A Man Working At A Desktop Computer Using Trainingpeaks To Evaluate A Workout

The Hidden Value Of Becoming A Specialist Endurance Coach

BY Phil White

As a coach, you are expected to be a jack-of-all-trades. But sometimes, that can make it difficult to stand out in the competitive coaching marketplace. Diving into a specialty can help differentiate your business and increase your value to clients.

Coaching, by its very nature, necessitates you being somewhat of a generalist. In addition to having an intimate knowledge of the sport(s) you’re instructing, you also need to have at least a cursory understanding of multiple disciplines. But sometimes, the jack-of-all-trades is indeed a master of none, making it difficult for you to stand out in the increasingly competitive coaching marketplace.

Let’s talk about how taking a deep dive into a particular specialty can differentiate your business, increase your value to clients and help them develop a growth mindset through the lens of a running coach’s story.

Standing Apart from the Competition

For Mary Johnson, who started her female-focused Lift Run Perform (LRP) enterprise five years ago, her expertise extends beyond primarily coaching women, although this is one way that the business stands apart. LRP’s use of strength training to improve athletes’ overall performance and reduce their risk of injury is also a key differentiator.

“When someone signs up for a program, they know that their running, strength training and coaching are all included in one package,” she said. “So being versed in both the strength and endurance training spaces helps. We also address the nutrition component and have a sports psychologist present to our training group. It’s a matter of assessing the whole athlete and treating them like a person first.”

Some athletes might have been used to working on their running with one coach and their power and strength with a dedicated S+C coach, but Johnson has seen that many choose to go it alone or skip gym sessions entirely.

“A lot of runners think that they’d like the end benefits of strength training, but many of them don’t actually do it,” she said. “So, if you can cover that and their running in one place, it removes the guesswork and ensures they have the support they need to master the basics.”

Offering an all-in-one package to clients means that they don’t need to pay one coach for endurance training and another for strength work, which provides greater value for money than à la carte offerings. It also leads to more synchronous programming, as LRP’s staff can take into account the total load of running and strength training for each athlete and adjust their workload in both areas as needed to avoid overtraining.

Taking Lifestyle into Account

While Johnson is well versed in how to coach resistance training the right way, she emphasizes the importance of delivering simplistic programming in a time-efficient manner that complements her clients’ running, which remains the priority for most of her athletes. This helps them get a sense of self-efficacy, as they can see easy wins rather than getting frustrated while trying to learn complex exercises or go through grueling, long gym workouts. From the perspective of LRP coaches, such an approach makes it more manageable to create and deliver strength training programs, while keeping their main focus on coaching running.

“Most runners just need to do something on the strength training side,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t have to look perfect or beautiful. Yes, correct movement patterns are important, but something will almost always be better than nothing. And if someone finds it easier to do a simple 20-minute session a couple of times a week, then they’re more likely to stick with it. Most people aren’t elite athletes — they have a job, children and can’t get perfect sleep or take naps every day like an elite runner might. So, you need to be realistic about the time and energy they have available.”

Reducing Clients’ Injury Risk and Shifting Their Perspective

Johnson doesn’t just offer strength training to make her mostly female clientele stronger and more powerful. She also knows that doing regular resistance work improves the durability of their muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and other supporting structures. This can reduce her athletes’ incidence of acute and chronic injuries that often plague amateur runners. Doing so helps Johnson and her fellow coaches to improve their value proposition to clients, fulfills their pledge to honor athletes as whole people, and helps elevate the field in general.

By emphasizing resistance training, LRP is also helping runners shift their mindset so that they prioritize the health of their muscles, connective tissues, and joints and become more proactive in safeguarding themselves against injury.

“We know that to run farther and faster, you actually have to go running regularly, but the notion of adding more and more miles isn’t something that every athlete can withstand, particularly among recreational athletes,” Johnson said. “If you’re getting a major injury once a year or more, then you might need a coach to help you adjust the levers and dials on your training a bit because it’s hard to deal with those setbacks mentally. For one person that might mean taking a month off running each year to strength train, whereas for someone like me, it’s getting in the gym three times a week. We’re starting to see more running coaches — even the old-school ones — support strength training because they see the benefits and are starting to realize that if their athletes aren’t doing anything to become stronger and more durable, it’s like building their house on sand.”

Plenty of successful coaches have a strong background in their sport and a grasp of the supporting elements athletes need. But like Johnson and her fellow LRP coaches, you can also differentiate and elevate your coaching by diving deep into strength training, injury reduction, mental skills, nutrition, hydration or other specialties that set you apart from the competition. While also advancing your craft and providing greater value to your athletes.

Coaching Guide Image Of Noah With A Client At A Table.

How to Be a Successful Endurance Coach

Learn from this guide to help you each step of the way as you build and grow your coaching business.

About Phil White
Phil White is an Emmy-nominated writer and the co-author of The 17 Hour Fast with Dr. Frank Merritt, Waterman 2.0 with Kelly Starrettand Unplugged with Andy Galpin and Brian Mackenzie. Learn more at www.philwhitebooks.com and follow Phil on Instagram @philwhitebooks.