Runners Connect: An online running coach

When I joined the Clapham Chasers five years ago, I quickly developed a network of friends who love running, and talking about running, as much as I do, and who know the science bit behind making you a faster and more efficient runner.  They also like a drink (or seven) so it worked out rather well really.

I’ve been lucky to have people around me who have been incredibly supportive through the highs and the lows, by putting training plans together for me and pacing me to PB’s.  However, I can’t help but feel like a burden and, more often than not, I feel like I let them down when I miss my goals (which happens A LOT).

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Recently, I’ve been introduced to Runners Connect who offer runners bespoke online coaching programmes within a community of people who simply love to run.  Based on the principle that runners tend to do their best when supported by others, they created a community that connects people with other runners across the globe, to motivate and inspire, however you may be feeling.

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How does it work?

Founded in 2011, Runners Connect have a team of expert coaches that help you to train smarter, stay healthy and run faster based on your current running ability and your goals.

There are three options you can choose to get you started:

  1. Just a schedule
    • This is the basic package that gives you a customised training schedule without the coaching support, or community access
  2. Team coaching
    • The next level up, this offers a custom training plan, plus access to a supportive community and team of coaches to get feedback, answer questions, and help you adjust your schedule
  3. 1 on 1 coaching
    • This is the premium and most comprehensive package that allows you to work exclusively with one of the coaches. Your coach will write your training plan in 3-4 week blocks which is adjusted based on your feedback

Once you’ve chosen your package, you’re asked to give as much information as possible about your running history, experience, current level of fitness and your goals.  The more you can tell them, the better your experience will be.  I’ve already learned it’s best to be honest about your current training if you want to get the most out of it, they really don’t judge you at all!

Basically, don’t claim to be like this…

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…if you’re currently running more like this….like me

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Your training plan is built around your preferences, lifestyle, and other commitments.  So, if you prefer your long run on a Friday, and you always do weight training on a Monday, your coach will build this into your plan.  This is my favourite aspect because my life doesn’t always work to a schedule and I really need that flexibility without feeling like I’m having to compromise.

When you log into your account you’re taken to your dashboard where you’re given your training plan for the week and can upload your activity either manually, or by linking to Strava.  You also have the option to add comments if you were feeling good/tired/strong etc which gives the coaches some added insight into how your training is going.

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There’s clear guidance on the pace you should be targeting depending on what type of run is scheduled for the day such as ‘easy’ or general’, and why you should be running at that pace.  You also get regular contact from your coach and they soon get in touch if you haven’t been logging your runs to make sure everything is OK (so, no hiding…)

Depending on your membership, you also get access to a ‘newsfeed’ which allows you to see what your fellow runners are up to and what they’re thinking & feeling so you can share your experiences and support each other.

It’s worth having a good look round the site too as there are lots of blog articles and podcasts to listen to on all things running!

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If you’ve found yourself in a bit of a training rut, or are unsure as to how to get fitter or faster or achieve your goals, I can recommend giving this a try.  I always find that a good motivational technique for me is to tell other people what my goals are, that way I’m more accountable, and Runners Connect is a great way to do this within a supportive environment.

No matter what your current fitness level is or what you want to achieve, they have the right people to help you get there.  I’ve been impressed!

I was invited to try Runners Connect as a guest, as always, all views are my own.

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You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and, when it comes to fitness, I can definitely concur.  I’m not sure how much time I had off from running, but I think it was a good 3 months of doing very little, including an entire month off exercise completely, whilst recovering from foot surgery.  If nothing else, I’ve learned that I genuinely had no idea how fit I actually was.

When you constantly surround yourself with people who do more exercise, and more running, and more EVERYTHING, than you do, it’s easy to forget that what you’re doing yourself is actually far from ordinary.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t, at the very least, half marathon fit, if not marathon fit, and be able to not only run the distance, but race it in a time that was better than average, even though I was never happy with my time!

