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A running app can help you get on track (Picture: Getty Images)
A virtual running coach is like having a secret weapon in your ear.
Whether you’re a beginner, looking to improve your 10k, or aiming for a marathon, a coach can guide you through the process, support you, help you overcome obstacles and keep you on track.
You only have to Google ‘Virtual Run Club’ to see a huge number have popped up during lockdown. The Strava sports community platform reported 172,000 new clubs were created globally on the app last year – more than 30,000 in April alone – while 250,000 athletes joined clubs.
These virtual clubs/coaches do everything you would normally do in a physical meet-up – and joining now could help build your confidence before group sessions are allowed again on March 29.
Club styles vary from live, in-ear coaching to online support communities. But whatever your preference, a virtual coach can have huge benefits.
‘You tend to see people going out and running at 60-70% effort for as long as they can,’ says Anthony ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, a biomechanics running coach and founder of virtual run club, Onetrack.
Onetrack’s Fletch says a coach can use the science to help you get the most out of your workout
‘Afterwards they feel like they’ve had a run, but they often don’t feel like they achieved anything. What we see in the science is that these types of runs usually accumulate higher levels of fatigue and lower levels of performance.
‘When we go out running we’re trying to train our body.
‘A coach is there to help you develop and has your best interests at heart. A coach will programme the weeks and months ahead with various formats to help you achieve your goals.
‘How many reps for an interval, how long are the intervals, what’s the recovery like, etc, is a lot for the average runner to think about when planning his or her own sessions. A coach is there to take all the science and wrap it up into manageable workouts to help you progress.’
Knowing there’s someone there to guide you and that you’re part of a greater team is another benefit of virtual coaching.
‘Having someone in your ear telling you how you should be feeling, how your feet should be landing and what your arms should be doing can keep any alarm bells at bay and allow you to focus on your fun,’ Fletch adds.
Running is among the very few outdoor fitness options available to us during lockdown and it’s great to see people finally getting over their fear of it.
‘Running has always had a stigma attached to it,’ says running coach Cory Wharton-Malcolm, founder of running community Track Mafia.
Cory proves that you don’t have to look like a stereotypical runner to feel the benefits (Picture: George Thomas Arthur Tewkesbury)
‘At school, running was used as punishment and people tend to think of runners as tall, slim men, but that’s really not what the majority of people look like.’
Cory is a great example as he’s not your stereotypical-looking runner, but he is head running coach for Nike Run Club UK and Europe. ‘I can vouch for the benefits first-hand, both as a participant and as a coach,’ he adds.
‘I’ve seen how having a virtual running coach has changed a person’s entire mindset on life. It’s given them cardio confidence which in turn gives them more confidence in other parts of their life, like making better food choices and changing bad sleeping habits.’
A virtual running club is also a great way to meet new people who are doing positive things with their life.
‘The coach is someone to hold you accountable, it’s like having a friend in your ear telling you the truth. The club is a community, a family, a team, a safe space for individuals to meet like-minded people and explore not just running, but the lifestyle associated with it.
‘Your teammates are there to inspire you and get you moving when you might not want to. Lockdown has been tough for many but what has made it a lot easier is knowing your virtual family is in your ear, or on your screen when you need them.’
Five virtual running clubs worth trying
Run coach Alisadair can help you reach your goals virtually
For these live running classes, just download the app, book, lace up and go. One of the PTs in your pocket is run coach Alasdair Fitz-Desorgher who can offer real-time feedback, motivation and coaching during the session.
There are 20-30 runs a week, capped at 40 attendees, so you can get the most out of each session whether that’s in-ear speed coaching or on-camera technique tweaks (treadmill only).
Runs are also choreographed to music and you can receive personalised stats including distance and pace.
Price: Free 14-day trial. Membership from £37.99.
Visit online: openfit.com
Live running sessions mean you can ask questions in real time
Dial into a live audio session via Microsoft Teams or GoogleMeet alongside international runners on set days/times for everything from intervals and easy runs to fartlek and long distance.
Running coach Anthony Fletcher sneaks in education to get you thinking about lactate threshold, biomechanics and rate of perceived exertion. Q&As are held after each session.
Price: Pay as you go (choose from £0 or a contribution of up to £15) and memberships available.
Visit online: onetrack.club
Nike Run Club
Head coach Cory has recorded guided runs to keep your sessions on track (Picture: George Tewkesbury)
Nike offers pre-recorded guided runs and the voice in your ear will motivate and inspire you. Choose from Nike Master Trainers or Nike athletes to lead your session – anything from timed, distanced or fartlek to track, treadmill or trail.
The app will also track your data, including pace, location and distance, allowing you to compare details and compete with others. Keep an eye out for head running coach Cory Wharton-Malcolm.
Visit online: nike.com
Pure Sport CBD Virtual Run Club
Join pro runner Will through his Strava club
Led by elite runners Will Goodge and Lloyd Kempson, this club on Strava allows you to post workouts, share data and connect with other runners.
Choose a distance or challenge, such as The Road To 100km or a beginner’s 0-5km in six weeks, and the app logs your data (distance covered, average pace, heart rate etc) on your Strava profile.
You can compete against others on the leader board and the coaches encourage you to ask questions on Instagram (@puresportcbd).
Visit online: puresportcbd.com/pure-sports-clubs
Freeletics Hybrid Running
Personalised AI-powered plans help you reach your goals
AI-powered fitness app Freeletics has launched Hybrid Running personalised plans. Unlike other coaching plans, this combines running with bodyweight training to enhance your endurance levels and accelerate your results.
Enter your personal data and goals into the app and the AI coach will create a plan for you. This could be anything from core and lower body exercises to sprint intervals and long-distance runs.
There are active images for the exercises and you can choose different audio cues for your run.
Price: £32.99 for three months.
Visit online: freeletics.com
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