How Personalized Training Plans and Coaching Can Help You Reach Your Running Goals

coaching-ad-2

If I were to tell you that all runners need a coach to complete their first ultramarathon, I’d be lying.

I didn’t have one, after all.

But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have seen major benefits from personalized plans. And I know I would have benefited from the coaching.

Back in January, I released Discover Your Ultramarathon: A Beginner’s Guide to Running an UltramarathonIt has been a total blast hearing from runners all over the world that used the guide to run successful races. The general guidebook and training plans have been working.

And that makes me one very happy runner.

But I’ve also been hearing from runners who need more.

Not because the guide, interviews, and training plans aren’t thorough enough, but because they want someone to be there when they have questions. Someone to motivate them when training gets hard. And someone to create a training plan to perfectly fit their goals and race needs.

They wanted a personalized plan and a coach to assist them throughout training.

So it got me thinking. How can I best help runners train smart, race well, and run successful trail races and ultramarathons?

The only answer was to start offering what people told me they needed.

So I enrolled in a coaching course with USATF (USA Track and Field), spoke with other coaches, and really dialed in on my own experience running and training for ultramarathons.

I could have started offering these services long ago, but I wanted to first make sure I was fully prepared for every unique situation. If a runner is going to put their trust in me, I wanted to be ready.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s take a step back and talk about the benefits of coaches and personalized plans.

How a Coach Can Help You Train Smarter

Like I said before, not all runners need or want a coach. Those runners might feel completely fine using generic plans and figuring the rest out on their own.

But that’s not the case for everyone. For many runners, general information isn’t enough. They want things like:

  • Proven advice when training questions arise
  • Someone to lend support and hold them accountable
  • Training plans built just for their needs and goals
  • The ability to change course if training takes a turn

These are just a few examples of what a coach can do for runners.

There’s nothing wrong with going at it alone, but having a coach supporting you through the training process is guaranteed to make for a better, more successful experience.

Personalized Trail and Ultra Training Plans and Coaching

That’s what all this boils down to, making sure you have the best and most successful training and racing experience possible. That’s what I strive for with Discover Your Ultramarathon, and that’s what I know will be possible through the personalized plans and coaching.

Starting today, I’m taking Discover Your Ultramarathon to the next level.

The guidebook will still be available on its own, but I’m now offering personalized training plans, designed specifically for you and your goals, as well as one-on-one coaching.

In other words, you can now get Discover Your Ultramarathon and a coach all at once.

Click here to find out exactly how it works, the different plans, and exactly how I plan to help you train for your first or next ultramarathon or trail race.

And because it’s launch week and I’m so excited to get started, this week only I’m offering the plans at a 15% discount. That sale will end at midnight on Sunday, July 27th.

I know the idea of having a coach might feel new to some of you, so if you have any questions or hesitations, you should always feel free to contact me directly.

Find out how I can help you train smarter, run longer, and reach your goals here.

This is going to be fun.

3 Must-Do Drills for Trail Runners

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Do you remember your first trail run?

I do.

I came home exhausted, with dirty shoes, sore ankles, and a stubbed big toe. Immediately I knew I wanted more, but unfortunately I had no idea what I was doing.

So what I decided to do was to keep going back, pushing a little too hard, getting a little too dirty, and continuing to annoy my ankles, toes, and knees.

Instead, what I should have done, is realize that trail running is a different sport than road running, and needs to be treated as such.

It requires the use of different muscles and challenges your balance and stability in new ways.

If I was smart, I would have started training for the new sport instead of jumping in head first with serious risk of injury.

Now don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get excited about trails like I did. Nor am I saying you should avoid them (in fact, I’m constantly pushing for the opposite!).

But what I am saying is that when you start running trails, begin by learning the differences between roads and trails, and prep yourself for those differences.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest differences between roads and trails on the body is the use of new muscles in the feet, ankles, knees, and legs. To prep for that, I suggest to all new trail runners that they practice certain drills to build strength and technique.

But this advice doesn’t apply just to runners new to trails. We should all keep up with drills, even after years of experience.

Why Keeping Up With Drills Is Important

After awhile, once you’re comfortable running trails and dealing with uneven ground, it’s easy to fall into the routine of lacing up your shoes and hitting the trail without doing any sort of continued strength work.

I know because it happens to me.

I don’t particularly enjoy doing drills. They aren’t nearly as fun as running quickly through the woods or soaking in an overlook, so why spend my workout time hopping around?

Let me answer with a story.

Last week, while running down a steep hill towards the end of a 9 mile loop, I landed awkwardly on a loose rock. My ankle twisted, plunging me forward while I let out a yelp. Finding myself on the ground confused by what happened, I jumped up to keep going, but was immediately halted due to a sharp pain in my left ankle.

Expletive.

I wobbled around the near vertical trail trying to walk it off.

Many more expletives.

After a few minutes I tried running, but just a few steps later was reduced to walking. I hobbled another half mile before I could start jogging the last few hundred meters to my car.

Upon arriving home I immediately employed the R-I-C-E treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for a few hours, and by the end of the day the pain had subsided and I was able to walk without much discomfort.

Thankfully I dodged that bullet, but it was an immediate reminder that I need to take care of myself.

I need to continue to work the muscles tested on the trail, and not just by testing them on the trail but with targeted drills.

3 Drills for Trail Runners

Here are my 3 favorite drills that work the appropriate muscles for trail runners. Practice them often.

1) Hops

Benefits: Builds leg strength and agility.

Instructions: Find a picnic table, bench, or set of stairs. Place feet hip distance apart and drive from your lower legs to hop up onto the platform. Land on the balls of your feet. Complete 2-4 sets of 5 jumps once or twice a week.

