Does virtual running coaching really work?

Does virtual running coaching really work?

How 2020 made us go virtual (finally) and the surprising things we learnt…

It took a pandemic for us to put the time and effort into coaching virtually. We knew virtual coaching had potential for many years, but we were too busy teaching classes, planning running holidays and signing up for races to put the time in. All that fun stuff kept us off the computer….

In fact, I had made excuses for many years. Ever since I developed the online running coaching programme back in 2014 for This Irish Times (which is still going strong) I realised I should be coaching online myself. But, life got in the way and very simply, I never got around to doing it. The technology, the unknown, all the excuses.

But all that changed in spring 2020 and there was no other option. It was virtual or nothing. We wanted to keep people moving, motivation and indeed sane! We started by keeping in contact and offering free Zoom classes and online support and guess what… it took off. Honestly, what we didn’t expect is for virtual coaching to be as successful for our runners as it was.

But does it really work?

I know you might be sceptical. How could we go from meeting our running buddies weekly for chats, miles and smiles to suddenly just see them online? But remember great virtual coaching is not just being online – its feeling like you are there with the coaches and the others who are also in your coaching group. If you all feel in it together, then it becomes a team and you feel accountable to show up

Not just another zoom call..

I know there are a million ‘online’ programmes and classes out there, and we can download any number of training plans and guides for free, but what most of us need is not just the ‘know how’ but the support, the guidance and the camaraderie that normally we would get from running buddies, a coach or a chat with others at parkrun.

More than just running plans

So, we developed programmes based on what our runners wanted. It started simple in the spring and by autumn we had a team of 4 coaches covering everything from food to yoga, strength and mobility to running tips and motivation. There was something there everyday. But more than the content was the camaraderie. Coaching a group online meant we could all share our progress, our recipe attempts, our running adventures and indeed our disappointments when things didn’t go to plan.

What our runners said…. 

Our main aim was to help people enjoy running (and encourage them to make it easier by looking after themselves. The feedback speaks for itself…

“Virtual coaching with Forget the Gym has everything: fun, friendliness, and support to get you running no matter what your level. I’ve really loved the variety in the programme and the chance to either join a session live or catch up in your own time. Absolutely wonderful and a fabulous opportunity to keep healthy in these challenging times. “

Read  more reviews from our participants….

As coaches, what are the positives? 

  • We had runners from home and abroad training together
  • People could run/exercise at a time that suited them
  • Schedules could adapt to life getting in the way
  • There was no commuting, no yoga mats on a rainy beach
  • Yet there was the opportunity to do a class outdoors in the garden anytime
  • As coaches it helped us keep our homes clean knowing they were on camera.
  • It made us adapt and learn and get comfortable doing new stuff.
  • We build community when everyone was missing social interaction
  • We tried to work out how long someone would sit on a mat
  • Or how much we could encourage them to try new things when running
  • And each term we make changes to make it better.

It’s not going away – virtual coaching is here to stay regardless of what happens with getting ‘back to normal’.

Not sure it’s for you?

Let’s be honest, most people wouldn’t choose virtual if they could meet with a coach or a group of runners in person. Many of the people who love virtual coaching now will happily admit that they never would have signed up for it initially if our classes has continued and they were able to meet their running buddies. They are hooked now. But they never expected it to work either.

And of course, being virtual does mean more time online – and most of us have enough of that. But it’s how best we best use that online time. When I’m on a zoom class I don’t feel like I’m online, I feel like I’m transported to the other side of Aoife’s Living room, or Linda’s yoga dome.

To get the most out of virtual coaching (well, certainly virtual coaching with ForgetTheGym) If you are not comfortable being on a private Facebook group, then you won’t get the most out of the programme as that’s where all the videos, chats and inspiration is.

But if you are the type of person who does need a kick out the door sometimes and feels that life is running away on you, you might just consider it before you say you don’t have time right now. We never know what time we have in the future? But at some point we will have to make the time.

See our 2021 Virtual Coaching Plans