Taking a Breather from Having a Running Coach

Stopping to smell (and take a selfie with!) the roses was actually an excuse to take a break during a recent rough run.

We enlisted the help of a postpartum doula after our twins were born. Every other night, the doula—Deana—would spend the night at our house, watching over our babies (while folding laundry!) or quietly soothing a crying baby until its twin sibling awoke, when she would bring them to me to be fed. Tucked up in the sloped-ceiling suite of our renovated attic, Deana and I would talk and laugh as I breastfed my babies; I felt as supported and loved as I imagined my twin babies did. After the babes were done nursing, I’d go back to sleep while Deana changed, swaddled, and soothed them back to sleep.

Having Deana meant I got a reprieve every other night. In addition, Deana was like a professional parent, teaching my husband, Jack, and me how to “stretch” the babies so they didn’t want to feed every 45 minutes, how to usher them back to sleep faster, how to nudge the twins toward a schedule. As the agreed-upon three months of doula-help drew to a close, I felt sad and slightly panicky, but Jack and I had decided pre-twins, we’d only employ a doula for three months. As I hugged Deana after her last night with us, she said, “You’re my only client who actually stuck to the agreed-upon time commitment; everyone else always begs me to stay around longer.”

Lovely natural vistas, cloudy sky, a comfortable pace, and a pre-run lake swim made for smiles on Sunday's run.

This scenario has played itself out in my mind a lot these past few weeks, as I come the end of seven glorious months of having a running coach, Briana. I had worked with Bri in 2014 when I qualified for Boston Marathon, and she was the person I called for comfort and encouragement as I trembled on a hospital gurney awaiting the results of my ankle X-rays in May 2015. When the time came to train for Boston, there was no doubt who would help me get through the training—and those hilly 26.2 miles.

Agility drills, strengthening routines, dynamic flexibility sequences: All these tools from Bri’s arsenal, plus smart, effective miles. After the mid-April marathon, I counted on Bri to prep me sanely and safely to accompany a friend on a 20-mile training run. When that endeavor was over, thoughts of “what’s next?” pinged around in my brain. Sure, I wanted another training goal, but mainly I wasn’t ready to run a Bri-free workout. So Bri and I teamed up to prep and push me toward a speedy 10K race. On that overcast evening on July 9, Bri’s magical combination of drills + smart miles helped me nab first in my age group, but I missed my time goal by 4 seconds.

In the aptly named Freedom Cap by Saucony, I decided to take a respite for a training schedule.

Since then I’ve vacillated on whether to be #coachedandloved by Bri for another 10K in an effort to get that 50:xx finish I had been striving for. Or maybe to go for a 1:50-ish half-marathon. I found a few races that worked with my calendar, but my heart didn’t surge when I contemplated them. I finally confessed all of this to Bri. Part of her reply:

“Every goal, no matter how big or small, has to start with you wanting it. At the end of the day, it has to excite you. It only becomes truly successful when it comes from you!  There is fun in trying to hit a time; there is also fun in taking a break and just enjoying no pressing date on the calendar.”

I’ve felt my commitment to challenging workouts wane in the last week or so: I skipped a strength series after Saturday’s run; I blew off a run-barre-class-run sequence in favor of an ambling run; I didn’t sweat it when I started tempo segments a few seconds late or ended them early. All heresy to this usually ardent, rule-following coachee!

So I am bidding Bri good-bye like I did with Deana nearly 11 years ago. The farewell isn’t as permanent as it was with our doula, though: While I’m certain I’ll never have another set of newborn twins, I’ll most definitely push myself toward another heady running goal—and I’ll want my beloved coach to help me reach it.

How about you: Have you ever worked with a running coach?

6 responses to “Taking a Breather from Having a Running Coach

  1. I hired a coach for my first full marathon- I’m currently training for MCM. I knew I needed a good training plan and sage advice to get me there. I feel like it has been a really wise decision.

  2. Forget the running! I’m totally impressed that you had a night nurse after having babies!!! That was my dream because I tend to suffer from major PPD and anxiety. But the funds weren’t there, so my husband completely took over night duty and I slept on another floor of the house. He saved my sanity. Sarah, you are such a wise mother and runner!

  3. I think when you find yourself having a hard time getting fired up for the idea of a race or a workout that it’s a good time to step back and take a break. I made myself do that in January – partly because of a nagging injury – aud it was just the right thing to do. It was tough watching everyone on social media start new 2016 goals and pound out miles without me, but I ended up spending more time doing the things I’d always vowed to do: ski, snowshoe, and just HAVE FUN on the runs when I did start reincorporating them. You’ve had a really big and full year, SBS!

  4. This year is my first being #coachedand loved. It’s phenomenally calming. I give my all to the prescribed workouts and I don’t fight the list of don’ts. That being said, I also feel like listening to the podcasts with SBS and the various guest hosts is another way of coaching. I feel like you’re on my run with me and you truly care about helping me be the best mother runner I can be.

  5. So… I did that too, kind of. I decided that it was ok to take a break. Last year I did TONS of races and completed my first marathon. After the marathon I did not find running fun anymore. Since then I have struggled to find my running happy. I want it. Just can’t seem to locate it. I am thinking I waited too long to get back on the saddle. I have started and stopped so many times. I do have a race on the calendar for November. It took me months to even sign up for that one. I guess my question is once you are done with that break how to do get “that love and feeling” back again?

  6. Ha! I have just this am emailed my coach to say I’m taking a break. Just like you I had noticed my enthousiasm for individual workouts waning until last week I stopped a workout after 2 minutes. I haven’t run a mile since. Today I feel the urge to go out and listen to AMR and I love doing that while running – but I will run as long as I want to, not as I need to. I have had a few coaches and they have ALL helped me, taught me stuff and made me a better runner and person. Right now though, I think I need to figure out what I want to do without being outwardly accountable – by seeing what comes from within. I’m pretty confident I’ll be back at it – when a goal appears that I am genuinely, honestly, excited by. Until then – I am just going to run as and when I want to. Scary – I haven’t done this for 13 years – but about time.

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