Compared to 20 years ago, thanks to the internet, the amount of information about running is rampant. Training schedules and plans can be easily found, help and information is just a click away… But herein also lays the danger. Not all the available info is correct. I would even say that the majority of all the information about running is incorrect. I have seen people who just started running a year ago suddenly proclaim to be experts and elite coaches, and offer their knowledge to beginning runners.
Generic Training Schedules
One of the basic problems is the availability of the free (for some you even have to pay for or are included with a paid version of a running app), generic training schedules. These plans offer a basic guidance and often just mention to run a certain distance slow, medium or fast, without specifying what is slow, medium or fast is. This also differs a lot from runner to runner, even for the elite athletes. An 11-second 100m is slow for Bolt (World Record holder 100m) but fast for Kipchoge (World Record holder marathon). At the same time, Kipchoge thinks a 30-minute 10k is a jog, while Bolt would not be able to hit the 35-minute mark.
Other training plans (mostly those connected to apps and watches) talk about Heart Rate zones. Again this is very personal and the exact zones for individual runners can only be determined after specific running tests.
Both types of pacing can lead to under- or overtraining.
On top of that, these schedules are fixed and do not take the condition and the progression of the individual athletes in account.
A step up from the generic schedules are the computer-generated ones. Most of them have a whole bunch of algorithms and maybe some AI behind them. They are an improvement, but still, some crucial elements are missing. How about the external influences on a run? Weather, work, stress, sleep, etc. A one hour 10k might be a slow run, but after a night with not much sleep because the baby was crying all the time and a day of stress at work because of a deadline, that same run might feel like torture. Relaying that information before the run to a coach would give the opportunity to make some adjustments to the schedule, which is 99% of the time not possible with these schedules.
The best way to go is with a coach because there will be a personal interaction by another human being, who understands that there will be good and bad days, who can motivate you and drag you through your bad days and who encourages you on the good ones. But again, there are some coaches out there, who will just sell you some generic schedules, who have no experience (either as a coach or as a runner) and think that just because they were able to go from zero to marathon runner in a year, everyone can do the same by following the exact same schedule. If you are new to running yourself, you might fall for their “sales pitches” and go with their schedules (which probably are available from free somewhere else).
When you decide to go with a coach, check what they stand for, what their methods are and how they work. For most coaches, this is available on their website or social media. If that information is not there or they are reluctant to give it, that should raise a red flag. We go one step further and have no problem in bringing you in contact with our athletes who can tell you what they think about us.
By Gert Rijkx, founder and head coach of QuadraCoach. Former athlete and certified athletics coach with over 25 years of experience in coaching, training and motivating runners of all levels