Our September Coach of the Month is UESCA Running Coach, Mike Harris. Mike is the founder/owner of Windhorse Running and is a seasoned marathon and ultramarathon competitor.
His interview below summarizes what a great coach should strive for, in both themselves and for their clients. Keep up the great work Mike!
What led you to start a coaching business?
- I have been an avid runner for about 15 years. I was introduced to running 18 years ago when I joined the Marine Corps. The three-mile physical fitness test kicked my butt and I was not ok with that; it bothered me that I was toward the back of the pack. Having never run in high school, I had to figure it out on my own. What began as a mission to get faster in the three-mile distance turned out to be a lifelong passion for the sport of running and the science of run training. I enjoy learning science-based and anecdotal knowledge on endurance running and training (TP design, injury mitigation/rehabilitation). Helping other people to be better runners and live healthier, more active lifestyles is something that feels great. I consider it a privilege and an honor to help others achieve their personal fitness goals.
What are your tips to keep clients motivated and on-track to hit their goals?
- Borrowing from the coaching philosophy of David and Megan Roche, who call their approach “some work, all play” (SWAP), I believe that people should always keep the long view in mind. Instead of seeing a goal race as an end, focus on making running and training a balanced part of everyday life. Running smart is a lifestyle and incorporates all of your passions, commitments, life stressors, and decisions. Training for an event does not have to consume your life, in fact, training plans that ignore the whole person and allow the athlete to find balance, result in overtraining, burnout, injury, DNS’s, and DNF’s (not that DNF’s are bad, but we should strive to avoid them through smart training). The bottom line is that running should be fun, remember that there are lots of people out there who cannot run and would give anything to be in your shoes…run with an attitude of gratitude!
Is there a particular type of client that you enjoy working with and if so, what type and why?
- Clients who understand that running is a luxury and privilege and who have or are striving for balance in their life. I enjoy people who are humble and who are willing to put in the work. The most important part of executing a good training plan is consistency (commitment). If someone is dedicated and listens to their coach, their probability of success is high.
As someone with a military background, how has that influenced your coaching practice, if at all?
- As a fixed-wing attack pilot, I have learned techniques for researching, organizing, analyzing, and presenting information in a way that delivers the bottom line with clarity and fosters complete understanding. In my line of work, if the mission is not clearly communicated and understood, lives are at risk. In running, the stakes are lower, but there is still a “mission” to accomplish, the same approach applies. For me as a coach, the mission is always to run and train smartly, in a way that builds the individual for longevity in the sport, guards against injury, while enabling the athlete to achieve their personal goals.
What characteristics do you feel make a great coach?
- The same characteristics that make a great leader. A great coach is honest, transparent, communicates effectively and frequently, is grateful for the privilege of helping others succeed, has a genuine concern for the well-being of others, strives to maintain a positive attitude, knows his client’s training must be as unique as the individual client, keeps up with the latest research in the field, is a lifelong learner, and has respect for the opinions and perspectives of others, especially in the run coaching community.
Run in the rain. Hell yeah or hit the treadmill?
- Hell yeah. I love running in the rain. But thunderstorms are a different story. I think there is value in training on the treadmill, it is a great training tool to have in a coach’s toolkit. Of course, nothing can replace being outside though.