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Running Coach Certifications: How To Become A Certified Running Coach

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Running Coach Certifications: How To Become A Certified Running Coach Running Coach Certifications: How To Become A Certified Running Coach www.runnerclick.com

Are you thinking about getting your certification to become a running coach? Four primary programs can help you achieve that goal.

Let’s get prepared for a deep dive into the world of coaching.

1. Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) Coaching Certification Program

The most well-known of the four coaching programs, RRCA has been around for a long time. Their primary goal is to educate coaches on running techniques and skills and on training in a smart manner to help athletes avoid injury. This coaching program has two levels.

Level 1 is for individuals who want to organize and facilitate a running club or training program. The actual course is a 2-day course taught in 16 hours.

If you pass the course by scoring an 85% or higher, you need to also take classes in both First Aid and CPR within so many days of finishing your RRCA coursework.

After completing those additional steps, you can become added to the RRCA database of available certified coaches. The coach is tasked with maintaining his or her certifications to stay coaching eligible.

Level 2 training goes into the scientific aspects, both physical and mental, of the sport. In addition, it has the participant learning about the business administration side of things.

You have to have been a level one coach for at least one year before taking the Level 2 class. 

2. United Endurance Sports Coaching Association (UESCA) Running Coach Certification

Done completely online, the UESCA is a favorite of people who want flexibility. Participants have a full year to take the final examination after starting the class.

Focused on the scientific aspects of running, this certification also has the coach taking CPR before receiving certification. The class is broken down into modules that take approximately 25 hours to complete and culminate with a 150 question exam. 

The UESCA does not require the coach to engage in formal professional development to stay certified; rather, the coach must write and submit some paper every two years. The paper has to be based on scientific factors. 

3. North American Academy for Sport Fitness Professionals (NAASPF) Certification

If you wonder if there is a certification out there geared toward a specific activity, NAASPF is the one. There are options based on the coach’s experience as a runner.

One is for a marathon running coach, and the person taking the class has to have run at least one marathon and two half marathons to qualify. The running coach requires you to be an experienced runner but does not quantify that in any way. Likewise with the walking coach certification: you just need to be an experienced long-distance walker.

Participants need to be at least 18 and provide proof of having taken both first aid and CPR. Also done in online modules, they are broken down for the person taking the class.

The course can easily be done in 22 weeks; however, you have up to 2 years to complete the requirements from the day you start. 

4. USA Track & Field (USATF) Coaching Education

The USATF coaching program is the most affordable and takes the least amount of time, estimated at taking 2-3 hours for the average adult to complete. The participant can complete the entire course online.

This is the route high school coaches choose since many of them have sport-specific experience and are already employed working with teenagers. 

Want to Become a Certified Coach?

Certified Coaches’ Advice & Tips

 Lauren Sheu of Running For Wellness

“I was certified through the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). I highly recommend this certification program – it is highly comprehensive and ensures that you are equipped to coach athletes in a safe and effective way.

There are additional sources of training that you can take depending on what specialties you would like to focus on as a coach. RRCA offers a Level 2 certification that contains even more information about coaching athletes effectively.   
A few other options include NASM (Personal Training certification), Ironman Coaching Certification, etc.  It depends on what focus you want to take in your business and what you want to offer to your coaching clients.
There are a variety of other areas that are very important to running a successful coaching business. You need to understand marketing and sales to be successful. 
One of the hardest parts of getting started as a new running coach is the business side/marketing/actually finding clients to coach. I struggled with this at first, so I spent countless hours educating myself about growing and market my business. 
Since applying the techniques I learned, my coaching business has grown exponentially. I created a course to share all my tips and help other new running coaches grow their businesses using everything that has worked (or hasn’t worked) for me.  
My course is called Growing a Successful Online Coaching Business. The training consists of 6 recorded modules: 
1.  Setting Your Business Up For Success 
2. Choosing a Niche/ Determining Pricing/ Keys To Success
3. How to Quickly Jumpstart Your Coaching Business
4. How to Find Coaching Clients on Instagram
5. The Importance of Creating an Email List
6. Blogging/SEO Basics. 
I also offer 1:1 mentoring sessions for new coaches.”
Please reach out to Lauren Sheu ([email protected]) if you’re interested!

