RRCA run coaching & weekend in Florida

I began toying with the idea of coaching a while ago and became serious about it last year. If I could pick a “dream job,” coaching runners would be it. We’re told to do something we love and we’ll never “work” a day. Well, that’s coaching to me.

  • I love running and am passionate about it. Seriously, I’m such a nerd. I could talk about running forever! It makes me happy.
  • Somewhere along the way, people started asking me for advice. I knew I’d love to have the credentials to help and program them.
  • I educate myself wherever possible, reading any book or article I get my hands on.
  • I love to watch people succeed and reach their goals.
  • I’ve been running 10 years, all self-coached, so I’ve seen all the ups and downs. I also know what it’s like to start with no experience and not be able to jog 10 seconds without getting winded. No joke.
  • Running translates into life. It builds confidence and shows us we are capable of achieving any goal we set. Our life is ours to design.
  • I like to help others.

After considering everything above, I figured why not go for it. By June 2016, the RRCA classes were full for the year. They are known for being hard to get into.

Day 1. Those bananas though. At that point they should’ve been bread…

In December, new classes opened for 2017. They’re held around the country, but living in Bismarck, North Dakota poses extra travel considerations. I could fly direct into Orlando, so that’s the location I chose. I bit the bullet and registered for the course, along with flight and hotel.

This was a huge leap of faith. I’ve never traveled across the country alone and navigated the entire trip on my own, let alone spend a huge chunk of change – $325 for the class, plus flight, hotel, and transportation costs. We’re talking around $1,400 all in. Sometimes you have to just go for it and pursue your dream.

They are a reputable organization with chapters around the country. The course curriculum is thorough – they touch on all aspects of running and are focused on ALL runners, from newbies to ultra-marathoners. All their certified coaches undergo classroom instruction, pass a test, and are first aid and CPR-certified. Their coaches have access to resources within the coaching community, including being connected to other coaches.

I flew out of Fargo last Friday. Class was eight hours both Saturday and Sunday. I flew back early Monday morning. PHEW! I knew this trip would be equal parts exciting and exhausting. I’m also training for Boston, and training stops for no trip, so I had 30 miles to get in while I was there, too.

On Friday, my flight got in at 3 p.m. I grabbed a cab from the airport to my hotel in Altamonte Springs. Since I didn’t know anything about the area, I wanted to get my 15-miler in during daylight, so a little dehydrated and under-fueled, I changed and immediately headed out.

It was a pleasant change to wear shorts and a tank top. I could tell I was seriously under-fueled. At mile 8, I started to get a little light-headed, but I gutted it out. After, I walked to Whole Foods to get fuel and groceries for the weekend.

From my 15-miler: almost passed out from lack of water/food, but hey, check the views!

The next morning, class began at 8 a.m. I arrived a few minutes late because my Uber driver took me on an impromptu tour of the Orlando suburbs. The class was a mixed group – both genders, all ages and experience levels. Our instructors were Cari Setzler and Brent Ayer.

Cari is an accomplished runner (3:02 marathoner) with loads of coaching experience and a biting sense of humor. Her personality was great – knowledgeable and engaging. Brent, also an accomplished runner (2:36 marathoner), filled in the gaps and helped Cari teach.

Our course materials educated us on so many topics.

  • Physiology – loads of information on this
  • Types of running: fartlek, tempo, strides, hills, intervals, conversation pace, etc.
  • Types of runners and their individual needs
  • Building a periodized program
  • Case studies (writing programs)
  • The business of coaching – legal, ethics, etc.
  • Cross-training, stretching, and staying healthy
  • Sports psychology
  • Nutrition and nutrient timing
  • Running form
  • Injuries
  • History of coaching
  • Heat/altitude running

Saturday’s class flew. It was interesting hearing the concepts from two experienced runners and coaches. Everyone learned a lot, whether they’ve been running for years or just started; however, I can see the benefit of having years of running underneath my belt. If I was a beginner, I would’ve been overwhelmed with the content and amount of information!

Learning the science behind it all was interesting and helped connect the dots. VO2 max, lactate threshold, cellular adaptations, muscle fiber recruitment, aerobic capacity, and energy transfer were some of the concepts we learned.

After class, I ran 8 miles, a more relaxed run since I was familiar with the area after my 15-miler the day before.

It was so warm I had to wait until after class to run. It was gorgeous.

Sunday was focused heavily on case studies and writing training plans, which was good to have the experience and be guided. We reviewed a lot of the information and asked a ton of questions. We worked with our classmates on writing plans, which was fun and interesting to learn their reasoning and ideas. My brain was FULL by the time class ended.

Afterwards, I headed out for a 7-miler. In total, I ran 30 miles while I was there. That’s the most mileage I’ve ever put in while away from home. I’d say “on vacation” but this wasn’t really a vacation.

Some important takeaways from the weekend:
Running is a very individual sport; each person is different. Take yourself for example: what works for your running partner won’t necessarily work for you. Even our day-to-day is different. We all have good and bad days, periods of life where we lose/gain fitness, etc. ‘One size fits all’ does not apply.

It’s important, and worth it, to hire a coach.

  • It’s impossible to see yourself objectively. Especially as runners, we are stubborn, sometimes crazy, individuals who do dumb things like run through injuries. It’s helpful to have an outside view to guide us. Runners are the perfect example of “do as I say, not as I do.”
  • A coach is a built-in support team. They write an individualized plan for you, taking into account your schedule, mileage, past injuries, goals, etc.
  • During training, your coach will work with you to make sure the plan is still working. If it’s not, they will adjust it accordingly.
  • Even coaches hire coaches!

After going through class, I’m inspired to hire a coach for Chicago. I’m using Hanson’s Marathon Method for Boston and I like it, but it’s no replacement for having a coach program for YOU instead of a cookie cutter program you find in a book.

Now what?
I’ll test within 30 days of class and have 60 days to submit my CPR and first aid certification. I am so excited to become certified so I can start helping runners achieve their goals.


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