Over the summer, I started doing a body circuit regimen with Empower Coaching and Fitness.
The founders are my friends Jenn and Stacey, who harnessed their passion for fitness and running into quite a nice business venture.
I have vented a bit about the limited fitness centers in my area. Between the lack of locations and the scheduling conflicts, it was always a challenge for me to find and consistently utilize a cross-training regimen. When Empower started hosting body circuit classes within five minutes of my house, on the very days I didn’t have work and after little man was at school, I had found my cross-training.
Even better, they were offering an introductory running coaching plan in conjunction with the upcoming Divas Half Marathon. At first, I disregarded the information, because I was running the Divas 5K. It then occurred to me that the Space Coast Half was just a week prior to Divas, and I would already have the miles from Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach. I also had a bit of a goal in my head and I wasn’t sure I could get there on my own.
I had never really considered using a running coach at all. I never thought they were for people like me and I wasn’t sure what, exactly, a coach could offer someone like me: a slower runner without any semblance of actual talent. I took my goal and my concerns to Jenn and Stacey, and they said they would be able to help. I figured it was worth it to try, and we entered into a partnership.
First, I had to fill out a rather thorough questionnaire, covering my goals, my race calendar, my current level of fitness and what distance I could comfortably run, what days I was available to workout and/or run and any health issues or injuries I was having. I tried to be as detailed as possible.
Basically, I was looking to achieve a 2:30 half marathon at my first and favorite half marathon event. This would mean an eight minute and one second improvement over my all time PR. Not insurmountable, but not easy either. Gauntlet thrown.
Within two weeks, I had access to an interactive training calendar app with all my races and several weeks of training already filled in. I’m not going to lie: it was rigorous. Each week brought two days of cross-training, one speed work session, one 3-6 mile run and a long run. Each assigned run had pace goals, as well as instructions for completion if necessary, and I was able to go into the app and check off each activity as I completed it, along with any notes on how it went. The system was very user-friendly and I do well when I can visually make off completed tasks.
I stuck to the plan like velcro. After all, what was the point of hiring professional coaches if I had no intention of doing what those coaches said? I maybe missed two body circuit classes in the course of the 12 weeks, and I only had to reschedule one run.
The whole thing was work. Hard work. I was up for the challenge, but I was also amazed at how different it felt transitioning from my random, not necessarily purposeful training runs, to rigorous, focussed runs. I very rarely deviated. I got up at 3:30 in the morning if it meant getting in all the assigned miles. My mileage increased on a weekly basis, rather than every other week as was my norm in the past. I didn’t ease up on myself and I didn’t phone it in.
Stacey and Jenn were so supportive the whole way. If I was struggling with something, they were very quick to offer thoughtful advice. Stacey joined me for a five mile training run one day, which was so intimidating, but also so helpful.
Workouts and sessions were varied. From body circuits to speedwork, there was always something new. The benefit to this was that my interest was held and I never felt like anything was becoming a chore or routine. Granted, there were a few speed workouts that were downright brutal in nature, but I guess that falls into the category of “if it was easy, everyone would do it.”
Another pro was that I could see and feel my results. The combination of body circuit and running workouts yielded more strength, more stamina and yes, more speed. This manifested itself in some great race times over the course of the training period.
In fact, the only part of the training that I would change for next time would be the distance of my longest run. Jenn and Stacey had me up to 11 miles, but I think, mentally, I needed to do 12 or 12.5. I know that traditional training plans don’t require runners to complete the full mileage of their goal race, but I’m wired a little differently, and I need that peace of mind. It’s something we can easily tweak.
So how did I do?
I missed my goal by one minute and forty-two seconds. And I’m not upset. I can’t be. It was a hard race with several unplanned challenges for which I had no way to prepare. I scored a huge six minute and nineteen second PR and there’s nothing but pride in that.
There were other victories: huge PRs along the way,
and a consistent commitment to cross-training
Will I do it again?
YES! For the most part, I run for fun and I don’t put too much pressure on myself. However, I like the idea of having one goal race for which I really push myself above and beyond. While I have the self-discipline to stick to a plan that is created for me, I don’t have the knowledge to draft an effective plan for myself. I appreciated the personalized attention and the support, and the equal parts encouragement and tough love. Overall, it was a positive and productive experience.
I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’m looking forward to digging in again in September!
Have you ever worked with a running coach?
How do you help yourself reach your goals?