This last year has been plagued with injury for my, but due to my lack of consistent training I have spent more time on other things such as cross training and stretching. The biggest development in my running career however is becoming a licensed Coach in Running Fitness (CIRF).
I have been a Run Leader in Running Fitness (LIRF) for a couple of years and have really loved coaching. To be honest the LIRF is a brilliant course, but being only a one day course, there is only so much they can teach you.
Therefore last summer I decided to bite the bullet and enrol on the CIRF course. The course consists of 4 days with English Athletic Coaches and in-between you hone your skills and have a coach mentor checking your training plans etc and guiding you as you go along.
The course is split into a weekend of instruction (2 days), then you go away and do your homework, find a coach mentor to help you and get an athlete to be your training guinea pig. You return again 6 weeks later for another days learning and to go through how you got on with your athlete and coach mentor, go away to the prepare a training session and a training program for your athlete. You then return 8 weeks later again for your assessment day. Here is how it went
Days 1 & 2
The first 2 days are over one weekend so last September I headed of to Exeter to start my journey down the road of becoming a CIRF. On my way I was thinking what if I am surrounded by young profession fitness instructor types and I this middle aged, injured mediocre runner arrives, looking a bit out of place. Anyhow no need to worry, there was 8 of us on the course and I was not the oldest, and definitely not the youngest, but there was a really good mix of people.
We met our coaches, other prospective CIRF’s and started straight off with a bonding get to know each other session. To be honestly I normally hate these type of things but I found this OK. After a bit of a chat we discussed the different development stages of a runner, there are 5 stages and we all rated ourselves as level 3 event group level runners, well I have run loads of races so I was definitely above level 1, fundamentals and level 2, foundation. Of we went to the hall to have a quick warm up session and to put what we have talked about into practise. On the warm up we had to do some coordination drills and balance. To say I was bad is an understatement. It came to a point where Peg stopped our high knee exercise and came over to me and asked if she could use me as an example. Yes I agreed. We were doing high knees and then stopping and balancing on one leg when told. Well that was the idea but I was hopping around on one leg like Long John Silver. So after hopping around she came up to me and whispered for me to look up this time and keep upright. This time on being told to stop on one leg there was a little wobble and then I was there like a statue, well a wobbly statue but no longer Long John Silver. Wow a simple easy instruction made such a difference, Peg is my new running hero. Anyhow at the end of the session we had all demoted our running ability from Level 3 Event runner to high level 1 / base line level 2 type of runner. The rest of the weekend was a mix of theory and practical sessions and at the end of day 2 to be honest my brain was fried. I left thinking I have learnt so much, but still needed to learn so much more.
Over the next 6 weeks I put into practise what I had learnt, emailing Tracey my mentor my proposed training plans, my wife became my guinea pig as did quite a few members of my running club when I was trying out drills etc on them and seeing what worked and what didn’t.
I was really looking forward to going back, seeing my fellow CIRF’s to see how we were getting on and swapping ideas. We had really bonded as a group and this made such a difference. Again this was a day of theory and practical sessions, we went back over some of the previous things and went into assessing peoples running styles and where improvement can be made as well as more on training schedules and nutrition. At the end of this day again I was slightly frazzled and now as we were finishing we were being briefed on what was required for our next visit, yes our final day and the assessment day. Hopefully we will all pass on the day but if you fail on any aspect you have up to a year from your initial day to get a pass in any aspect that you fail. Peg was saying “everyone likes the assessment day the most and say, they get the most out of it” yeah right I thought, you are not going to say this will be really stressful and gruelling. But hang on Peg is my new running hero so she wouldn’t fib, would she????????
Day 4 Assessment Day
I arrived with my session plan, mesocycle (8 week training plan for my athlete) microcycle’s (detailed weekly plans) and the actual results if there was an improvement in my athlete. We had achieved what we set out to do well nearly. I was prepared, I was raring to go, I had this. As I entered the school instead of turning right and going up the corridor to the classroom that had been our base for the last 3 days we were sent straight to the hall. On entering the hall there was a new English Athletic coach who said hi and then said that he had flown from Ireland to be here today to assess us. Mmmmm not really what I expected and my confidence was now hopping around like Long John Silver in my head. Then I saw Peg and I relaxed a bit.
After being split up into 2 groups I was so relieved that our group was going to be assessed by Peg. In the morning we all took turns either taking the session or being a participant for the other prospective CIRF’s. At one time as I was running as part of one of the other CIRFS session. As I ran past I heard Peg say look at Gary. Memories of day one came back when my balance was very shaky. Self doubt arose and I thought what am I doing wrong. My running style had been commented on numerous times during the last 3 days of training, and I welcomed the advice, however today on assessment day I suddenly lost my bravado. We all stopped and gathered in around the coaches. I was then asked to run the drill again on my own whilst everyone else assessed. As I set off I thought what am I doing wrong, oh well its all part of learning. After completing 2 laps of the drill I was summoned in. I joked to be gentle with me as I am a sensitive soul, to which one of my fellow students just laughed and said yeah right teachers pet. Apparently my upright posture was spot on. Yes another amazing moment, instead of being the one struggling with coordination or balance, now I was an shining example. (I have been practising my posture as this is what my training session was based on and I think I have really improved and this really boosted my confidence)
At lunch we had a one on one with our assessor and they said what they still needed to see from us during the afternoon so that we could pass. The rest of the day was either running the training sessions, being the athlete or going through what you have assessed and your trying programs. At the end of the day we all passed and are now licensed running coaches.
To sum it up it is a great course and you learn so much. It has improved my running and understanding so much and I feel so much more confidant as a coach now. I am still learning and don’t get me wrong, this course will not make you a coach over night but it gives you the basics from which you can build your coaching knowledge. You learn so much from the others on the course as well as the instructors. My coach mentor Tracey was great and gave me some amazing ideas for training sessions that I now use regularly.
And to top it off my coaching hero, Peg, was right as always, the assessment day was by far the most enjoyable and informative day of the whole course.
Thanks to Peg, the rest of the EA coaching team, Tracey my mentor, Donna my athlete, RMPAC for putting me on the course and all the RMAPC coaches and runners who gave me feed back on some of my running drill sessions.
If you are thinking about doing it, then enrol, if you want more info or live in Dorset and want a coach mentor then don’t hesitate to contact me.