Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thoughts on the term "self-coached"

I have always considered myself self-coached.  Indeed, I used this very term in my post from last week explaining my approach to this fall's marathon training regimen.  I've even taken pride in the term given that I have achieved some lofty running goals (namely qualifying twice for the Boston Marathon) while relying on nothing more than my own will power and experience.

But last month I saw this tweet from Scott Fishman:

Scott Fishman has been a coach since 2000 and just celebrated his 9th anniversary as founder and leader of Team All-American, an online coaching service for athletes worldwide. When someone with a B.S. in Exercise Sports Science and certifications in running coaching and personal training says something like this, it genuinely makes me think.

Because he's right.  I don't have any sort of certification in training or coaching.  I have no professional or academic credits to my name in the athletic world, yet I insist over and over on this blog that I am self-coached.  It causes the self-doubt to rear its ugly head, making me second guess my decision to constantly train alone rather than putting my training and consequent race results in the hands of professionals.

But does it really matter what I call myself?  You can't argue with the results, can you?

Scott expounds on his views in his blog post from last month in which he calls out people like me:

And tonight's tweet:

I get it.  He's running a business and must relentlessly promote his expertise to sign up new customers.  But in doing so I think he's forgetting - or ignoring - the element of experience. Do I need to sit in a classroom to learn about how to train properly, or listen to a coach who has sat in a classroom to learn how to train properly, or can I simply learn by doing?  The learning curve is steep, but I've come away with a training plan tailored to me and only me.

In the end it probably comes down to semantics.  By Scott's logic, I should call people out who refer to themselves as self-taught in a given skill or subject because they don't have the proper teacher certifications like I do.  But I don't because that's ridiculous.  If someone wants to teach himself German by watching YouTube videos and studying grammar charts and call himself self-taught, go for it.  Will he learn more or better by studying with me?  Who's to say? Everyone learns differently.

Once again, like in this post, I'm not trying to knock coaches trying to make a living or those who hire them.  If you have the means and a coach will help you achieve your goals, then go for it.  But I strenuously deny that working with a coach is the only way to train smart and avoid injury.

Now here's hoping I'm not strenuously humbled come November when I put this all to the test. Until then, keep training smart folks, however you interpret that.


  1. I agree with you. I think for most things, and this situation included, the use of "self" before X activity implies that you don't have any formal training, certifications, etc. Your example of self-taught is exactly that. When I hear that phrase, I assume the person made attempts to educate themselves, without professional involvement. Same with self-coached -- I feel it means a person is coaching themselves using their own base of knowledge/experience. I understand the point SF is making, but when I hear people are self-coaching, I am not for one minute thinking it is the same thing as hiring a professional. Also agree that while many people likely benefit from a professional coach, many people also do fine without (you included!). From reading many blogs and knowing ones in real life, I also feel that just bc a person has a certification, that does not automatically mean they know more/are better equipped to coach someone than a person with no formal training. There are some lousy coaches out there!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. Excellent points. Sadly the same can be said for teachers. Just because they have the proper certification, doesn't mean they teach well.

  2. I am guessing a large part of your enjoyment of the sport is following your own training plan. But, if I had to bet, an experienced elite marathon coach would get you under 2:50. But, would that be as much fun as the 2:59 you are about to run on your own plan?

    1. You're right, I've always liked the feeling of independence from working on my own and the pride I feel when I reach my goals. Maybe I could get to a 2:50 marathon, but as I said in another post, I feel like I'm already stretching myself as is with a wife and baby at home, and feel a sub 3 is a worthy time goal, and probably my last big time goal in the marathon.

  3. The non- youth, non - elderly, non-elite, non- injury recovering runners do not need a coach, IMO. You could have someone study your form, your diet, your sleep, your heart rate, etc., etc. But why? These are nuanced things, that represent such a small part of your running success, they are almost not worth mentioning. You don't need a coach because the solution to your running problem is obvious.
    Not recovering fast enough? You need to run more often. It's going to suck at first, but eventually, your body will adapt.
    Not running fast enough? You need to run faster. Do some intervals or hill sprints. It's going to suck at first, but eventually, your body will adapt.
    Having endurance issues? You need to go on longer runs. It's going to suck at first, but eventually, your body will adapt.
    That is all from a non-coach.
    Sorry I've been away so long. I'm glad to see you are still doing well.
    regards, tom k in Florida


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