Training with a Virtual Coach



This would be funnier if it weren’t a scene from my everyday life.

For a great portion of my running “career” I used Hal Higdon plans or whatever else I could get my hands on. When I started training for my first-ever marathon last year I knew it was time to get serious and get some one on one help.

Enter… Ross at Bad Dog MultisportHe’s an Iron Man and a triathlete and my coach – which is almost harder than the rest of it put together.

I had met Ross through friends and was intrigued by the idea of a virtual coach. Someone that could plan a running/training schedule for me and give me feedback on the work that I was doing. More than anything I needed non-overbearing support during the time I was trying to attempt, what was then, the impossible – The Portland Marathon.

What I really loved about this form of training support was the ability to have a real-life person in my pocket in case things were going to hell in a hand basket. I remember my last long run before the marathon – 20 miles, I started very early in the morning, before my family and most of Portland was up. I went out to a new trail and realized quickly that this was a trail way outside of my skill-set. I just went home. Mentally, I quit, and I packed up and drove home after a mile. After some coaxing from my husband, I got back out there. This time on the Springwater Trail. Again, my head was not in it. I texted back and forth with my coach and it took me hours to finish 13 miles. I just could not get my head in gear, no matter how much I wanted it. Ross kept pushing, rooting me along, offering new ideas or suggestions. Finally, he told me to call it, to use that experience not as something to tear me down before the race – but to remind me to be humbled by what I was doing and know when to fold ’em.

Sometimes running can feel like a bubble and sometimes that’s the whole point. At this particular moment I needed the “big lesson” that I don’t think I would have grasped if I had been just training on my own, even though it was right in front of my face. And there were many more lessons to learn and Ross was there along the way, checking in but not being too in my face or “rah rah rah” about the whole thing.

Right before the marathon we talked about intentions and I had realized through the bad runs that my problem wasn’t athleticism, it was attitude. I wanted to not finish this race with a time goal, I wanted to complete the race with a good attitude and an appreciation for what I physically put forth. That intention I set forth is exactly what I did and I think a lot of it was having a coach to help me harness that intention.

I would recommend a virtual coach if you are interested in an intuitive training plan that allows you the ability to customize based on personal need and you want to get serious about your work. Having a coach allowed for some interesting dialogue and a re-framing of what I thought it meant to train. A virtual coach is probably not for you if you need in-person support or have medical conditions that stop you from physical activity.

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