The Blonde Runs

Colorado lovin'

…5 things about having a running coach


After much hemming and hawing, I’ve bit the bullet and decided to work with a running coach. Not just any running coach. One that focuses on trail, mountain, and ultra running.

When I started training for the 50k this past spring, I had this notion that perhaps I should get some outside perspective about this running thing. Especially the trails. Sure, I’ve been a runner for over 20 years, but I don’t claim to know everything about the sport. As I completed training and my first 50k, the thought became more prominent. Finally, Nick encouraged me to make the connection when he said, “Even professional athletes have coaches.” Truth. So if the pro’s out there need them, then certainly a mid-packer like me desperately needs one! I’m not trying to be a pro, or ever think I’ll be among the elites; however, a coach could just give me a different perspective. A coach could get me out of a training rut. A coach could help me with form and being a more efficient runner. A coach could help me navigate the trails and mountains. A coach could offer suggestions for my long-run fueling issues that creep up occasionally. A coach could be a good thing.

So, I contacted Ryan Knapp whom I’d met through IG and had ironically just moved to Colorado. After chatting for a bit, we felt it was a good fit, and we were off. While I’ve only been with him for a month, I’ve learned a lot. Mostly about myself. I love this about running.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. You might have to run with a Heart Rate Monitor.
Or, HRM as the cool kids call it. This was totally new to me. I’m used to running/training based on pace. Even my high school Cross Country and Track coaches had us train off pace. I suppose this HRM thing was a little high-tech in the mid-90’s. That, and who could expect teenagers to run with an HRM?! Back to being an adult…So when Ryan told me I had to go out and get an HRM I was…curious. I know a lot of people train based on their HRM zones so the science behind it has to be legit. Right? The first time I wore the band, I chafed and I screamed when I took a shower. I’ll spare you the photo. And the audio. But then I dug out some old Body Glide that I hadn’t used in years and it works like a charm. Once I did all my initial assessments and Ryan set my zones, it still took me about a week to get comfortable with keeping my eyes off of the pace and onto my current heart rate. But now that it’s been a month, I am starting to see how my heart rate really should be driving my training. It isn’t always about maintaining a pace, but more about maintaining a zone. My pace can fluctuate drastically within a zone, even within a few heart beats, but it’s about the effort I am expending.

2. You might get pushed a little bit. A lot a bit.
I’ve certainly been asked to do things in the past month that I wouldn’t have asked myself to do in previous training seasons. But the good news is that someone actually thinks I can do it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been asked of me. You want me to do HOW many fartlek workouts this week? You want me to maintain THAT zone for HOW long? Ryan definitely sees more in me as a runner than I see in myself. And I think that’s a good thing. Because then, he’ll be able to push me past some limits that I may have initially placed on myself out of fear.

3. You might have to start “asking permission” to do things.
Suddenly, I’m actually accountable to someone other than myself. Suddenly, I have to ask if a race will fit into my schedule instead of my typical MO of signing up day-before or day-of. Suddenly, I have to ask if I can substitute any workouts. Look, I’m a pretty Type-A kind of gal. I can stick to a training program completely solo with very few modifications. So, it isn’t that I don’t like the accountability, it’s just a totally different kind of accountability.

4. You might not be running 6 days a week.
This was also my MO. One rest day. That’s all you get, Rebekah! Work hard! But when talking with Ryan about my hopes for the future in running, I shared that running is a lifestyle, not a goal-and-done type of thing. I want to be running for the rest of my life. I want to race hard and push myself, I want to have short and long term goals, but I want to have seasons of rest so that I don’t get burnt out on this passion of mine. And I don’t just want to be a runner. I want to be a strong, healthy runner. I want to incorporate reasonable strength training to help me be a more efficient runner with better form. So, Ryan included that. He adds yoga and core work and strength training to enhance the running that I’m doing as well. Oh I’m sure that when I gear up for another big race (50k!), some of this may change. But then again, maybe not. And I’m okay with that.

5. You don’t have to plan anything.
Ever. All of my workouts are ready for me a week in advance. On Sundays, I know exactly what’s required of me for the next 7 days. It’s actually quite nice to not have to even think about what I should do each day. Kind of makes me feel lazy.

All of that to say, I’m so glad I’m finally working with a coach. While I do have some short term goals that get me through the rest of the year, I know Ryan can help me also prepare for the long term goals as well. I am excited for what this means for my running career.

Also, Ryan has a pretty good blog here.


15 thoughts on “…5 things about having a running coach

  1. Very cool! And very exciting!

  2. Glad it’s working out well!

  3. One thing I really liked about having a coach was not having to wonder about how much was enough. It’s really easy to run yourself into an injury. The heart meter thing works for me on the bike, but I have real trouble getting believable numbers while running, either way too high or way too low. No idea why. Always good to have someone look at your fitness world from outside. A few times I learned things that I knew, in one sense of the word, but didn’t know they applied to me.

  4. Wow! This was a really great post! I have a heart rate monitor for my garmin that I have yet to use. But I always where my polar heart rate monitor and watch while I lift weights. You have inspired me to where my HRM during tomorrow’s run! How do I know which zone to be in?

    • I believe zones are individualized. I had to perform certain running tests for Ryan so that he knew my resting heart rate, threshold max, etc. Those determine my zones. I’m sure you could ask someone at your gym to help you figure those out! There may be some generalized zones out there?

  5. I’ve recently thought about getting a coach. Your thoughts on your experience are insightful. Let’s talk more about this at Ragnar, okay?

  6. I love having a coach. I haven’t had my runs based off HRM yet, but everything else you’ve said it true. It does make “easier” when I don’t have to figure out what workouts to get in. I like having someone do the thinking for me!

  7. One of the great things about working with a coach is that that person has a different perspective on what you’re doing and where you’re at and how to get you to where you want to be than you can possibly have. As runners, it is hard to be objective concerning our own training. I’m a coach and see this effect time and again with my runners – I make better decisions for them than I do for myself – but then, I am forever experimenting on myself. I don’t do that with them! Hope this works out well for you!

    • You make a great point about the difficulty in being objective with our own training. This is why I think it feels Ryan is pushing me, in a way, because I would not have included many aspects of his training in my own plans. So nice to have an extra set of eyes on my training instead of just my own!

  8. i would love to hear more about how you train by HR rather than pace – i don’t have a HRM (but lust after one to see how hard i actually work!) so i’m just curious what the difference is – like, if you’re training for a certain finish time, how do you use the HRM to do that?

    • That is a great question! I’m not looking for any PR’s right now, so I’m not sure how it transitions. Perhaps if you are maintaining a certain zone, you will hit your mark? I will have to ask Ryan and then write more about this when I do seek out a new PR.

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