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What Does a Running Coach Do? (Coaches Corner)

Today, I want to take you behind the scenes and explain what does a running coach do? From talking paces to who should hire a running coach, find out how I help runners of all levels live beyond expectations. Welcome to the second week of Running Coaches’ Corner!

What Does a Running Coach Do?

Just what does a Running Coach Do? Who are my clients? What happens when you hire Coach Suz? Also, check out Running Coaches' Corner! @Suzlyfe

Who Hires a Running Coach?

Let’s start with just who hires a running coach. The answer? YOU! But seriously, anyone who wants to get more from their training and running should consider hiring a running coach. When I say “training,” that can be anything from marathon training to just fining the motivation to get out the door in the morning. As a coach, I work develop plans that are challenging, but above all, manageable and engaging. I want my clients to walk away from every workout happier than they started, or at the very least to have learned something that they can use as they go into their next workout. 

Coach Susie running with pace group during Chicago Endurance Sports 20 miler at the end of Marathon Training!

Types of Clients:

  • First Time Runners (going for their first marathon, half marathon, or even just starting out)
  • Recently Injured Runners (coming back from injury must be handled carefully!)
  • Those with Difficult or Constantly Changing Schedules (single moms, those working full time, students)
  • Experienced Runners (going for PRs or looking to train smarter)

In short, hire a running coach when you are ready to get more out of your training!

After you think you can't realize that you can!

When I Get Hired

When I first get contacted by a client, we decide on a plan that is the best fit for them based on goals, needs, and budget.

The life and times of a running coach! |

Types of Plans

I have a variety of plans, which you can see in full on my Coaching page, but in short, here is what I offer:

  • One Time Personalized Running Plan (8-20 weeks, I create for you all at once)
  • Consultation (You come to me with a plan, I assess you and it and report back to you with my suggestions)
  • On Going Consult with Plan (Weekly, Two-Week, or Four-Week) Billed every 4 weeks, this allows for constant feedback and help

Sample Client Assessment Questions:

  • What are your goals? 
  • Are your training for anything in particular? When is it?
  • What is your current workout schedule, including the paces that you are running out?
  • Injuries in the past? Current health?
  • Scheduling: What are your time limitations? What am I working around? What other fitness activities are nonnegotiable?
They Love Me

They Love Me

Running Coach Deliverables

So now that I have the information, what do I give to the clients? What do the plans entail?

What do I create for my clients?

I create a Google Calendar for each client that includes the following:

  • Daily Workout Schedule Based on their Schedules (I include classes that they are taking outside of running as well as when they should take rest days and strengthening and PT days)
  • Workout Descriptions (so that they actually know what is going on!)
  • Paces (Based on abilities and goals)
  • External Links and Printables for get even more from training

You aren't Tired, you are uninspired. Let's get you back on track with running, fitness, and life! Coach Suz @Suzlyfe


Once I Hand Over Their Plans, Then What?

I don’t just cut and run. In a way, I think of myself as a server who has dropped off the food at the table–my job is by no means over! I still need to make sure that they are happy, have what they need (did they drop a knife? need more water?).  My duties include:

  • Race Strategy Consultation
  • Checking in based on their consult schedule
  • Answering questions as they pop up (scheduling changes, questions, concerns, and advice)
  • Cheerleader/Enforcer depending on what the client needs!

Borat Thumbs Up Meme

And then they go out and kick butt!

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the process of hiring and using a running coach! Please let me know if you have any questions or email me if you would like to discuss training! And don’t forget to check out Debbie, Rachel, and Lora today for more great posts from my Running Coaches Corner hosts as well as the other coaches’ posts!

What the heck does a running coach do? @suzlyfe answers! #runchat #fitfluential #runningcoachescorner Click To Tweet

What are you currently training for?

Do you have any questions about the roles of a running coach?

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  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    Oh you know I love my non-running coach, who coaches me to run faster! LOL!

