Another update on my journey to become a CiRF

I’m now a few weeks into my journey to become a Coach in Running Fitness, CiRF, and wanted to share some information on how it’s going. 

The CiRF course is in a state of transition/improvement and this has lead to a few discrepancies between the information provided on the uCoach website and the information we were given during the first weekend of the course. Also, I believe that there have been recent changes to allow coaches to provide more ‘physical preparation’ within the sessions they lead. My personal view is that the UKA has been a little rigid in terms of what non-athletics coaches can do but this is changing as they realise how important the rest of the running population is to the future of grassroots sport, running and athletics. 

As mentioned in my previous post, I want to get as much experience of coaching as I can and am holding a weekly session pre-parkrun in order to do this. 

Although the homework only requires one session to be planned and delivered between days 2 and 3 of the course, I’ve decided to do 4 sessions and then keep offering weekly sessions so I get as many opportunities to coach as I can before assessment day in September. 

To provide continuity and to (hopefully) ease the burden on my aging brain, each of sessions I’m planning follow the same basic structure:

  • introduction
  • 10 minute warmup
  • 15-20 minute bodyweight circuit (physical preparation)
  • 15-20 minute technical skills
  • 10 minute cooldown

As detailed on the course, this kind of breakdown is likely to keep everyone engaged as you don’t spend too long on any one thing. 

I decided that the ‘circuits’ segment of my sessions would always be broken down into 5 stations and would then modify the circuit each week by changing the exercises on a station and progressing others. 

For example, my first session had the following stations:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Carioca
  • Single leg balance
  • Star jumps

As you’ll hopefully see, these not only provide some opportunities for increasing strength but also the fundamental ABCs:

  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Coordination

In session 2, the stations were:

  • Single leg balance (same as previous session)
  • Star jumps (same as previous session)
  • Walking lunges (progression)
  • Squat jumps (progression)
  • Lateral hop (new)

A similar pattern will develop week by week. 

I also added another type of progression to the circuit by changing the station and recovery time as follows:

  • Session 1: 45 seconds per station with 15 seconds recovery/changeover
  • Session 2: 50 seconds per station with 10 seconds recovery/changeover

My plan is also to include more upper body and core exercises such as planks, press ups, burpees etc in future sessions. 

With regards the main technical skills, I’m focusing on a different skill each session. In the first weekend of the course, these were:

  • Running for endurance
  • Running over obstacles
  • Running at max velocity
  • Running uphill
  • Running downhill

I’m therefore planning each session to follow this list (in the order shown above although I may combine uphill and downhill into one session).

As a coach, I’m resisting the temptation to do any running and am organising the sessions logistically so they use a small area where I can see the runners clearly at all times while remaining fairly stationary. This has meant that in sessions 1 and 2 that I’ve used a 200/250 metre loop which has worked well. 

There are a few things I’ve learned so far:

  • A Support Coach is invaluable – many thanks Carol. You are awesome  
  • Maintaining continuity and some consistency between sessions helps… a lot. 
  • It’s difficult setting out courses and coaching the session without one impacting the other. This was particularly so with the obstacle session where there were a lot of hurdles to set out. Using Run Leaders or Assistant Coaches would prove invaluable here. 
  • Providing individual feedback is a challenge – there are often a lot in the group as as a trainee, there’s a lot to think about during the whole session. More on this in a moment. 
  • Feedback is invaluable – as well as excellent feedback from Carol, I’m sending out a short feedback form to the group after each session which may seem like overkill but gives thr kind of information I need to ensure I’m progressing and offering the best sessions I can – so far the feedback has been both really useful and overwhelmingly positive. I know things haven’t been perfect but I can use the detailed feedback from my Support Coach, the feedback from the group and my own self-assessment of the sessions to help improve them for the future. 

Because I’ve not been able to provide individualised feedback so far (I will I promise), I decided to use video in the last session. As it was an obstacle session, there was one bit on a straight gravel path where a number of low hurdles were placed in quick succession. This provided a great opportunity for a video, some feedback on technique and then an after video. One of the group had shown great technique over the hurdles and we decided to use her (well done Luana) to demonstrate the technique she was using and to them ask the rest of the group what the technique was (due to the time taken to set out the course, I’d not had the opportunity to share the technical form/skills recommended for running over obstacles so the session used ‘discovery’ as a learning technique. 

Rather than show the videos of ‘before’ and ‘after’ during the session, I uploaded them to a Facebook group I set up for the group for everyone to see the improvements they’d made. That worked brilliantly. Needless to say, I’ll be videoing segments of future sessions. 

Before I close, one other benefit of videoing (with permission of course) is the ability to use freeze frame and slow motion to hone in on technique matches and mismatches. 

So far, so good. Really enjoying what I’m doing and achieving. I do feel like a fraud at times though given I’m not running much at the moment, am unfit and most of my group are faster than me. However, speed, fitness and current ability don’t define how good a coach you can be. There are many other skills that are equally or more important and hopefully I have one or two of those to make up for my lack of any athletic ability! 

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