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Running Coach

Not all running is the same and a running coach needs to recognize that. You can be a distance runner, middle distance, or sprinter. You can run on the track, road, or cross country. While the training doesn't generally change based on the terrain the tactics may.

A good running coach will know how to train their athletes for they type of running they do. Regardless of the type of running your athlete is involved in they should get both endurance work and speed work. The type of event the running coach is training someone for will depend on exactly what that endurance and speed workout will be like.

Jump To

Distance Running

Jack Daniels Training Tips

The Sprints

5 Components for training sprinters

The four phases of sprint training

Stride and lift techniques

Behavioral Modeling and being a Running Coach

Sprinting Video Clips

Nutrition Basics

Precision Nutrition

Eating for Energy


The Science behind Redox Molecules

Distance Running

Of course everyone who runs covers distance, but when we refer to distance running, most running coaches think of 5000m or more. A 5000m or 5K run is 3.1 miles. That is the length of many road races and cross country races.

When we think of real endurance running we think of the marathon or even ultra marathon. Those events require even more specialized training. They cover 26.2 miles, 50 miles, or even 100 mile runs.

In this article we will be looking at running coaches who have athletes competing generally in the 5K, 10K, or half-marathon distances. Those distances equate to 3.1 miles, 6.2, miles, and 13.1 miles. You will often see road races that are also 10 miles. If you are coaching anyone who is running competitively between 3.1 and 13.2 miles (or more) we will call that endurance running. Some will argue that 3.1 is more of a middle distance than distance and depending on the age level of the athlete we may agree.

Jack Daniels Training Tips and Needs

Training principle #1 -- the body reacts to stress.

There are two types of reaction to the stress of exercise. The first is an acute reaction, such as you would experience if you got up from your seat, went outside and ran to the comer. Heart rate speeds up, the amount of blood pumped with each beat of the heart increases, breathing rate and depth of breathing increase, blood pressure increases, your muscles feel some fatigue among other things.

The second is the fact that you will also begin training your body. Training produces changes throughout your body, which allow you to perform the daily run-to-the-comer with less discomfort. The muscles that are being used become stronger and blood flow increases to those muscles. Changes inside the muscle cells provide more energy and less lactic acid accumulates during the exercise.

You would most like find your resting heart rate will become slower, your step will have more energy, your resting blood pressure will be lower, your body weight will be lower, and you will have less fat under the skin.

 If your are a running coach it is important to recognize and understand the difference between the two reactions.

Training principle #2 - Specificity of training.

The system, which is stressed is the one which stands to benefit from the stress. Training for one particular sport usually has little or no beneficial effect on your ability to perform a second sport.

An example of this would be the negative effect that long-distance running has on explosive leg activities, such as sprinting and jumping. The same thing could be said for what bodybuilding would do for distance running; the extra muscle mass developed can interfere with a runner's ability to optimize his or her distance-running capabilities. A running coach needs to be thinking about this in designing training for their athletes.

A running coach who wants their runners to master a skill must have them practice that skill, not some other skill. Practicing another skill that may not be related to the specific one you want to master may not only take time away from the primary skill activity, but may also actually produce results which limit performance in the main sport.

This is not to say that all non-specific activity is bad, but considerable thought must be given to every aspect of running, and as a running coach you must know what everything you do is doing for your athletes.

Training principle 3 -- Specificity of over training

A running coach will need to be wary of overstraining systems as that will have a negative impact on those systems.

 Of course, it is possible for a single, over stressed system to affect a number of other activities besides the one which caused the damage.

For example, shin splints brought about by too much, or improper, running, can prevent a runner from performing other activities, which in turn put stress on the injured legs. Conversely, too much running doesn't always mean you become over trained in other types of physical activity, and it may be beneficial to limit running for periods of time in favor of other types of training.

Training principle #4 -- A specific stress produces a specific result.

