats, GPS tracking, Strava, and Garmin, you can find a running coach who specializes in whatever you need, data can fly around the interwebs, and you can be coached virtually by anyone anywhere in the world.
The Pros And Cons Of Online Coaching
As an online running coach myself, I’ll say right up front I’m biased about the benefits of online coaching. However, I did try to be objective when putting together this list.
Most online coaches are cheaper than their IRL counterparts since we aren’t physically meeting-up on a regular basis.
In addition, many online coaches offer different tiers or price points depending on what services you are interested in, how often you want to touch base and how quickly you need responses.
There are options available for every budget.
The Wonders Of Technology
With video conferencing for meetings, online coaching platforms that sync with Garmin and Strava, communication with an online coach feels nearly seamless.
For my coaching, I use the Final Surge platform that syncs with my runners’ Garmins. I can see the route they ran, their paces and splits and every other bit of information Garmin’s capture.
I know as much about my virtual client’s runs as I know about my own runs (it actually feels a little bit stalkery, but I digress…).
Selection And Expertise
If you are looking for IRL running coaches, depending on your location, your pickings might be pretty slim.
But online? The sky is the limit.
You can find a coach at whatever price point, level of engagement, temperament and skill set you want. Even if you are in the smallest small town, you can still have access to the best online coach for your set of goals, even if they are on the other side of the world.
Many online coaches have an area of expertise – working with new runners, or trail runners, or runners who want to BQ, so you can likely find a coach who knows a ton about the exact thing you want to accomplish.
Before you hire a coach, consider what you are looking for in a coach to make the selection process a little easier:
- Are you looking for guidance for your first half marathon or are you an experienced runner looking to PR/BQ?
- How responsive do you want your coach to be? While all coaches should be responsive, some coaches (or larger online coaching companies) are accessible by phone 24/7 while others might take a day to get back to you.
- Do you want a coach who only tells you what to do or one that explains why you are doing various things or why your training plan is structured the way it is?
- Do you want a personal coach? Some online coaching companies have a vast pool of coaches who will respond to your questions. This can be great for getting many different perspectives or if you want immediate responses to your questions, but not so great if you want one person who will really get to know you and your concerns.
Cons Of An Online Running Coach
Online run coaching can be great (if I do say so myself), but it isn’t perfect.
No In-Person Runs
While online coaches can provide some accountability, some runners want to have a person physically waiting for them to head out the door to run. Or they would benefit most from having someone actually run with them for issues like pacing.
When your coach is on the other side of the world, this can be tough.
What can work is to have an online (personal) coach, but then also join a local running club that hosts group runs for the in-person comradery or accountability.
The Limits Of Video Conferencing
While some running form review work can be done online using video conferencing or filmed clips of you running, its never quite the same as when it’s done in person.
If you struggle with injuries or form issues, having someone who can review and correct your form in person could be a big benefit to you, and that is tough with online coaching.
While it is a great benefit that you can select your online running coach based on your needs more than your geography, it also means if you are looking for quick responses to your questions or speedy feedback on your runs, time zones could be an issue.
The vast selection of online run coaches is both a pro and a con.
Selection is (usually) a great thing. But it does have its downsides.
Anyone with a website or an Instagram account can say they are a running coach, so you don’t (always) know who you are hiring or how much they actually know about running.
I always recommend your running coach (at a minimum) be RRCA certified. Make sure your online coach has both the training and the experience to do what they say they can do.
Talk to your running friends, your local running club, or your local running specialty store to see if they have any recommendations to get you pointed in the right direction.
What about you? Have you ever worked with an online running coach?