Our UESCA Coach of the Month for March is Dennis Kaas of Kaas Running. Dennis is a certified UESCA running coach based in Denmark.
Whether it be his standpoint on the overreliance of running technology, his view on what a running community can do for others, or our favorite… his fascination with the sport of biathlon; we’re loving Dennis’s post and we’re sure you will too!
How did you get started in coaching?
Until 2003, coaching was just a hobby, but from 2005 – when I stopped doing competitive sports, the coaching really picked up pace. In the beginning, coaching was probably a kind of compensation for my own loss of ability to participate in running at my desired level – so at least I could help others do it. As the years went by, the coaching became a “call,” and my ambitions and educational level has raised incrementally.
In 2009 I formed a training group called “Group Kaas Running.” Between 2009-2015 I acted as a personal coach to individual runners in this group. In conjunction to this, I arranged weekly training sessions for large groups of runners.
Since January 2016, I’ve been the Founder and Head Coach of the company, “Kaas Running,” where I offer training courses for runners of all levels. Since it started, there has been 30-40 runners active at any given time.
How important do you find your personal running experience is to your coaching practice?
I don’t think I would use the word ”important,” as I think that you can be an amazing coach without being an experienced runner. Personal coaching is first and foremost about the “connection” between coach and runner. If you can’t form a close and truthful relation to the runner, everything else falls to the ground.
However, the fact that I have been a competitive runner, and that I’m still running recreationally, gives me the ability to recognize the difficulties and experiences that runners are exposed to, and thereby I can advise from my own experiences. But even without this background I would still be curious and ask questions. This combined with a decent coaching-related background, I think I would still be able to reach the same results.
What are your best tips for working with clients that don’t always adhere to the scheduled program?
I don’t think it is a problem if my clients doesn’t follow the exact program… so long as it’s in cooperation with me.
Therefore I use many resources to educate my clients on “listening to their bodies”, and not to follow the planned program at any cost. I think that the “theory of common sense” is highly underrated, and I have often seen runners being more focused on what their fancy watch tells them, rather than focusing on their body’s natural messages, and that is a huge mistake.
My best tips concerning runners that doesn’t always follow the planned program are as follows:
- If the deviation is caused by a client that has experienced discomfort of some sort (sickness, soreness or similar), regulate their program accordingly, if needed.
- Ask about the underlying issues and if their deviations are caused by other reasons (not enough time, stress or similar). If so, modify their program accordingly, if needed.
- Educate the client to contact, and discuss the issue(s) with their coach before they make a deviation.
What do your athletes get from working with you that they likely wouldn’t get from another coach?
That’s a good question, because I think there are lots of good coaches that have countless different qualities.
But if I had to highlight something, it would probably be that apart from my coaching and sports-related education, I’m also educated in the relational and pedagogical field – concerning both individuals and groups – which makes me feel like I have some tools that other coaches lack, and sometimes need.
The above also means that I’ve had success training and coaching runners that has been, or are, hit by afflictions such as anxiety, stress and PTSD.
Apart from that, my response time probably stands out from the average (that’s at least what I’m told), as I don’t operate with fixed working hours, but answer my clients continuously throughout the day.
Tell us about some of your most recent coaching achievements.
Here I want to mention two runners with completely different backgrounds.
- The first one is a woman in her early forties who contacted me during a sick leave caused by stress and had never done any sports. At present time, the woman is participating her fourth training course with Kaas Running, and she has – through the running, among other things – fought her way back from her stress period. And if everything goes according to planned, in July 2018 she will run a stage race stretching over 5 days and will be running 42 kilometers in those days. So from a life without sports, she can now call herself a runner.
- The second one is a man in his late twenties. He’s from Ethiopia and is a political refugee. His running-related resume’ counts both a ½ marathon time of 64 minutes and a marathon time of 2 hours and 14 minutes. So while there is a limited amount of new knowledge about training I can provide him, by inviting him into a “running community” and listening to his story, I’ve been able to give his life a little more content as a Danish refugee asylum. Through our training program, I have experienced a man who has “grown” both mentally as well as physically. And even though his times haven’t reached those of former times, he has still achieved success and victories at several local races. He has also acquired a new group of friends at our weekly training sessions which is offered to local clients participating in training programs. He has been an inspiration as he has helped motivate other runners at the training sessions.
The same guy also confirmed my statement, that many western runners are a little to invested in the information that our modern GPS-watches offer us. When I asked him one of the first times we met if he owned a GPS-watch, he smiled and answered “Yes”, and promptly continued; ”but it doesn’t work…” When I asked him how he then controlled his training, he said, still smiling; ”I feel it.”
Favorite winter Olympic sport and why?
Biathlon. I find the combination of great physical and mental strength fascinating, and the fact, that cross-country skiing is the sport most reminiscent of running probably also plays a role ?