Picking the right running coach

Follow up from my previous two blog articles; Why YOU could benefit from a running coach! and Which type of Running Coach is best for YOU. Today, I am going to go into details about how to choose the coach that works for you.

Choosing to work with a coach is an excellent way to add motivation, structure and accountability to your training plan. It also takes some of the burden off the runner to create and execute a training plan when we often struggle with being objective about our own training.

Working with a running coach can boost some athletes progress greatly, but coaches some can also do more harm than good.  There are bad coaches who have had runners that have been successful in spite of their coaches and there have been athletes with world class athletes who haven’t fared so well.   A single success or failure does not define a coach. Each individual athlete and coach brings something unique to the table.  When deciding to work with a coach, do your due diligence and you will get the most out of the time and money spent.


  1. VDot certified!
    RunCanvas is proudly VDOT certified

    Certification-  A running certification is not required, in any way to be a running coach.  It does, however, show the coach took the time to complete a curriculum and passed a test on the basic principals of the sport.

  2. Adaptable/Flexible– Murphy and his darn law!  Life is going to happen and a coach that can help not only survive during those times, but also thrive, is a great tool.  I have worked with coaches who demanded certain workouts be on certain days and at certain times in the day.  While there might be some sort of scientific reasoning behind that demand, its unreasonable for the majority of athletes.  It doesn’t matter the depth of knowledge the coach brings if what they are asking for is unattainable in the long run.  Remember, endurance isn’t built over night. You are committing at least a few months to this coach if you are going to see this training schedule through.
  3. Approachable, yet can kick you in the rear when you need it-  Coaching is an art and finding that balance between being approachable and accommodating and nudging your athletes when they need it is a huge role, for a coach. Especially, because the balance is based on each individuals needs.  The big picture is that coaching is not a one way street of communication.  The best coaching happens through two way open communication building a bond between the athlete and coach.  This allows the coach to truly create a plan that fits the need of the runner and adjust in a way that accommodates the runners physical and mental needs throughout the cycle.
  4. Budget-  While a one-on-one coach would be an amazing way to reach your new goals.  For your daily runner, it may not practical,  Fitting both your time and financial limitations. Being upfront about your budget will help save you and your prospective coach time.
  5. Testimonials-  Finding a coach with a background of happy clients and success is a clue that the coach is on the right path.
  6. Experience- Experience as a coach,  experience as a runner and experience being coached all go into influencing the coach and how the work with their clients.  Discussing this background can often times give you great insight into the type of coach you could be working with.
  7. Interview-  I encourage you to interview your coach before agreeing to work with them. It doesn’t have to be a formal sit down interview either.  Feeling them out through message or a phone call can be just as informative.  Here are some questions to ask
    • Coaching philosophy and training approaches
    • How does the coach assess progress throughout the cycle
    • How does the coach handle illness and injuries
    • What are the coaches thoughts/and approach to lead up races.
    • Does the coach include or add on strength training, nutrition, race day advice or other similar items
    • How much communication and what type of communication is involved
    • What expectations does the coach have of their runners
    • How will you receive your workouts
    • Any other special circumstances or needs you feel are important when looking for a coach.

Taking time upfront to find the right coach will make working with a coach that much more rewarding.  You will be spending your time and money on this person, so feeling confident you have chosen the right fit for you is an important step in your journey.

Have you worked with a running coach before?  What is the most important factor for you when deciding who you will work with.

Need a coach to help you reach your running goals?


VDot certified! I am a VDot Certified coach with over  10 years of coaching experience! I have worked with young beginners in the middle school level, high school athletes, and adults runners of all abilities.   Check out my coaching page for more information  or you can find me on the VDOT Marketplace.  2019 coaching packages are currently being updated!


Published by RunCanvas

Hi I am Janell! Avid runner and coach with 14 years of experience helping runners reach their goals. Wondering if working with a running coach is the right choice for you? Run coaching is available for ALL levels and paces. If you run, you are a runner. Hiring a running coach will help you to become stronger and more resilient – both physically and mentally.

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