    March 3, 2016 at 6:32 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think that is one of the greatest benefits that I offer my clients–I’m not just a running coach! I incorporate all sorts of things into their training!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:48 pm
  • Reply Niki

    I love the comparison to a server! That I understand. I’ve always been curious about running coaches. Thanks for the details. 🙂

    March 3, 2016 at 6:43 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We are here to serve ;D

      March 3, 2016 at 5:46 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    It’s always fun to find out more about how other coaches operate! I like the idea of the google calendar. I am still using Final Surge but it would be nice to have a free option!

    March 3, 2016 at 6:58 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I tried Final Surge, but I didn’t love it. This might be more cumbersome at times, but I know that there is no confusion on either end.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:47 pm
  • Reply Emily @ My Healthyish Life

    This was fun to read because I can picture you doing it all (amazingly). I think the only question I would have is how to handle the communication, especially when you’re coaching from a long-distance…is it constant texting? email? phone? A mixture?

    March 3, 2016 at 6:58 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Any and all of the above–even facebook messenger. Everyone has a medium that they are comfortable with, so I work with that.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:45 pm
  • Reply Annmarie

    I think running coaches are super important for runners- so many of us don’t even know where to begin or how to start!

    March 3, 2016 at 7:12 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I certainly made my fair share of mistakes! I don’t want my clients to!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:44 pm
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    Oh I love the google calendar idea! I use google sheets for tracking workouts, athlete data, and feedback. It’s so great to have free tools we can utilize!
    I think one of the best parts of a running coach is to have someone to push you to believe in what you’re capable of. Definitely a cheerleader like you said!

    March 3, 2016 at 7:25 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I wish that they gave us pompoms with the certification! There are so many ways of going about it. I tried some apps, but it just wasn’t for me.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:44 pm
  • Reply Rae

    Such a great breakdown of the process, and I thoroughly agree that a running coach is for anyone. I feel like there’s this common misconception that only “serious” or competitive athletes have or need coaches, and it’s so not true. I <3 Coach Suz.

    March 3, 2016 at 7:31 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      😀 Can we clone you?

      March 3, 2016 at 5:43 pm
  • Reply Gretchen

    This is really helpful Suz! I love this whole series and I’m learning so much 🙂

    March 3, 2016 at 7:50 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Whoop! Just trying to spread the edumacation, ya kno’.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:42 pm
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    My non running coach/trainer coaches me for everything and it works really well (usually 🙂 ) I am practice coaching a few friends right now to see how it goes and what I can learn. Everyone can benefit from a coach to get another perspective. Excited to join your link up although I think mine is stuck in moderation for some reason

    March 3, 2016 at 7:57 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hopefully Rachel will save it from purgatory 😀 I love the new perspective coaching has given me for my own training!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:42 pm
  • Reply Ellie

    This is super interesting Suz! Do you mind if I email you a couple questions?

    March 3, 2016 at 8:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      My pleasure–please do!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:41 pm
  • Reply Rachel

    I know some coaches who just cut and run. I don’t. I want to make sure my clients succeed!!

    March 3, 2016 at 8:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is the best part!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:41 pm
  • Reply Chaitali

    This was really helpful, thanks! I’m thinking about doing my first full marathon next year but I wasn’t really sure if coaches would work with first timers (especially really slow ones!) who don’t have a time goal but instead just want to finish in a relatively healthy state.

    March 3, 2016 at 8:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I LOVE working with first timers! Talk to Rae of–she will tell you that she gets as much attention as a “Fast” runner! To me, a runner is a runner is a runner!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:40 pm
  • Reply Suzy

    I always knew you’d be a great coach but after hearing that podcast, you made me realize just how competent and gifted you are. Such a wise little firecracker, and not just smart but inspiring. How you can translate your wisdom over to someone else and ignite a spark at the same time, and then keep that burning. You’re awesome.

    March 3, 2016 at 9:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You are a blessing. You are like the little monkey (in a good way, not a creepy monkey… how about you be Zoe the cat) that nudges me and gives me the thumbs up. And I so need that.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm
  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    This is very helpful I’m sure for so many people. How many people are you coaching now?

