A lot of accomplished runners have opted for online coaching. But would that work for everyone? Radhika Meganathan speaks to trainer and marathoner RAGHUL TREKKER about its pros and cons.
If you had thought that ‘live’ is always better than ‘long distance’, think again! Raghul Trekker is in a unique position to speak about the advantages of online coaching, since not only he has a long distance coach who trains him from her home in South Africa, he himself is a long distance coach for over 70 runners spread across the world.
“I met my trainer Lucie Zelenkova, a prolific athlete, in Malaysia in 2015. Since then, she has designed my workout schedule which I follow every day,” says Raghul. They have weekly skype sessions, in which they exchange discussions about his goals and progress reports. His coach sends him regularly customised workouts and diet charts and is available for a call or a skype session I whenever he needs her advice.
After winning Ironman Sri Lanka and other races, Raghul started training aspiring runners. “The website I use is Training Peaks (https://www.trainingpeaks.com) which acts as a platform between users and trainers. The process is very simple. Each runner first has to talk to me by phone so that I understand their goals and expectations, and can make a decision whether I am the right trainer for them. Once I decide to take them on, they will have to create a profile and the training begins.”
Usually runners should have a goal to train for, say, Ironman or an upcoming marathon, because otherwise Raghul cannot draft a fitness schedule to help them become better than their current level. “You can be a newbie or a seasoned athlete, and you can come to me just for a season like 3 months or 6 months training (and many do, which is great, there is no hard and fast rule that you have to train forever!), but you cannot come to me blank. Have a vision and help me help you,” he says.
What are his tips for runners who want to look for the right online coach? “Look up for one who specialises in the event that you’d like to conquer,” says Raghul. “If you are aiming for a triathlon, go for coaches who have experience in that. Make sure your coach is going to design your training schedule specifically for you every week, based on your lifestyle and stats, rather than expecting you to fit yourself in some readymade and generic template. A good coach should be able to know you as a person, not just a runner, and design your workout accordingly.”
Raghul’s customised plans for his runners always include diets, mental preparation tips and terrain tips, among the usual workouts aimed at physical mastery. Some of the things he takes into consideration while designing workouts, are: Current fitness level, past fitness level, past achievements, time they have to commit to workouts every day, every week and their willingness to strive for tougher workouts on an escalating basis. “I log these data regularly, religiously, in every runner’s profile and keep track of their progress. This way, even if the runner has a break and comes back for more training after a few months, or even years, I don’t have any hiccups.”
So, for the million dollar question, what is his opinion about Live vs Long Distance?
“Live coaching can be exciting if you have found a good trainer in your locality, but it is restricted by geographical boundaries,” says Raghul. In live coaching, your trainer cannot be with you all the time, week after week, or oversee your stats and progress every day. Not all trainers are tech savvy and may have to rely on you to feed information and progress reports to them in a tricky verbal or handwritten format, which may or may not be always accurate. And not every town in the world is going to have a great trainer. But almost every town these days does have an internet connection.
“That way, I’d say online coaching is great because one, you get to train under some truly exceptional athletes in the world even if they don’t live in your neck of the woods, and that can be a tremendous confidence booster, not mention a rare and fantastic opportunity. Two, all the stats are recorded, updated and stored online in each runner’s profile and I will have that information in my finger tips to help my students without having to rely on memory or having to start from scratch,” Raghul delivers the verdict.
If you’d like to be trained by Raghul, you can contact him through the website of his fitness studio, TRI CRASH ‘n’ BURN, at http://www.tricrashnburn.com