9 benefits of working with a coach

Neon sign saying Work Harder

Last week I posted that I had decided to work with Solent Athlete this year in the run-up to ABP Southampton Half Marathon.  This raised a few questions about why I was working with a coach when I’m a member of a running club (and a couple of tri clubs), so I thought I’d deal with those questions here and share what I perceive to be the benefits of working with a coach

Why I work with a coach


First up is motivation. I’m pretty good at motivating myself, but it’s always good to have someone who is your cheerleader.

Group support

This links closely with my first point. I’m working with a group who have a common goal, so although we might be aiming for different times, we all have the same deadline. (To be fair, I can also train with a group with any of the clubs that I belong to, but we tend to be grouped by ability rather than by goal – this can have its benefits, but they could fill an entire post on their own!)

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Dee and Carmen pacing each other at the track © Solent Athlete


Having to report back to someone on your progress can be a great extrinsic motivator. If I don’t turn up to a club session, none of the coaches there will ask where I’ve been, whereas if I don’t turn up for a workout with Coach Olly, he’ll want to know why and will expect a good reason, not an excuse!


“If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut when running. I know a few drills (that I don’t do consistently), but I tend to do similar sessions. With Solent Athlete, I’m learning new drills to perfect my technique. It’s also a chance for me to challenge what I learnt on my UKA coaching course – in ‘running for speed’ we were taught about foot dorsiflexion, however, pose running suggests that a relaxed foot is preferable as it discourages heel-striking.

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We might look like extras from Dawn of the Dead, but we’re actually working our cores here to remain stable!

An objective viewpoint

Another of the benefits of working with a coach is that he gives me unbiased feedback on what I’m doing. I get feedback based on expert knowledge and experience rather than the opinions of my friends and family, which aren’t always based on evidence! (Lots of my lovely friends who aren’t particularly into any sports think that I train an excessive amount; in contrast, I think that they spend an excessive amount of time in the pub or on other activities – a coach knows what a healthy balance is!)


Working with a coach who knows me well means that every session has the right level of difficulty. If I train on my own, I sometimes slack off, but working with a coach means that each session has a specific goal.

One of the benefits of working with a coach - there's someone to take a photo of me running around the track.
Doing 200m reps on the coldest day of the year (-5C/25F) ©Solent Athlete

Defining realistic goals

Coach Olly ensures that I set realistic goals. Left to my own devices, I would be happy to race every other weekend. My coach ensures that I don’t compete too often and then even if I have entered events that I approach them with a sensible strategy so that I clearly know which races are my A races and which ones are merely preparation points.

Reducing over-training and the risk of injury

Many clubs provide a multitude of sessions to meet the differing needs of their members, but it’s not the responsibility of the club to oversee how many sessions a member completes. As someone who is a member of Lordshill Road Runners, Southampton Tri Club, SUTRI and SURC, as well as being an ABP Southampton Half Marathon Sunday Runday Leader, there are many sessions that I can take part in each week.

Coach Olly oversees my training schedule and ensures that I am not over-training. I get bored very easily and when the choice is between an evening out training with friends (which is what counts as my social life) or an evening slumped in front of the TV with laundry and cooking for light relief, I know which I’d prefer. Olly makes sure that I have rest days and don’t have repeated tough training days… or at least, he tries, but this is an area where I’m a bit wayward! (I know this is detrimental to my improvement, but sometimes I need to prioritise my mental health!)

Proper warm-up and cool down

Another advantage of working with a coach is that every session starts with a proper warm up and cool down that is based on our needs and the type of session we have done. (A good coach will also do this in a club session, but if the group is large then it can be hard for a single instructor to check on everyone’s technique). I know how to do a proper warm up and cool down, but will admit that if I need to do a long run, I quite often head out of the door and assume that if I keep a steady pace for the first five minutes then that’s enough… and if I get home cold and wet then the stretching is often neglected!

Do you work with a coach? What do you see as the benefits of working with a coach?

So, what have I been doing this week?

On Monday, I did a one-hour swim session with Southampton Tri Club. As it’s the start of the year, quite a few new people are turning up to try sessions. This has pros and cons – it’s great that new people want to join the club, [and it may help me to move up if they’re slower than me], but it also means that the lanes are more congested as people try to figure out lane etiquette and where we should all position ourselves.

My first session with Solent Athlete was on Tuesday evening. (I’m currently signed up for the Ready to Race Running Course and as we’re only a week in, it’s still possible to sign up.) It was great to meet Dee and Carmen who had arrived there before me [I planned to run or cycle as the sports centre is near to my house, but as it was bitterly cold, I chose to drive]. We did quite a few drills, including one that made us look like zombies (see picture above). Some people argue that there’s a tendency to overthink running, but so many of us have learned bad habits that it’s good to get back to running in a more natural fashion that should help to keep me pain-free.

The planned set was 200m intervals with timed recoveries, but as it was the coldest day of the year, we replaced the recoveries with some walking/jogging between each set. I run in shorts and t-shirt in almost all weather conditions. I brought a bag to the track with a light running jacket, intending to replace my hoodie with the jacket after my warm u, but for the first time ever I did an entire training session with a hoodie on.

Informal run with Sarah

Wednesday was probably meant to be a rest day, but I usually run with my work colleague Sarah. We have been meeting up with others from Southampton Tri Club for an informal interval session on The Common, so that was what we did. Like two weeks ago, we did 300m reps; unlike two weeks ago, I felt fine and wasn’t worried about fainting. I really should have listened to my body, but I didn’t realise I was ill. I just thought I was unfit through lack of training!

After we did 6x300m, Sarah and I went for a steady run around the top of The Common. On Tuesday evening, Stuart had lost a buff (neck gaiter) whilst out running. I wanted to see whether it was there, but I didn’t hold out much hope. I was so pleased to spot it at the top of the hill. It was a little muddy, but otherwise unscathed 🙂


It was my second coaching session on Wednesday evening, so I wrapped up well. I wore two pairs of running tights, a base layer, a long-sleeved top, a buff, two running jackets and two pairs of gloves. I looked like the Michelin man but stayed warm for the duration of the session.

My second session with Solent Athlete was on Thursday evening. We were joined by four others for the warm-up and drills, which made it a very sociable session. The main set was 800m reps, which I find really hard to pace. I can do 200m, 400m and 5k, but am not good at the bits in between!

Friday night was a recovery night as I’m still not fully fit and yesterday I did Netley Abbey parkrun. I then finished off the week with another fantastic Sunday Runday. It didn’t work out quite as planned. Laura and I stopped to help a runner who needed to finish early and then managed to lose our group, but it was a lovely run anyway!

I’ve realised that I’ve failed to take many photos this week, so that’s something that I’ll work on next week!

9 Responses

  1. This post just reaffirmed that I need to get a coach! I do need it though, because I really do want to compete, not just slow-poke my way through races.

    • You won’t regret it… you just need to make sure that you find the right coach for you. If that’s not possible then joining a club or team can really help as there will be lots of people who can share their experience with you. 🙂

    • It’s great to have a cheer-leader who will push you, but not break you. If finances don’t allow, at least try to find a group of similar ability athletes so that you feel accountable to each other. Good luck! 🙂

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