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New Runner: How To Choose A Coach

Use these tips to help find the right mentor to help you reach your running goals.

This story is part of an ongoing series aimed at new runners.

If you’re new to running, chances are you have a lot of questions that need answering. A coach can help you answer those questions while guiding you through the process of becoming a runner. A good coach will not only set you up with a training program, but they’ll keep you motivated and accountable, challenge you with a variety of workouts and help prepare you for the long run—no pun intended.

RELATED: Buying Your First Pair Of Running Shoes

Keep these four top tips in mind when looking for a coach:

1. Identify Your Needs

As a newbie, a former All-American track athlete or an Olympic-level coach may not be be the best choice for you. Research coaches who have worked with other beginners and can understand some of the hurdles you’re trying to overcome. Your needs may include: setting a goal(s), getting help finding the right shoes and gear, cleaning up your running form, identifying injuries if/when they pop up, dialing in your nutrition, learning the difference between different types of workouts and how to do them, improving general strength, choosing a race(s), developing race strategies and the list goes on.

Since you’re just starting out, you may want someone who you can meet with and watch you run, supervise your workouts and provide you a kick in the butt when you need it. Or you might not. The level of interaction you have with your coach is totally up to you. There are many coaches, both in your area and online, who specialize in working with new runners and getting them on the path to enjoyable, injury-free training and racing. Take the time to find the right coach whose experience and expertise lines up with your needs and objectives.

2. Take A Look At Your Limitations

Take an honest look at all the things that are going on in your life outside of running and write them down. Examples can include: family, work, travel, hobbies and/or other regular commitments. These are all important outside factors that will have an effect—both positive and negative—on your training and racing. It’s important that whatever coach you’re working with is aware of these things as they write your weekly schedules and plug in workouts and races. Remember, running is one of any number of things that you do in a given day and making sure it fits in well with everything else you’ve got going on is key to maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy lifestyle.

3. Search Near—And Far!

Are you in search of someone who will work with you one-on-one and supervise your workouts? A bigger group that meets to run on a regular basis? Or do you just need need someone who will send you workouts to knock out on your own? These are important questions to ask yourself as you research running coaches. If regular face-to-face interaction is what you’re looking for, check out what options are available through the running clubs in your area, many of which meet weekly or even multiple times a week for speed workouts, long runs or even just casual jaunts. You can also visit your local specialty running store for recommendations for a private coach, or search online for options in your area. If you’re constantly on the go, run at “off” hours or just prefer a virtual coach to meeting with someone in person, there are literally hundreds of online options to choose from. Sorting through them can be an arduous process, but ask your running buddies for recommendations, read reviews, make contact with them and most importantly, ask questions!

4. Ask The Right Questions

It’s important to do your research and identify coaches whose experience fits in with where you are as a runner, but it’s equally important to ask potential coaching candidates the right questions before committing to a training program. After all, you’re the one hiring them!

Some key questions to ask coaches are:

— What is their background as a coach? As an athlete themselves?

— How would they describe their coaching philosophy?

— What are their rates?

— What is included with the coaching rate?

— What kind of access will they offer you? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?

— Can they meet with you?

— Will they adjust your plan for travel, injury or other unexpected occurences?

— Can they provide examples of success stories with runners whose backgrounds are similar to your own?

RELATED: 5 Reasons To Hire A Running Coach