RRCA Coaching Certification Course Reflections

Wow. I just got home from a weekend full of talking and learning about running at the RRCA Coaching Certification Course. My brain feels like it might explode from information overload and I am still processing it all, but it was an amazing experience. To be surrounded by like-minded people discussing and becoming more knowledgable about a topic we are all passionate about- it really doesn’t get much better than that!


The course was in Richmond, Virginia, which is only about an hour south of where we live. We decided to get a hotel and stay overnight though, because I would be in class from 8 – 5:00ish both days and my husband wanted to do some brewery touring and sightseeing while he was on baby duty. We headed down early Saturday morning and I could not wait to get started!


The course covers a wide variety of running related topics and prepares us to work with beginner to advanced runners who are training for all distances and/or to meet personal goals. We learned about the history of coaching, types of runners and their training needs, exercise physiology, types of running and how to build periodized programs, running form, nutrition, the ‘business’ side of coaching, sports psychology, how to deal with injuries, heat, and altitude, and created and individualized program for a case study runner. Whew! Talk about information overload.

A lot of what we learned reinforced things that I already knew, but I did learn a ton of new things as well. I also learned some things that I have been doing that could be keeping me from reaching my full potential. I am not fully certified yet (I still need to take the online test and get CPR/First Aid certified), but I wanted to share some of the interesting tidbits that stuck out in my mind from the weekend.

  • The specificity of training. In the words of our instructor, “The system you stress is the system that improves. Specific stress leads to a specific results. To run fast you need to run fast. To run far you need to run far.” Sounds simple and it is, but this clicked for me. The job of a coach is to put this specificity and purpose into your client’s programs to help them become proficient at whatever it is they are working to achieve. The examples he gave us were, just like shooting free throws in basketball won’t help your golf swing, running at an 8:20 mile pace will get you proficient at running an 8:20 pace, not 8:00 or 9:00, and running 200 meter repeats will not help you get proficient at running a marathon. This specificity in terms of the types of running and training paces they should be doing is important to keep in mind as we build plans based on our client’s goals.
  • Cross training is called “cross training” for a reason. It is training at a slant to your primary activity and should provide equivalent stress to the body. Activities that mimic running form and improve cardiovascular ability (elliptical, bike, stair stepper, pool running, etc.) are the ones that will truly help you progress as a runner. Things like yoga, pilates, weight training, kickboxing, Cross-Fit, etc., are great for flexibility, strength and overall fitness but are not necessarily running-specific cross training. They can be categorized as ‘fitness activities.’ This was eye-opening to me because I admit, lately I go to Body Pump or do yoga on my cross training days and call it a day. While they are definitely not ‘bad’ for me, I know that I would benefit from adding a little running-specific cross training to my routine.
  • Strides. Do them. Incorporate strides into your workouts 2-3 times a week to activate and exercise your fast twitch muscle fibers. More about this later!
  • Exercise physiology. Super scientific stuff but I found it fascinating.  The human body is an amazing machine. For example, I learned that you build up more mitochondria (your body’s “energy factories”) faster and create better oxygen and blood flow while running at a conversational pace, which shows the importance of taking recovery/easy running days. This challenged the way I am currently training with the Run Less, Run Faster training program- only 3 high-intensity runs a week- which means these benefits are still happening inside my body but at a much slower rate. As a result of learning this I’m going to incorporate some easy running between my key runs.
  • “We’re all running from something…” Interesting concept to think about and I do believe it’s true.
  • Sports psychology. I really enjoyed this portion of the course about the mental aspect of running and training. This is the area that took so long for me to develop personally. We learned that there are 5 areas to focus on relaxing and keeping positive while running or racing: breathing, face, body, words, and images/visualization. It’s important to be aware of these 5 areas so you can support your runners and help them relieve their tension points- whether they need to be reminded to breathe in the clean air and breathe out the toxins and stress, relax their jaw or hands, or they need to hear a positive mantra at a difficult time.
  • Running in heat. I want to do a full post on running in warm temperatures as we get closer to summer, but one fact that stood out to me is that ideal marathon performance occurs at 55 degrees. You can expect your performance and speed to degrade 7% if the temperature on race day dips down to 35 degrees or goes up to 75 degrees. At 85 degrees you can expect a 10% degradation. Just a reminder to adjust your goals based on certain conditions in order to stay safe.
  • Running is a sport of failure. This one really hit home for me, especially given my recent marathon DNF. Runners fail at achieving their goals more often than most other sports. But failure does not define us- what does is the way we react to it, adapt, and overcome it. I have learned this through my journey as a runner and it has crossed over into the rest of my life as well. It is such an important lesson to learn.

I only wish that we had more time to dig deeper into the material and learn from the expertise of our instructor, Randy Accetta– a 2:19 marathoner who competed in the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials and has a lot of experience coaching runners at all levels. Additionally, our course was filled with 40 different people with varying experiences: newer runners, ultra marathoners, running shoe store owners, race directors, bloggers and mother runners like me, a Masters runner who trained with some of the most famous coaches in the world, a woman who won a marathon and went on to compete in the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials, and more amazing people that I know I am forgetting. While there were interactive portions of the course I wish we had more time to talk with and learn from each other- many of whom were already coaching people in some way. Of course, you can only learn about such a broad topic in only 2 days and I totally understand that- but I left wanting more!

Source- Randy Accetta's Facebook page

Source: Randy Accetta’s Facebook page

My next step is completing my certification by taking the test and getting CPR and First Aid certified. Then I will be able to officially get started helping people achieve their goals! I am so excited for what’s to come, and I know it’s going to be an amazing journey. My learning is far from over!


9 responses to “RRCA Coaching Certification Course Reflections

  1. Super interesting. Thanks for posting!

  2. I just wanted to tell you that I LOVE your blog! I am actually considering getting certified as a running coach and your post was perfect! Also, I nominated you for a Liebster Award for bloggers! I just announced it on my blog!

  3. Pingback: Potomac River Run Half Marathon Training: Week 3 | Run Inspired

  4. Pingback: 2014: A Year in Review | Run Inspired

  5. The best to you when you take the test. I took the test 2 days after the course. I got a 84! I am now waiting for an e-mail on the process to take the test over. Runners do not give up…love your blog!

    • Sara @runultrainspired

      This is so random but did they let you take the test again? I just took the course and am having major anxiety about failing the test….

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