As a running coach, I am teaching runners what I have learned and I continue to learn. I will never stop learning, but I have gotten to an interesting point. At the beginning of my journey, I was learning to develop my own coaching philosophy. As I grow older, I am learning to tweak my philosophy, but in some instances my research affirms what I already know.
The great thing about running is when you think you have it down it will smack you in the head. My only advice to those starting out is to never stop learning and never think you have it down.
At this point in my education, I am certain that running more miles will have a positive effect on a runners fitness. There is much controversy with this. One reason being that the increase in miles run will increase the risk of injury.
Because of this fact, i have turned most of my coaching attention towards injury prevention and strength development. I believe runners should run more miles, but they need to be strong enough to handle the increase in mileage.
How do runners gain strength? This is my new assignment. I am on a journey to find the best fit for my collegiate program. Is it the weight room? Is it the hills? Is it sprinting? Well, its all of the above. I have found different ways to add a load to an athlete and that load with give the resistance necessary to gain strength. Adding this load has posed a problem. The increased load can highlight muscle imbalances and cause injury. More specifically, I have seen a commonality in my runners. When adding weight to lift, they are all activating their lumbar spine instead of their hip, glute, pelvic floor…etc. My runners are weak in some of the most important areas for running and when they get in trouble they activate a part of their body which, over time, will cause more harm than good.
This road is getting long but I think I have found a path that works for me. Here is a list of my philosophy so far when dealing with a long distance runner:
1. Collect past running and medical history
2. Evaluate motivation for running. Why are they doing this?
3. Evaluate functional movement.
4. Develop a plan to correct imbalances. (Seek out professional assistance).
5. Add strength plan once corrections have been made and develop running form.
6. Add Mileage.
7. Get fitness test by running a 5k, 10k, or a half marathon. (Depending on athlete).
8. I really feel that 30 miles a week is a great number. If you are under this number, then I don’t think I will give too many other workouts beyond easy running.
9. Over 30 miles a week will be a good time to add specific work. Specific work, for me, always starts with short intervals, hills, and fartleks.
10. Continue to add new workouts, running routes, thoughts, and goals. Always change it up. Variety keeps the brain active and vibrant.
My findings may seem simple and that is on purpose. “Keep it simple, stupid.” I say that to myself all of the time. The complexities are there and that’s where the art of coaching comes in, not to mention the amount of education necessary to evaluate, diagnose, and fix the problems. I am working on that as I go.
Make no mistake, I am no expert. I am just a guy who is passionate and works very hard to coach runners every day and learn from my experiences. I feel like this approach is working and every year I can point to a new challenge and a new success. I couldn’t ask for anything more.