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Coming back from an injury that has set me right back to square one has been challenging on many levels.  How exactly do you motivate yourself to do something that has become so difficult and laboured unenjoyable and, quite frankly, hard work?  It’s a bit like dragging yourself to a hardcore tempo session that you know you need to do, but the difference is, there’s no reward.  There’s no reward to sending yourself out on a run that’s not only half the distance than you’re used to, but takes you 90 seconds per mile longer than you’re used to and leaves you more knackered than you’re used to.  No reward, just a lot of AAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHHH.

I’ve had a lot of arguments with myself.

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Undeniably, I’m getting fitter and stronger.  I can feel it.  Especially with the strength work I’ve been doing – Monday nights burning at the Barre in a ballet inspired strength class are becoming my favourite!

While I know I’m still fitter than most, I’m still not ‘me fit’ and I’m not ‘my friends fit’ and that means I still can’t run with them.  That’s right, I can’t play with my friends and I’m miserable about it.  (Fair play to Gemma though, she has offered to run with me but I fear she doesn’t quite know what she’s letting herself in for…)

As I plod on with my slow runs home from work, attempting tempo at Parkrun because I can’t join in at actual tempo, and slowly increasing my mileage, I’ve found a new found awe for my former self.  She was tougher than I thought.  In light of that I thought it was time to set myself a new goal and, being lucky enough to get a place in Great North Run, I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally try and beat my half marathon PB of 01.40.50. Gulp.

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Back to Basics

So it turns out that after breaking your foot you can’t simply throw your trainers back on and run 12 miles.  Not even close.  But that’s OK because, you know, it’s winter and it’s dark, and it’s cold out, right?

Yep, that’s really OK…

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I’ve had some physio. Sometimes we got on (when she let me run) and sometimes we didn’t get on (when she didn’t let me run), so throughout most of our relationship we didn’t really get on much.  But we did have a common goal, and as frustrating as I found it, I did everything she told me to, like rest, and glute activations, and mobilsation exercises, and squats, and more rest…which was, you know, lots of fun.

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On my final physio session, 6 and a half weeks after surgery, and after lots of squatting and hopping and jumping around, I was actually  allowed on the dreadmill. It was the BEST DAY!  We’re talking 2 whole minutes of running…OK maybe ‘jogging’…but still huge progress!

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What I’ve really had to learn is to simply go back to the boring stuff basics, which has been mentally challenging.  When my physio told me I was allowed to go for a little run that weekend, after an excessive warm up of course, BUT I was only allowed to alternate between 1 minute running and 1 minute walking, I wasn’t sure my ego could handle it…I mean, what if people SAW me?

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However, I did as I was told, well, almost, my legs being the little rebels they are settled into a pattern of 2 minutes running and 1 walking but it was close enough.  It was actually quite enjoyable because it took the pressure off trying to run at the pace I was used to, so I just didn’t worry about it at all.  Three miles successfully completed and I was back in the game!

The one thing I’ve found most difficult to deal with is my running confidence hitting rock bottom.  Just the very thought of actually going outside of my house and running in the actual outdoors made me anxious and nervous, how I ever managed to run a marathon was beyond me.  Something that used to be so natural, and a normal part of my life, now seemed a little alien and a little intimidating.  I now understand why people find the thought of taking up running daunting.

Of course, I really didn’t have a choice, I HAD to find my confidence again because, you know, running is like oxygen.  So I’ve been getting back into it slowly with short runs of 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking which has helped both physically and psychologically, as well as getting around because I can finally run home from work again (yeah, screw you tube strike!)

I’ve also taken the running-down-time to up my game in the gym which has helped improve my strength and stability and I’ve promised myself it will remain part of my regular routine, ya hear that body?  PROMISE

It’s taken a couple of months but, this morning I woke up with my entire body aching and feeling exhausted, and that makes me soooo very happy because I actually feel like my old self again! Well, being well rested and ache free is for wimps right 😉

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