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Why should amateur runners hire a coach?

Minute 1: When is it time to hire a coach?

Amazon announced last week that it is expanding its “Just Walk Out” technology at Whole Foods locations. Food shoppers can now simply add items to their bag and skip the checkout process entirely while an app tallies their bill automagically. Cool stuff, for sure, but not if you earn your living as a supermarket cashier. In a similar way, the profession of run coaching is threatened by a flood of new technology. Data collected on our phones and watches promises more guidance for runners than any human with a whistle and stopwatch could ever hope to provide. On top of that, if you Google “run training plans,” you will find hundreds of free options that promise to take you from couch to 5K or from chump to champ. It’s probably no surprise that we are now seeing headlines like this one: "How to Become Your Own Running Coach -- 3 Keys to Self-Coached Success." All that makes scientific sense, but sometimes we would rather have a real human coaching us, just as we’d prefer a cashier to greet us with a smile and a hint that we can get a larger size for a cheaper price. If you think that runners aiming for a sub 3-hour marathon or the podium in a local 10K don’t need a coach, think again. According to this story in Runner’s World, middle-of-the-pack runners often benefit most from proper coaching: “Why You Need a Running Coach.” Of course one of the big benefits of hiring a coach is accountability. It is much harder to disappoint a human than an app. A good coach can work with you remotely to alter training plans when life gets in the way. That professional can also constantly reassess and adjust plans based on your training performances and nutrition. If you’re intrigued by the idea, check out “3 Things to Look for in a Running Coach (and 1 to Ignore)” or “6 Things I Consider When Choosing A Running Coach.” The cost for a personal coach working mostly online can range from $100 to $500 per month, but usually closer to the low end of that scale.

Minute 2: Racing when undertrained

A friend is prepping for an upcoming 7-mile trail race that includes lots of hills, both large and small. Seven miles should be in their wheelhouse, given solid training mileage and past experience in cross country. Nevertheless, he has some performance anxiety because he feels undertrained. He just wasn’t able to follow the plan he’d set out for himself. It’s a common pre-race refrain of running coaches to “relax and trust your training.” So what to do if you don’t trust your training? Canadian Running helps to answer that question with this new story: "How to race when you're under-trained." The first piece of advice is to relax and save your energy for the course. Even if you literally have not completed a single training run, you could still finish the race. Unlike final exams in college, it is best to avoid cramming in preparation at the last minute. What you missed over months preceding the race can't be established in the final week or two. In fact, that's when you should be tapering. Adjust your mindset and your goals. You may not have a personal best, but you can still finish the race and have fun in the process.

Minute 3: Runner's knee and how to kick it

Pounding the pavement for too many miles in worn out shoes almost always produces knee pain for us. Yes, we know. Thank you, Captain Obvious. One cause of knee pain we discovered recently, however, is not so obvious. According to this new story, "Running and knee pain: how to protect and strengthen your knees for running," simply working at our desk could be the culprit. Osteopath Nadia Alibhai explains that being seated for hours at a time tightens up your hip flexors, which can produce anterior knee pain when you hit the roads or trails. The knee is so interconnected with other parts of the body that strengthening it requires strengthening other muscles too. This list of 10 exercises and stretches is designed to treat and prevent runner's knee, a dull and achy pain at the front (anterior) of the knee. As with most stretching programs, you should warm up before diving in to avoid muscle tears or pulls. Exercises like standing hip flexor, step-ups, wall slides, and donkey kicks will work your glutes, which will in turn benefit your knees. For more ideas on knee injury recovery and prevention, check out: “8 Yoga Moves to Strengthen Your Knees.”

Minute 4: Nutritional shopping lists

One of our favorite guests on the Six Minute Mile podcast has been Andrew Merle. He is an executive at New Balance who became so intrigued by his own nutritional journey that he pursued an advanced degree in the subject. You can check out his interview with us here. Andrew just published a new blog post that caught our attention this week: “11 Foods and Drinks to Consume Every Day.” Some things didn’t surprise us like blueberries and leafy greens, but we were happy to see a few unexpected indulgences like coffee (mind/body power up) and dark chocolate (blood flow-enhancing flavonols). So Andrew covers what we should eat, while LIVESTRONG tells us this week what we shouldn’t eat: “If You Want to Age Well, Limit These 7 Nutrients Daily.” The piece warns against too much iron or folic acid, which can both be helpful in normal amounts but counterproductive if you overdo it.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • For women, a good sports bra is as necessary as a pair of good running shoes. But, like humans and shoes, not all bras are created equal. "10 Best Low-Impact Sports Bras for Every Workout, According to Experts" provides advice on selecting a bra for sports and activities that don't involve lots of bopping around, like yoga and walking. The same bra you choose for running may not be as comfortable as one geared for barre class. Fleet Feet has good advice for higher-impact activities in their guide to the “Best Sports Bras for Running.”

  • Like rumors at the horse track and wardrobe advice from your grandpa in Florida, not all tips are worth pursuing. That can be true with some running cliches, as explained in this new article from Outside: "Runners, Ignore These Popular Training Tips." The story blows up ideas like easy runs have to be in a heart rate zone (wrong, just accept that some days are simply harder than others) and that you can't lose fitness during a taper (yes, you can).

  • Sometime snacks get a bad rap. There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating between meals, but as this article from Canadian Running reminds us, there's a difference between snacks and treats. Simply put, treats tend to lack nutrients while snacks often provide them.

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

We know we should mix in more weight training with our daily endurance workouts, but in reality, we rarely find time to do a full hour in the gym. That leads us to wonder about the best “quickie” workout to improve leg and core strength. We like this video because it shows 3 simple exercises to become a better and stronger runner. As a past victim of plantar fasciitis, we particularly appreciate the focus on calf problems and ankle stiffness. But since it’s (finally!) marathon season -- and more specifically NYC Marathon season -- we thought we’d seek advice from Shalane Flanagan, the only American woman to win New York in the past 40 years. Shalane provides a good, quick core and leg workout below using simple kettlebell movements.


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