    March 3, 2016 at 9:31 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It varies. I have about 8-10 who I work with on a regular basis, but I do consults pretty regularly.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:37 pm
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    Such great advice. I think it’s nice to get an outside opinion, even if you have lots of running or fitness knowledge. Sometimes some perspective is just what you might need.

    March 3, 2016 at 9:39 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I couldn’t agree more, Julie!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:36 pm
  • Reply Mar @ Mar on the Run

    Best decision I ever made was hiring a running coach – oh hey you! – I feel like I am training so much smarter, no matter what the outcome! Great post 🙂

    March 3, 2016 at 9:55 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      OH HEY THERE. You are doing great, and I am just so glad that you are enjoying the process–that was out big goal for you!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:35 pm
  • Reply Smitha @ FauxRunner

    I love(d) my coach – he coached me through to Dopey Challenge and the Ironman 70.3 Augusta.
    Unfortunately, he’s also a little beyond my price point at this time 🙁

    March 3, 2016 at 10:04 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      But he will be there when you are ready again! And those are two great instances to hire a coach!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:35 pm
  • Reply Salt

    I need to have a conversation with you off-blog about some things. I’ve been going back and forth on hiring a coach for a long time and I think I’m finally ready.

    March 3, 2016 at 10:10 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m here whenever you want to chat, my lovely.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:34 pm
  • Reply Denny

    There are SO MANY things we do that are just about impossible to explain, but that server analogy is spot on! I’m definitely stealing that one from you! 😆

    March 3, 2016 at 10:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Seriously, I use it all the time. People understand that instantly!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:33 pm
  • Reply Erin @ Erin's Inside Job

    Nice! If I ever seriously get back into running again, you know you’ll be the first one I call!

    March 3, 2016 at 10:34 am
  • Reply Tamieka

    I have really been considering getting a run coach. I am dealing with arthritis in my left knee and it is really hindering me this year ;(. If I do a half in the Fall, I am 98% sure a coach might be needed. We will see,

    Thanks for the info!

    March 3, 2016 at 10:39 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is such a bummer! There are definitely some things that you can do to help strengthen and work with the arthritis, but I would definitely see the help of a pro so that you don’t do more harm than good, you know?

      March 3, 2016 at 5:30 pm
  • Reply Running…..blah – Fit Balling Running Mom

    […] use run coaches and have great success with them (when they found the right one) and Suzlyfe post today really got me thinking about it a bit more.  I will keep doing some research about it and let you […]

    March 3, 2016 at 10:48 am
  • Reply Lisa @ RunWiki

    Great information! I currently have three running clients who are training for marathons. It’s so rewarding to see and help someone work for a PR.

    I’m personally just easing my way back into running, but since I had to defer from my May marathon last year, I will most likely be running that.

    March 3, 2016 at 12:04 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think that will be great for you to have some thing goal oriented with running again (maybe get the ornery boyfriend to calm down and commit, right?) ;D

      March 3, 2016 at 5:28 pm
  • Reply Julie

    I do not run races but run for fun and to tire out Cocoa, haha. But yesterday I ran 5 miles and it was more than I usually run and it was exhausting. All winter I have not been going more than 3. I think it would be nice to get your view on my training. I will email you!!

    March 3, 2016 at 12:24 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I would love to help out! Sometimes, we just need a set of eyes more experienced than ours to see what is right in front of us.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:25 pm
  • Reply Christine @ Two Runners Travel

    I loved that server analogy. I haven’t ever used a coach but if I run another marathon, I definitely will.

    March 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It can be so beneficial to hire a coach, even if you bring them a plan to critique. Just make sure they take into account your schedule!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:25 pm
  • Reply Beverley @ BORNTOSWEAT

    hahaha, ‘i dont just cut and run.’
    that would be comical to see!
    I didn’t realize there was so much work involved!! Running is such a complex thing, and it’s so awesome that there are people such as yourself that can help others work through plateaus, motivation issues, or anything else thats bothering them. Very similar to personal training!