This principle simply means that the benefits a running coach can expect from having athletes doing 3 1-mile runs at 8-minutes each, with 5-minutes recovery between runs, 3 days a week, are particular to the 3 times each week frequency, amount – 3 miles of running per
 session, intensity – 8:00 minute pace, and the 5 minute recovery between runs. Someone who carries out this routine regularly, will reach a level of running proficiency which will remain stable and will be different if those training characteristics were different.

The possibilities for a running coach to make modifications become limitless. You could change the training frequency, duration, the intensity, or the 
recovery time allowed. Any one of these changes in training or combination of these changes will affect the result of the program, resulting in a new level of fitness being reached over time.

Training principle #5 -- Rate-of-achievement principle

Most of the benefits of a particular training regimen are quite adequately realized in a matter of four to six weeks. Sticking with a training program for longer than six weeks may continue to produce more benefits; however, quite 
adequate benefits are realized in a matter of weeks. The danger of increasing training too often, is primarily increased risk of injury, or over stress caused by taking on too much too fast. Remember, it is very difficult to get a feeling of what a particular training load is doing for you. If
 you do it stay with it for awhile.

Training principle #6 -- Personal limits

Another principle of training is that each individual has unique personal limits. You could probably safely say that every system in a person's body has limits. For example, there is a limit as to how strong a particular muscle in your body can get, how much air you can breathe in and out of your lungs, how much blood can be transported to your running muscles, how much oxygen your running muscles can use in converting fuel to energy, and how fast you can run a mile, a 10K or a marathon.

We all have limits, and these limits can vary greatly from individual to individual. Different ones of us will reach different degrees of success, which are greatly dictated by what our limits are. The good news is that probably few people realize their limits, relative to running, and improvement is almost always possible. Further, the limit often is seasonal and next year things will continue to improve, to a new "limit".

 As a running coach you want to train your athletes to push those limits in a healthy manner.

Training principle #7 -- Diminishing return

A running coach who adds more and more mileage to their runners’ weekly training does not produce equal percentages of improvement in competitive fitness. The same thing applies to increasing the amount of faster, quality training.

Training principle #8 -- Accelerating setbacks

A setback is an illness, injury, or even a break necessitated by mental exhaustion. A setback is a setback and all must usually be avoided at all costs. As a running coach you will want to do everything in your power to help the runners you are coaching to avoid these setbacks. You most certainly don't want to be the cause because of poor training design. The setback principle simply states that low levels of training produce few setbacks, and as a person trains harder and harder, the potential for setbacks increases exponentially.

We have seen too many young runners of the years become over trained. The number of high school runners who are over-trained and then arrive at college only to experience set backs is just too high. We are afraid that too often it is due to their running coach over-training them which leads to illness, injury, or more often than not mental exhaustion.

Training principle #9 -- Ease of maintenance

This principle holds particularly true for maintenance of a level of competitive ability, which must, at least in part, be a function of reaching a particular level of confidence. Although this primarily refers to physiological fitness, there is no secret that psychological factors play an important part in how fast you can race.

Once you break the 5-minute mile barrier, or any other personal goal doing it again is not the task it was the first time, and the effort required (in training) to repeat the task is usually well short of what was initially involved.

The maintenance principle is an important one to consider as a running coach when planning a long-term training program because it allows you to shift your emphasis from one system to another system, and yet still maintain the cellular benefits through less-frequent attention to the longer runs.

Training principle # 10 -- Time-erodes-memory

You always tend to forget how hard you trained earlier in your career, when you are disappointed by how hard it is to make a comeback. This is the "time-erodes-memory" principle.

This article was adapted from an article by Jack Daniels that can be found at the Coaches Education website.

The Sprints

For most adults who are interested in being coached in running it is for distance running. A running coach who specializes in the sprints will usually be found coaching high school, college, or independent track clubs. Nevertheless, understanding what goes into sprint coaching is important to be a well-rounding running coach.

Sprints are a discipline where the focus of achievement in terms of improved performance or winning is measured in tenths or hundredths of seconds. In preparing an athlete to challenge performance standards and opposition in pursuit of competitive success, the running coach must reject the old adage that “sprinters are born not made.”

