I’ve wanted to do the RRCA Coaching Certification Course for a while. Why? Same reason I wanted to do the CrossFit L1 Training Course. I wanted to hear from the “experts.” I wanted something official to qualify me as a coach. I wanted to learn how to train myself better as well. This last weekend I finally did it and now I’m going to tell you all about it.
Thanks to You
Before I share anything more I want to give major thanks to those who helped me get to the RRCA course to begin with. You know who you are and I owe you all a huge debt of gratitude and possibly free customized race training.
Last December, when this course was posted and selling out as fast as they always do, I wasn’t sure I’d have the money and was afraid that I’d miss out again. I shared my worry on Facebook and many of you, my friends and readers, immediately responded! Someone recommended that I raise the funds by taking donations in exchange for helping others with their race training. In no time at all I had what I needed to register. So thank you again!
In order to explain the negatives about the RRCA Course experience, I have to mention my little travel woes. I was flying to Sacramento so I decided to extend my time there in order to visit family. My family lives a highly unpredictable life full of foster kid court dates and poison oak attacks. Let me be clear, though, I did not get poison oak, but I had to avoid those who did.
I’ll spare you the itchy details and simply say that I got very little sleep thanks in part to my dear sweet mother who snores like a banshee and the infuriating women who roomed next to us at the Econo Lodge. Our fault for staying at the Econo Lodge, but it was a last minute necessity because, poison oak!
Okay. So. Two day course. I was fully exhausted both days. Normally I would’ve been more engaged, asking questions, chit-chatting with the other runners in the class, etc. There were many really cool people and I only got to meet a few!
Karen of Reason to Play is a fellow Nuun Ambassador!
No that’s not a condom, it’s a single serve Nuun tablet. Heehee.
So I sat down, strapped in, and held on for dear life while our instructor, Randy Accetta, unloaded buckets of information and sprinted from one coaching anecdote to another. Thank God he was funny otherwise I may have flunked due to falling asleep in class.
Overall, the two days were spent skimming the surface of conventional running wisdom as it relates to physical and psychological training for beginners to elites, for 5ks to marathons, as well as safety, injury prevention, and the business of coaching (getting athletes to train with you and not sue you).
Much of the material is meant to confirm what many experienced runners already know, share best practices for coaching other runners, and prepare us to pass the online test. We sat through lecture and discussion for 8 hours each day, with some breaks.
This was such a huge contrast to the two day CrossFit course which had us moving, coaching each other and practicing form. I know you can’t compare the two really, but I had hoped there would be more interaction and movement. Sitting for 8 hours is just brutal.
Day 1 – Semantics
On the first day we covered:
- Coaching history
- Types of runners and their training needs
- Exercise physiology
- Types of running
- Building a training program
Most info was in-line with what I already knew, though perhaps I hadn’t fully understood the hows and whys of it. Now I understand better.
The RRCA stresses uniform usage/meaning of certain terms like cross training, tempo run, or intervals, as it relates to coaching running. As coaches, they want us to be careful with how we use these terms.
I know I’m guilty of calling “cross training” any activity that helps an athlete improve in their specific sport without actually being their specific sport. For most “recreational athletes” (myself included), anything that helps our overall fitness will help us in our sport of choice because we don’t have a very high level of overall fitness to begin with. Therefore, folks who play in a baseball league for funsies can improve their game by doing something like CrossFit or a “Novice Marathoner”, as the RRCA defines it, might see her running improve when she does yoga.
The point is that simply because something improves your overall fitness doesn’t mean that I, as a running coach, should go ahead and label it “cross training.” In order to be clear on what we mean when we use certain terms with our athletes, we narrow the definition of cross training to those activities which specifically mimic running form and improve your cardio.
I get it. Terms have to be carefully defined if we’re going to have meaningful conversations about training to run fast or run far. That being said, I still think recreational runners can benefit from doing non-running-specific fitness activities, depending on their goals.
Day 2 – When there is no right or wrong.
On Day 2 we talked about:
- The business of coaching
- Dealing with injuries
- Running form
- Sports psychology
- A case study
The business of coaching section was marginally interesting, with legal and professional tips on marketing yourself as a coach. The coverage of injuries was pretty basic also, with the main point being, “Know when to refer your athlete to a medical professional!” Good advice. Too many non-medical professionals are out there prescribing treatments.
When we went over running form, Randy told us there is no perfect running form. That being said, we did learn some common faults that, if corrected, will improve efficiency in most runners.
For Sports Psych, I appreciated the conversation about failure. Randy said that, “Running is the sport of failure.” This is something I’m still learning about and try to explain to newer runners. So many times we’ll miss our goal (time, distance) and wind up feeling like a giant pile of poop, no matter how good of a runner you are. If we are to succeed, we have to learn how to handle that.
Going over the case study in small groups was interesting. We were to create a training plan for an imaginary man trying to BQ. Essentially, we learned there is more than one way to go about it and a lot depends on the unique runners you work with and your own style. For some problems, there are no universally right or wrong solutions.
Our instructor explained that he was teaching us one theory on how to build a marathon training program, but that there are other theories that have merit as well. Our job as a coach is to know which training strategy will best help our runner reach their goals.
In order to get certified as a running coach, you have to attend the two day course (check), pass the online test (check), and send in proof of your First Aid/CPR certification (check). At this point I’m just waiting for an e-mail to confirm my certification and get my printed certificate in the mail! I’ll put it up next to my CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certificate!
A note about the online test, for those who are curious: It’s not timed and you can save your progress as you go. I looked at the first 10 questions yesterday, saved my progress and finished the other 90 questions today. It’s all multiple choice. Some are “easy” terminology questions, and others are case study questions where they describe an athlete and then ask you what the best course of action would be given their circumstances. I got 92 out of 100 questions right.
Thinking about RRCA?
I know a lot of my online running buddies have said they’re thinking about doing this someday. I think it is worth it if you want to get into coaching or start a running group in your area. Certified RRCA coaches have access to an online Facebook group among other supportive resources, which I’m excited about.
Have any questions? I’ll try to answer as best as I can based on my experience.