    March 3, 2016 at 1:11 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      So similar to personal training–we just aren’t always standing over top of you! But sometimes we are, lol.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:24 pm
  • Reply Kaella On The Run

    For all of the reasons above and a million more I’m so happy I decided to hire YOU!!!!

    March 3, 2016 at 1:15 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And I am so, so honored and happy that you chose me!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:23 pm
  • Reply meredith @ Cookie ChRUNicles

    Such an informative coach to understand the why and how it all works when you hire a running coach! thanks

    March 3, 2016 at 1:43 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you! I know that you are working with Laura, and I’m sure that she is amazing!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:21 pm
  • Reply Heather @Fitncookies

    Super helpful post! Love that you remind people that everyone and anyone can use a running coach. Sometimes it’s just that accountability they need (and the fact they are paying for it!!)

    March 3, 2016 at 2:07 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Exactly. And I will tell you, sometimes people pay for it and still don’t do the work, even so! But so often, we just need someone else to make the decisions for us.

      March 3, 2016 at 5:19 pm
  • Reply Michelle

    Someday when I have a normal life, I would love to have you as my coach!

    March 3, 2016 at 2:22 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, even if you have an abnormal life, I would love to work with you!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:19 pm
  • Reply Linda @ Veganosity

    I’m so looking forward to starting my plan in May! 🙂

    March 3, 2016 at 2:44 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m so excited for you! I can’t wait to see how you progress!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:18 pm
  • Reply Eric Nette

    I’ve hired you in the past! Well worth every dime! On a side note, should that image say “you aren’t tired you’re uninspired”? Because it says “unispired”. I’m looking at my taper now, I’m doing quite well and am ahead of schedule! I always appreciate the cheerleading, apparently I need that from someone with your experience!

    March 3, 2016 at 2:44 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Apparently, I WAS tired! lol Thanks for the catch! I’m so proud of you–you’ve done a great job, and you have listened well! I can’t wait to see how you do!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:17 pm
  • Reply Pam

    I love having a coach and she has helped me so much through various marathons and race challenges. It helps alot too that I see her at my group workouts each week and just today I got a great tip about my arms/form. I ran my first 2 years without a coach and while I figured things out on my own, being coached has been way better. I’m sure you do a great job with your clients.

    March 3, 2016 at 3:10 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Pam! I have learned a lot of things the hard way, and I would rather that my clients didn’t!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:13 pm
  • Reply

    I’ve often wondered what exactly you get beside workouts from a running coach. There is so much more than I thought. Very cool on the google calendar idea. It’s no wonder your a great coach!

    March 3, 2016 at 3:25 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Tricia! I love what I do!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:11 pm
  • Reply Kristy @ Southern In Law

    I feel like you have such an important job – especially for those running with an end goal in mind (like a marathon!). Too many people just jump right into running or training for a marathon and either go too hard and end up injuring themselves – or they give up halfway through because they’re lacking the motivation!

    March 3, 2016 at 4:14 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I try not to over state my importance, but I think that it can very easy be understated–there are times when I have to pick people back up off the ground, or help them totally regroup. And then when it comes to going after PRs and new distances, whewf!

      March 3, 2016 at 5:10 pm
  • Reply Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs

    Everybody can use a running coach!And I love “Cheerleader/Enforcer depending on what the client needs. So true. Good coaches know what the client needs from them.

    March 3, 2016 at 5:53 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And sometimes, they need a bit of both (that is definitely a hard learned skill!)

      March 4, 2016 at 1:09 pm
  • Reply Favorite links 3/5 - Prepare For Adventure

    […] Mistake 1: not having a customized plan. I tried following some plan I found on the internet and ended up injured about a month before the race (probably due to multiple factors). While a free plan might be a good starting point, you need to be able to modify it for your specific needs. I was fairly new to running at the time and had no idea how to do this, or even that I needed to do it. In retrospect, I’d tell my past self to fit customized training into my budget. While 1-on-1 coaching is expensive, if you can afford running shoes, you can probably afford at least a customized training plan. And if you think running coaches are only for competitive runners, check out this article on what a running coach actually does. […]

    March 5, 2016 at 1:42 pm
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