Instead, he should consider the needs of the athlete against the demands of the discipline; evaluate potential contribution of all relevant resources; and then prepare custom built programs designed to meet short, medium and long-term objectives.

Five components for training sprinters

As a running coach who is specializing or concerned with increasing the performance of your sprinters you need to think of discipline in five different parts.
  • Reaction and response time - start to the 10m time (for 100m race)
  • Starting acceleration - 30m time (for the 100m race)
  • Pickup acceleration - the distance required to reach maximum speed
  • Maintaining maximum speed - the distance maximum speed is held
  • Reducing the rate of loss of maximum speed - distance near maximum speed is held after the speed has fallen below maximum speed.
In training sprinters (50m, 100m, 200m, and 400m) a running coach needs to address each of the above mentioned components. Again, a good running coach will know their athlete and will tweak a training program to fit their style, which often is how to handle the psychology of head to head competition.

The four phases of sprint training

Phase 1 would be building the core. All athletics need core strength which comes from the mid section. This core training should include all round balanced strength, sound general mobility, general endurance, and general speed of coordination. A running coach in the initial phases of training must get their athletes core strength up.

Phase 2 involves developing sprinting techniques. This phase has the running coach involved in training their athletes in the driving, striding, and lifting that is involved in sprinting.

Phase 3 is the development of specific conditioning. It is this phase that may be tweaked depending on the specific event. In this phase we focus our strength training, mobility, endurance, and speed of coordination to the specific event or events the sprinter is training for.

Phase 4 is the advanced techniques. Here the running coach is trying to get their sprinter to the next level. They are now ready to further develop the driving, striding, and lifting techiques as well as race strategies or tactics.

Stride and lift techniques: the foundation for sprinting success

The sprint stride is now recognized as one of the most important training components for a running coach to have their sprinters work on.

When considering maximum speed, the focus of attention on technique shifts from the driving technique through the striding technique to the lifting techniques then the striding techniques.

The lifting technique can be introduced to the developing athlete’s technique training program. It is used as the sprinter reaches the point of maximum speed—when coordination balances precariously on the brink of risk. The foot contact with the track is at its shortes. As momentum shoots the body past each contact of the foot to the track, that contact must add to the momentum. To keep contact for even a millisecond too long in trying to express strength will bring loss of speed.

The focus is lightness of touch and coordination at speed. It requires a foundation of specific strength, mobility and endurance and mastery of the stride technique. Most importantly, it requires control. Like all skills, it must be practiced.

The challenge is that several athletes must endure the exhausting experience of maximal accelerations in order to reach maximum speed-the number of repetitions of runs at maximum speed to rehearse lifting and/or striding at this pace or at near to this pace, will be seriously restricted. Sound technique of striding and lifting are so critical to development of maximum speed, their key features are need to be reviewed.


In describing striding the running coach needs to look at the general posture of the torso as well as what the arms and legs are doing. The general posture the athlete has the appearance of “running tall”. His or her shoulders are down not hunched. There should be no signs of straining or tension on face and neck. The whole movement should be smooth a continuous.

The arms are not used the same by men and women. For men the angle of the elbow angle is approximately 90. They need to have a full range of action with the elbow pulled back and high with a strong “squeeze.” The hand reaches shoulder height on the forward beat and the hip on the backward beat.

For women there is a high stride frequency—coordination emphasis. The elbow angle of approximately 90 is held. A short, fast “drumbeating” action—
mostly in front of the body.“New generation” high hip/leg complex strength emphasis. The arm action is the same as for men.

The legs of the male athlete strikes the ground with a claw like action from a high knee lift. The women do not have as high a knee lift as men. For each a full range of action is pursued.


The posture for lifting is the same as it is for striding.

The arm action involved in lifting is similar to that of the stride technique for the men. The main difference is slight increase in the speed of the action. The range is virtually the same, but for a more emphatic pumping/beating in front
of the body. The women are a more exaggerated version of the “stride technique” arms.