This is an easy drill to perform when you just have a few minutes, plus you look wicked cool hopping up on a picnic table.

2) Four Square Drill

Benefits: Builds ankle and knee strength and durability, and trains agility and quick foot placements.

Directions: Draw a 2ft x 2ft square on the ground. Jump with both feet together from the center to outside the square and back to center. Rotate between all four sides. Repeat in opposite direction.

After completing the drill with two feet, repeat using only one foot at a time.

If it’s good enough for Mike Wolfe (featured in this video), it’s most certainly good enough for me.

3) Bounding

Benefits: Builds explosiveness in the legs, corrects running form, and improves your uphill running technique.

Directions: Take long strides while running, concentrating on getting the knees up high and really exploding off the back leg. Run for roughly 100 meters. Repeat two or three times.

This is a classic running drill, used by sprinters and distance runners alike. It also is a great drill for trail runners.

BONUS: Hill Running

This one isn’t really a drill, but I just can’t leave it out. Hill workouts are important for all runners, but even more so for trail runners, mostly because trails are often littered with hills.

The best way to feel strong and comfortable running both up and down hills on the trail is to practice. Once a week, add a few repeats on a tough trail hill after your run. The uphill will help build explosive strength as you climb, and proper downhill technique will add to strength in the knees and legs.

And the mental and physical comfort you gain from practicing on the hills will having a lasting impact on your daily runs.

Now it’s your turn. Do you practice drills regularly? Which are your favorite?

Reminder: Custom Plans and Coaching Announcement

coaching_adJust a quick reminder about last week’s announcement that Rock Creek Runner will start offering trail and ultramarathon custom training plans and coaching! I’m finalizing all the details and goodies as we speak, but everything is on schedule to launch early next week.

The goal of this new offer is to take Discover Your Ultramarathon to a new level, and have a more hands on approach when assisting the runners that want that custom touch reach their unique ultramarathon goals.

If you’re considering an ultramarathon or trail race, and want to be the first to receive information on how you can run a strong and smart race through custom training and coaching, sign up now.

Don’t forget that those who express interest early get a very special thank you: A 15% discount on RCR training plans and coaching. For life. Plus an even more special offer to be announced once everything goes live next week. Neither of these offers will be available to those who don’t sign up ahead of time, so sign up now!

Friday Footnotes: Unplugged

Ed Note: This week’s Friday Footnotes was written by DC based running blogger Jamie Corey

iPhone, check. Headphones, check. GPS watch, check.

I don’t even put on my running shoes until all these items are accounted for.

Once I make the mile-run to the closest trailhead, I find every tree trunk, log or rock on the edge of the path—I’m trying to locate a spot to rest my iPhone on the ground so I can take a decent “runfie,” a selfie of me running.

Meanwhile, music blares through my headphones as my feet hit the dirt. I keep the volume low enough so that I can still hear my GPS beep every mile to inform me of my pace.

When I finally see the perfect tree trunk, I turn my timer app on and run away from my phone, then back toward it to capture a shot of me running.

I make sure the picture is okay, which it’s not, so I try again.

As soon as I capture a better picture, I keep running.

Jamie Selfie(1)A few minutes later, an all too familiar song comes on my playlist and I stop to find a new one. I don’t see anything I like on any of my playlists and decide a podcast fits my mood better.

I keep running.

My GPS beeps to inform me I’ve reached another mile. Looks like I’m halfway done. I turn around.

A few minutes later, I come across the perfect background for an unplanned runfie. I stop to grab another picture. “That’s the shot,” I think to myself.

I get back to my apartment and look at my phone to see the numerous runfies I took. I immediately upload it to Instagram and think of something clever to put in the description of the photo.

As I walk up the stairs to my apartment building, I look down and realize my watch is still tracking my run. I stop and save the workout and it tells me my splits were negative.

The satisfaction of this run doesn’t come from these negative splits though, it comes from how awesome my runfie was.

Since entering the online running community a few years ago, I’ve been lured me into logging nearly every run with a picture or tweet.

On one hand, I believe my online presence has opened up several doors for me. I’m now a contributing writer for a local running magazine and numerous running websites. But on the other hand, I’ve lost sight of the real goal—enjoying a run all on its own.

After realizing several weeks ago that negative splits don’t satisfy me more than a good runfie does, I decided to do something.

Leaving the Technology Behind

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOn National Running Day, I made a resolution to “unplug.” I took my GPS watch off my arm, left the headphones tangled up on my dresser and took one last look at my phone to see what the time was before heading out.

As I reached the trailhead a mile into my run, I wasn’t looking for the perfect tree trunk, log or rock on the edge of the trail. The trail looked like a completely different forest to me. I could hear the sound of the birds chirping in my ears and saw the large, green, leafy trees surrounding me from every angle.

Every step I took felt like I was becoming more in tune with the environment around me.

I felt naked without my headphones and GPS watch but more importantly, I felt free. I didn’t need the sound of a podcast or playlist to distract me. I was letting nature take me on the run.

The weeks to follow, I began setting aside more and more days to be unplugged. I craved the sound of water moving through the creek more than I did a good podcast.

It seems these days many of us can’t enjoy a good meal or run without capturing a picture of the experience. But how do we enjoy the actual experience if we don’t take the time to enjoy it in the moment.

Capturing runs with pieces of technology has its place, but unplugging does as well. Everything in life has its balance—social media runners are allowed balance, too.

Jamie Corey is a marathoner and the writer behind the D.C. based running blog Run the District. She’s also a columnist for RunWashington, Active Life DC, and Active.com. Follow all those columns and more on twitter @DCRunster.

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