How to Become Your Own Running Coach
Expert strategies and intuitive tech to help you set and achieve your goals
Regardless of your specific running goal, be it racing a new distance or knocking some time off your 10K, mapping out a solid plan and monitoring your progress are crucial steps toward success. That’s easier said than done—and exactly why running coaches exist. But what if hiring an expert isn’t in the cards for you? We have good news: it’s never been easier to become your own coach. To help you do just that, we rounded up the most effective tools and tech and even tapped an elite running coach for his best advice.
Build a Base
Before you even start day one of a training cycle, make sure you lay down a solid aerobic base. “Even my pro runners do at least two weeks of easy running prior to starting a cycle,” says Under Armour coach Stephen Haas, of Flagstaff, Arizona. “Once you’ve built your fitness, you can slowly add in volume and intensity.” Before that, however, take the time to build an easy longer run into your routine once a week. Sprinkle in a few shorter, easy runs to complement it. Your total weekly mileage should add up to about a quarter of what you’ll be doing at your peak mileage down the road, says Haas. “It’s all about getting used to the pounding before adding in the intensity,” he explains.
Build in Downtime
You may not realize it, but rest is training, which is why you need to incorporate easy recovery days and rest days alongside the workouts. Haas says that rest and recovery should be routine. “We build recovery into the week so that the body can absorb the training,” he says.
For newer runners, a full day off each week is key, as are easier and shorter runs to shake out the legs. “Sometimes recovery looks like a day off, other times a massage, and sometimes it’s a very easy run,” says Haas. “Every day should have a purpose, and easier days should be designed to help you feel better the next day.”
Understand Your Goal Pace
You’ve probably got a time goal in mind, so it’s important to train with that as a guide. Your pace is obviously going to determine that end goal, so pick a training spot where you can easily keep track of your pace and mileage. Haas is a fan of using the local high school track for workouts, where you get the chance to check in on split times.
Remember that when you train, you’re probably not going to be hitting your goal, and that’s okay (if you are, you may need to reconsider!). “Always keep in mind that your goal race will be at a higher level than where you’re training,” he adds. “If you’re running a marathon, for instance, you’re not going to run all 26 miles in training.”
Lean Into Tech
You’ve picked the date and mapped out your training plan, and that will get you closer to your goal. But to reach the finish line, you need to focus on the physical act of running, too, things like cadence, form and efficiency to optimize your pace. That’s where technology steps in to close the gaps.
When you pair MapMyRun with Under Armour’s Connected Footwear, such as the new Flow Velociti SE, you’ll have all the coaching tools you need to make improvements to your stride. You’ll input your height, weight, and gender as parameters. Once your shoes and the app are synced, it’s as simple as going for a run. With data picked up from your shoes’ built-in microchip, MapMyRun’s Gait Coaching feature will analyze how your foot strikes the ground, what your cadence is, and the length of your stride.
Putting the information together, an optional audio coaching feature can point out where you can improve, offering real-time suggestions like picking up your cadence or shortening your stride. This will allow you to adjust your movements in real time, so that eventually your most efficient stride will become second nature.
The end result? Fewer injuries, a faster pace, and a gait that will carry you efficiently through your training plan to meet your race-day goals.
And Remember to Be Flexible
Even with the best-designed training plan, life will sometimes get in the way. Minor injuries pop up, family and vacation time take front and center, or your job goes through a busy season. Even a few bad nights’ sleep can throw things off. This is where it’s important to go with the flow and allow for adjustments along the way. “I tell all my athletes to listen to their body,” says Haas. “Be honest with yourself and back off training if you need to, or back off pace if you’re feeling fatigued.”
Commit to these practices and you’re well on your way to earning that coaching hat. Remember that the most important part of the entire cycle is consistency. Get in most of your runs most of the time, stick to these tips, and you’ll be race-day ready when the time comes.
Under Armour, Inc., headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, is a leading inventor, marketer and distributor of branded athletic performance apparel, footwear and accessories. Designed to empower human performance, Under Armour’s innovative products and experiences are engineered to make athletes better. For further information, please visit http://about.underarmour.com.