The leg action is characterized by a higher, faster knee lift or “prancing.” It is a light, fast movement associated with a quicker, more active, and lighter striking or clawing motion of the foot. It is as if it is the track which is acting like a conveyer belt speeding under the athlete while the foot has only the briefest of moments to match this speed and touch it at that speed.

The women athletes find problems with the concept of a higher knee lift and resolve the problem simply by maintaining a very high frequency of striding.

Development of Maximum Speed

There are a dozen principles that a running coach should be thinking about when designing a training program. It should incorporate training for the development of maximum speed and numerous specific exercises. The details are beyond the scope of this web site.

All of this information was adapted from an article Development of Maximum Sprinting Speed by Frank W. Dick. You can read the full article at: http://www.trackandfieldnews.com/technique/109-Frank_Dick.pdf

Behavioral Modeling and Coaching Running

There are many programs and strength and conditioning coaches around who claim to have the key for improving speed. There is enough knowledge available now about training as indicated in the previously mentioned article. As we strive to become a better running coach or a better runner what should you look for in selecting the best trainer, personal coach or program for our athletes?

All human actions involve three fundamental components to do that action. The actual physiology of the action, the mental strategies involved in the action, and the motivational component that is principally made up of the beliefs and values of the person doing the action. Anyone who is coaching running will want a training program built from an expert model.

In coaching running, in this particular case, coaching sprinters, the coach must be able to able train their athletes in the proper mechanics (physiology), correct mental strategies, and the proper motivation characteristics, if they are to reach their genetic potential. It means those coaching running, or sprinting specifically, need to understand the mechanics of the five components of the sprint, mental strategies involved in sprinting, and the motivational components of great sprinters.

To do that well we need expert models. This notion of modeling experts to improve training has not been implemented to great extent, even at the professional level. The challenge has always been developing the model. The sciences of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, hypnosis, and Time-Line TherapyTM Techniques enables us to do just that and over time we will see better training models.

We do probably have better models, at least for one of the three factors, for runners, specifically sprinters, than for many other athletic endeavors. The physical training programs for sprinters is fairly well known and recognized now. We know that genetics plays a huge role as it does in most athletics, but training will bring out the best of an athletes natural ability.

Modeling an expert involves much more than just watching video, yet that is what most professional running coaches do. Having said that if you are just looking for the workout component for the sprinter their are a number of programs and books around. Most strength and conditioning coaches will be up to speed with the latest training programs.

Certainly, if someone has worked primarily with sprinters and focuses on speed development they would be better than someone who has focuse on training swimmers. Look at their background and see what they have done and who they have worked with as a running coach.

Sprinting Video Clips

Nutrition Basics

Coaching running requires a basic understand of nutrition. Nutrition is the other aspect of keeping athletes healthy and fit. Having this basic understanding will help you provide basic information to your athletes as well as helping them access even more information.

We do know that nutrition goes much further than simply taking vitamins and minerals or counting calories. Everyone has their own unique genetic code as well as beliefs and values that all impact our unique nutritional needs.

There definitely general principles that must be adhered to. Beyond that it is up to the sports coach, parents, teachers, and mentors to point athletes in the right direction to get educated regarding nutrition. In coaching football we, the football coach, also have the responsibility of helping athletes learn the dangers of steroid use or other inappropriate means of increasing strength and endurance.

Precision Nutrition

For athletes and coaches, especially those who are a running coach, we highly recommend the Precision Nutrition program. This is a program that is used by a number of highly sought after trainers. Trainers that the best athletes in the world seek out.

Precision Nutrition covers everything you need to know about nutrition. It is a comprehensive nutrition education course. It will:

1) teach you how to eat for your goal and your body. We teach you how to develop a custom nutrition plan unique to your physiology.

2) be easy to understand.

3) provide you with 1 year of 24/7 online support on their private member forum. You’ll need help, and with PN you get it – from expert coaches and nearly 40,000 fellow members from around the world.

4) provide you with a 1 year membership to their online library of articles, e-books and software. Access their complete Exercise Video Database and thousands of pages covering every conceivable fitness and nutrition topic in the Member Zone.

