It’s getting late and I’ve a busy day ahead tomorrow but I want to start a post about the Coach in Running Fitness Course (CiRF) that I started a week or so ago.
I’ve been a Leader in Running Fitness for over a year now and really enjoy the role. Shortly after doing the LiRF course, I decided I wanted to become a CiRF (although how I’d find the time with everything else I do, I’m not sure as summarised in this rather outdated post) but other priorities and commitments meant that I couldn’t do it last year and expected to have to wait until June/July to be able to start the course this year. However, there was a lot of interest in having an earlier course and several local clubs ‘hounded’ England Athletics to lay on a course locally earlier than they’d planned.
The outcome was a course held in March 2016 attended by about 15 of us of whom 5 were Lordshill Road Runners.
The course is held over 4 days but split as follows:
- weekend 1 – day 1 and day 2 in March
- weekend 2 – day 3 held in April (approx 5 weeks after weekend 1)
- weekend 3 – day 4 held in September
The course was run by 2 very experienced coaches who’d clearly worked together a lot, Simon and Barry. They were entertaining and informative in equal measure. As with the LiRF course, although there were lots of ‘class’ based sessions, there were also lots of practical sessions where we were given experience in coaching and being coached.
Weekend 1 included lots of information and I left both days with a headache! There was simply a lot to take in. The information included:
- athlete-centered coaching
- preparing and delivering sessions
- energy systems
- health and safety
- injury prevention
- technical running drills and how to observe, analyse and feedback to athletes
- physical preparation including use of medicine balls and strength and conditioning using body weight
After day 2, each attendees had a number of pieces of homework including preparing an athlete profile, preparing a session plan and building a training session plan for several weeks (a mesocycle).
Much of the focus of the course is on building the ‘soft’ coaching skills and how to:
how a runner could use running skills for endurance, speed, uphill/downhill and obstacles to improve their running. It’s all very well being taught these skills but they only really sink in if you get the chance to use them ‘in anger’!
I decided that I wanted to get as much opportunity to coach runners as possible so decided to hold several coached sessions. Part of the course requires these to be ‘reviewed’ by a ‘Support Coach’ who provides feedback on how to improve them and their delivery. At Lordshill Road Runners, we have several coaches. However, for one reason and another, not all are currently active. Our head coach, Carol, very kindly accepted my request for her to be my Support Coach and we had a meeting prior to the first weekend of the course to clarify a few things that I wasn’t sure about after having read the Pre-Course Workbook.
Having spoken to Carol, I decided that I wanted to deliver several weekly coached sessions to other members of the club and proposed this to members of the group I regularly lead as a Run Leader on a Monday evening. I was very pleased that 10-12 of the group ‘signed up’ for the sessions and started to work out what I wanted to deliver.
This involved quite a lot of work… in fact, far more than most would realise. I had to consider what the structure of each session would be, what I wanted each session to focus on, how I could progress things week by week, what areas I could use to enhance the sessions and make them safe and once I had all that in my head, I started to work out a session plan for the first session.
I went into quite a lot of detail about the session with the thought that if it was detailed, I was more likely to stick to it and, also, if I wasn’t able to make the session, someone could deliver it for me (although in all likelihood this wouldn’t happen).
Having completed a draft session plan, I sent it to Carol for review and feedback. Carol was very positive and gave some great advice on how to tweak the session and the plan. Thanks Carol!
Choosing the timing of the session was a challenge. Not only did I need Carol to be available but I also had to be there. That meant that I couldn’t hold it on a weekday evening as I already commit one evening to Run Leading and didn’t want to lose out on more family time. I also didn’t want to have the sessions clash with junior parkrun especially as the period the sessions would run would require volunteers as for the foreseeable future, the regular volunteers would be participating in local races (I was due to race at the Eastleigh 10K and Southampton Half Marathon but recovery from my injury – Plantar Fasciitis – has taken a lot longer than I’d hoped and I am far from fit at the moment. I’m also carrying a stone and a half more than I’d like to be at anything like my goal race weight). That meant that the only reasonable day to hold the coached sessions was a Saturday but at a time that didn’t clash with parkrun! I therefore decided to choose to hold the sessions from 7:30am for an hour. That would mean that the Common (where both the sessions and Southampton parkrun take place) would be quiet and there’d be adequate time for participants to rest before parkrunning if they chose to.
As well as the session plan, I prepared laminated sheets for part of the session and created a checklist to make sure I didn’t forget anything.
Having defined a plan, I was ready to deliver it and it wasn’t long until Saturday morning arrived. I didn’t sleep very well the night before worrying about how it would go and whether those taking part would enjoy the sessions and return for the 2nd, 3rd or 4th!
I needn’t have worried. The preparation for the session meant that it went (almost) to plan and the structure of the session was quite a change from our usual training sessions. I’d broken the session down into:
- warmup (10 mins)
- physical preparation circuit (15 mins)
- technical skills – for this session – running for endurance (15 – 20 mins)
- cooldown (10 mins)
I’d also made sure that I’d factored in time between each element of the session to describe what we’d be doing.
I really wasn’t sure whether the group would like the circuit aspect of the session but it proved to be the most popular bit. I had 5 ‘stations’ each with a different ‘exercise’ and split the group into pairs. Each pair did 45 mins on a station and then had 15 minutes to proceed to the next one before completing that. For those that have done RunCamp, Ant often uses these kind of circuits for S&C. I can remember when I first did one that I felt a little ‘cheated’ that we were ‘wasting time’ doing something other than running. However, physical preparation and all-body fitness is really important to improving running technique and endurance hence it being a good part of the overall session.
As I’ve said, the session went really well. I elicited feedback from everyone that took part and will use that to improve future sessions. I know I wasn’t perfect in my delivery of the session and completed my own ‘evaluation’ of the session as well as getting a ‘feedback form’ from my Support Coach, Carol.
It’s now Monday evening and I’ve already spent a fair amount of time thinking about the next session. It looks like it’ll be well attended and I’m really looking forward to it.
Many thanks to Carol, Claire, Lucy, Amy, Luana, Alison, Jonathon, Aaron and Rachel for their support for the first session.
I’m really looking forward to improving as a coach. There’s a long way to go until I qualify and I’ve still got 2 days of the course, a technical exam and several months of experience in delivering coaching before my final assessment in September.