top of page

Coaches Blog

Are You Sure You Have a Coach?

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

by Chris Palmquist

Several of my local friends have just completed or attempted their first marathons while raising money for an amazing charity. Bravo to all of them! As a reward for their fund-raising efforts, the charity provided them with “coaching” during the training process. Participants had one or two phone conversations with a coach, then the coach assigned each of them a training plan based on their running experience and fitness level. Although my friends all believed that they had a personal coach guiding their training, I would argue that they did not. Let me explain.

Basic: Self-Coached Athlete

There are three general options for organizing one’s training for a seasonal goal. At the most basic level, many athletes “coach” themselves. Their training may be random - simply running, biking and swimming when and where they wish during each week. Or the self-coached athlete might pick up a magazine, website or book-based training plan and follow it to the best of their ability.

The pros of self-coaching include the ability to control your own schedule and the low cost. The major drawback is that this athlete is unlikely to reach his or her full potential. They are more likely to lose motivation or to end up with an injury. Using (or not using) a training plan that was never tailored to the athlete’s goals, strengths or weaknesses will drastically limit results. And more importantly, the athlete has no-one overseeing his or her progress with an expert and caring eye. This can lead to burn-out, injury or lack of accomplishment.

Disadvantages aside, there is a time and a place where self-coaching can work adequately. An athlete with prior experience and more casual goals might do best by following a training plan, racing the race and keeping the whole experience at a flexible, inexpensive, relaxing level.

Team MPI coaches have written general training plans for this purpose.

Intermediate: Custom Training Plan

The intermediate training option is when an athlete hires a coach to create a custom training plan tailored to the athlete’s specific goals, training objectives, strengths, limiters, energy and available training time. In this scenario, the coach and athlete conduct an extensive interview where the coach learns all the above characteristics of the athlete. Then, the coach designs a custom plan for a several months of training for the athlete. The coach hands over the training plan, then the athlete takes the plan and “runs” with it independently from the coach. The benefits of a custom training plan are that the athlete gets a solid, tailored plan at a low cost from an expert coach. The disadvantages to this scenario are that once the plan goes to the athlete, the coach will no longer be there to modify the plan, oversee the athlete’s progress, adjust for fatigue/illness/injury, give ongoing advice or to help with answers to all the questions that inevitably come up during training and racing.

At Team MPI, we call these Customized Stand-Alone Training Plans. Find out more at

Advanced: Personal Performance Coaching

The best way to train successfully and attain your goals is to hire a personal coach. A good coach will get to know everything about you, your goals and your abilities. The coach will work with you to set goals and training objectives that will lead to success. Based on frequent communication and analysis of your workout data, the coach will design and prescribe training for you that will fit into your life, push your limits, rest you when needed and progressively work towards building your peak skills and fitness. A good coach will do everything possible to limit burn-out, illness and injury. When your work or family schedule suddenly changes, a coach will modify your training accordingly. A good coach understands both the art and the physiological science needed to bring out your best. Most importantly, a good coach cares deeply about your achievements – working as your partner every step along the way.

At Team MPI, we call this Performance Coaching. Find out more at

Invest in your passion, reach your goals

My friends thought that they had a “coach” guiding them through their marathon preparation. In reality, they were just following a semi-custom training plan – a very different experience from real, one-on-one coaching. Although, they all enjoyed being part of the charitable mission together, they may have had more success in their races if they had a personal coach helping them with the daily questions and challenges that always occur on a training journey.

If you are serious about your goals, no matter your level, and want to match your efforts with the proper training, answers, and caring that you get from a real coach, consider hiring a personal coach. The investment that you make in true coaching will be worthwhile.

bottom of page