5) Include more than 25 goal-specific exercise programs by world-class coaches. They had the top coaches in the world develop exercise programs specifically for Precision Nutrition members.

6) Include the PN cookbook, Gourmet Nutrition Volume 1.

7) Guarantee results. They put their money where their mouth is. If PN doesn’t work for you, They’ll not only give your money back, they’ll buy you another book of your choosing!

Of all the above mentioned benefits of the program the most talked about by our members is the on-line supports. For more information go to the Precision Nutrition website.

Eating for Energy

Eating for Energy is another excellent nutrition education program that anyone coaching running should consider getting and learning from. Like the other products we recommend you can either pass on what you learn to your athletes or simply recommend it to them. It help provide extra energy you to follow through with a good training program.

Eating for energy's nutrition education will teach you things you won't learn in traditional classes. And that is the reason we are here!

While most runners are concerned with losing weight some of you coaching running will have either young overweight runners wanting to get started running or adults who want to run to help control their weight. You will also have top athletes who need to eat correctly to have the energy to compete at high-levels.

In this e-course you will learn:

1) how you can prevent cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes, and obesity by making this one small change to the way you eat.

2) what the startling food consumption trends between 1970 and 2004 have done to your health.

3) why fit people can be at greater risk of disease!

4) the top 12 superfoods you should eat all the time.

5) why you may not have been successful in losing weight in the past. This one secret will change your life (not just your body)!

6) why counting calories does not work. You'll find out what does.

7) why not all fats are bad and why eating certain "healthy" fats can actually speed up fat loss, increase your energy levels, decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, memory loss, and more... and precisely how much of them you need for optimal effects.

8) the miraculous food whose saturated fat burns fat in your body, fuels your energy for exercise, and prevents sickness and infections! One of the most amazing finds ever - and you can easily buy at your local grocery store!

9) how to crank up your metabolism and turn your body into a food-incinerating, fat-melting human blast furnace! Easy metabolism-boosting techniques revealed!

10) how to eat 50% more calories without storing an ounce as fat - It's true - you can actually eat more food while losing more fat using this simple, but often overlooked strategy!

11) how to boost your energy levels higher than you ever thought possible - almost instantly! (you'll notice the difference the very first day)

12) the 10 Success Habits that will get you to your goals!

13) the psychology of permanent fat loss and abundant health...Goal setting and motivation tactics that program your subconscious mind for massive success...Follow this "secret mental training formula" and you'll be practically "hypnotized" into eating properly and working out consistently - Just imagine... no more "willpower" required! (these are the same techniques that NFL, NBA, MLB and Olympic champions pay sports psychologists hundreds of dollars an hour to learn.)

14) why obesity and most diseases do not occur in nature and discover what we're doing to domesticated animals that is making them as sick, fat, and tired as we are!

There is much more than these 14 things!

So, to learn more and order this program check out the Eating for Energy website.


Part of the allure of steroids has not just been about strength building but it has also been about recovery from injury. A running coach should be aware of what is going on in terms of the "underground" when it comes to steroids and blood doping.

While it is a relatively new field the study of redox signaling molecules is a field a good running coach will want to be aware of. These amazing molecules are vital in the healthy functioning of our cells. If our cells are functioning properly our health will be better, our recovery will be better, and our endurance will improve. Our natural producation of these molecules seems to decrease as we age and those who are competing athletically may not produce as many as the body demands for such athletic endeavors, especially endurance sports.

Running coaches are hearing more and more from athletes, especially endurance athletes, about the amazing benefits of supplementing with these molecules. Listen to these testimonials.

The science

Interested in learning more or want to TRY the product yourself, then go to the healtheducation site.

Share your expertise!

Give Back and Help someone become a better running coach!

Your experiences and expertise is vital and will greatly enhance coaching of one of the great American sports. If you have feedback on any of our recommended products, suggestions for others, tips, and strategies to help other coaches please share it!.

Web resources

Runsmart Coaching News

USA Track and Field

Road Runners Club of America

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