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My approach to coaching runners

By Henry Howard

I’m nearing my fourth year anniversary of receiving my running coach certification from the Road Runners Club of America.

That signified a shift from guiding a handful of friends as their mentor to coaching a range of runners. It’s been an absolute joy and honor to accompany these athletes as they pursue and accomplish their goals. Among the achievements of my athletes:

• A masters runner who qualified for the Boston Marathon in her first 26.2. She also completed her first ultra, finishing in the top 10 overall.

• A runner who had never previously run an ultra completed the six-day Trans Rockies stage race, which covered roughly 120 miles and CX feet of gain. In her final journal entry, she wrote, “Overall I loved the race! I'd say things felt exponentially worse the first three days, then felt better each day for the last three. Felt like I had a really positive mindset on the course for the most part which helped (maybe except day three which was by far my hardest day). I also started the week 48th out of 65 women in my category, and moved up each day and ended today 38th!”

• An inspiring marathon runner who is completing one each month this year as a fundraiser. He is raising money for a nonprofit that is dedicated to finding a cure for the rare cancer his wife is dealing with. Right now he is two-thirds of the way done and knocked off back to back to back PRs earlier this year.

• An experienced marathon runner who wanted guidance on trail running and completing an ultra marathon. “I have been running on my own for years and have even completed two road marathons. But I found managing my busy schedule and multiple training goals difficult. I was also struggling with recovering from injury. Henry put together personalized training plans that incorporated all of these factors and kept me motivated through the pandemic and shifting work and life demands. He was also incredibly supportive. Whenever I felt worried or unsure, Henry kept me positive and focused. Because of Henry, I was more consistent than ever and I ran my biggest races yet– two trail 25Ks and my first trail 50k! Working with Henry was the best move I have made for my running.”

My process

When I enter into a coaching arrangement, the athlete receives a personal training plan. It’s based on a number of variables such as the runner’s fitness level, running history, goals, injuries past and present, and work, family and other commitments.

While the plans are individualized, there are some common themes. Here is what I believe in that will help most runners:

• Easy days easy, hard days hard. We’re not high school athletes who can push themselves every day. We need extra time to recover. There also is science backing this approach and I have plenty of examples of athletes who thrive by following this theory.

• Cross training. Based on the runner’s fitness level, available options and personal preference, I include weekly cross-training activities that supplement running.

• Long runs mixed with short runs. Every run has a purpose and is part of the overall plan.

ª Injury prevention is a priority. All runners fall into two groups: those who have been injured and those who haven’t admitted getting injured. At the onset of pain or discomfort, I want my runners to let me know so we can diagnose and adjust the schedule as needed. A day or a few days off to heal are much preferred over a longer absence.

• Relentless positivity. I’ll gather your feedback from the week, review and update the training plan, and reinforce just how awesome of an athlete you are.

If you are interested in exploring a coaching relationship, I offer a no-obligation call to see if we are a good fit. If you would like to set up a call to explore this, check out my coaching page where you can contact me.


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