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What Does a Running Coach Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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A running coach helps runners develop skills, protect their bodies from injury, and meet their personal goals. Coaches can offer individualized services or can work with running teams, ranging from people getting ready to run marathons to groups of Olympic athletes. The training and qualifications necessary to perform this work can vary, but typically include athletic experience, and may involve a degree in athletic coaching, nutrition, or a related field.

Individualized coaches work one on one with runners. They start with a meeting to assess a runner's overall fitness and talk about goals. People may take up running for a variety of reasons, and the effective coach wants to design a program that will meet the needs of the runner. Someone who just wants to get fit by running, for example, will typically need a different program from someone who wants to train for athletic events.

An initial meeting can include an overview of the client's medical history, and in some cases a coach will request a doctor's note with background on a patient and a confirmation that it is safe for the patient to run. The coach may also weigh the client, ask some questions about diet and exercise habits, and watch the client run. Seeing someone in action can help the coach identify specific issues that need to be addressed. With this information, the running coach can develop a plan to get a client fit and maintain activity levels in the long term.

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Groups of runners like sports teams can work with a running coach as a group. Coaches can help teams work together, which can be very important for activities like relays. The coach can decide which events various members of a team should compete in. Individualized training may be available, especially for elite athletes who need focused time with a running coach in addition to group training to perform at their best. Professional coaching for runners can include work with not just athletes who run, but other athletes who want to run as part of a fitness program.

A big part of the job of a running coach involves keeping clients physically healthy. Coaches teach their athletes about stretching routines and other tools they can use to safely warm up, cool down, and prevent injuries. Their job entails keeping people fit without incurring damage to the knees, shins, and ankles, three common danger zones for runners. Clients in recovery from injuries need special coaching to redevelop strength and fitness without risk of reinjury.

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