Carrie Miller of On Pace Running

“I have two certifications: RRCA and USATF.  I’d recommend the RRCA but probably not the USATF as that was more track-based and very broad. I do not have additional training in these related areas, but I have a partner who is trained in nutrition to offer that to our clients. 

I feel that I could do some research and find out quite easily how to get trained in other areas if I wanted to do that. Lastly, if I were giving advice to someone looking to start a coaching business, I would advise getting additional training on running a business and marketing.  I have an MBA, and my undergrad is business, so this works in my favor.”

Evan Wood of Just Another Running Coach

“I went through the RRCA Level I Certification course. It was a weekend intensive in which all of the fundamentals were covered: how to communicate effectively and respectfully to our athletes, how to build safe and effective training plans, and how to run our business, among other things.

In regards to other things, a coach needs to know,  “While it’s important to know the nuts and bolts of different workouts, training plans and how to run a business, I would say that the only field of knowledge that’s universally important to be a running coach is a fundamental understanding of what makes the sport appealing to 99% of people: it’s a sport of humility and self-worth.
A mediocre coach might do or say whatever it takes to achieve a great result on paper, but a great coach knows that the best kind of result is one you can’t see on a clock–it’s helping an athlete live their personal best lives.”

Chris Bailey of Without Limits Charleston

“I have an RRCA Level 1 certification and a USATF Level 3 Endurance certification. If a coach wants to take one certification course that is geared towards long-distance running and adult runners, I would recommend RRCA. However, if the coach plans to coach at the high school or college level and/or intends to seek higher-level certifications, I would recommend USATF. With USATF, I first took Level 1, which provides a very surface-level introduction to all track and field disciplines.

However, the subsequent Level 2 and Level 3 certifications allow you to specialize in a specific event group. My specialization has been in Endurance, covering events from 800m to the marathon. The level 2 and 3 courses were great in-depth learning and networking opportunities.

The certification is now expired, but I used to have a USAT Level 1 certification for coaching triathletes. Unless it has changed, the USAT model is similar to USATF in that the first level is a more broad overview before you have the opportunity to specialize in subsequent levels in areas like youth triathlon, short and long course triathlon.
Even as a running coach, I think a triathlon certification can be helpful as you pick up on new training methods and theories on athlete development, and you can better assist runners who may want to try out a triathlon or use swimming or cycling for cross-training.
Whether you own a private coaching business or coach for a school or a club, being able to understand basic business concepts is essential. You are most likely managing, or at least working within, a budget and making decisions about increasing revenue and minimizing expenses while still investing in your business/program/team.
The RRCA certification course covers some of this, but I honestly think that most of the lessons are learned through experience, mentorship from other coaches, and trial and error.”

Whitney Heins Of The Mother Runners

“I did renowned Jack Daniels’ VDOT-O2 certification course. I chose this course because I thoroughly enjoyed the science in his book & the training supplemented that.
(I do plan to get level 1 RRCA later this year, as well.) His course does a great job of backing training methodologies by science as well as practicality to get runners staying healthy.
Heins gives some great advice to those looking to get into coaching as a profession. “In conjunction with this course, I did 3 other acts to ready myself for coaching.
First I got a mentor, Laura Norris, a very experienced running coach whose training is very rooted in science. She became my head coach and we worked together on my athletes’ schedules so I could learn by doing. Second, I wrote schedules for athletes/friends unofficially with them as Guinea pigs to learn by doing. Third, I read and studied SO many running books—taking notes & creating cheat sheets.
Regarding starting her business, she said, “I hired a marketing company to get me up and running with my website, which launched first for a year before I added coaching. Learning how to set up a website, SEO, promote on social media, design in Canva, and send e-newsletters.
Look at what other coaches you like do & mimic them. Ask them if you can pick their brain too to see what lessons they learned! And have them give feedback.”

Picking the Right Certification Program for YOU

When looking through the options for candidates to get their running coach certification, many options are out there. Choosing the best option for you is not a simple task.

If you are hoping to get the certification done in one fell swoop, the RRCA may be the one to go for. You are all in for an entire weekend, then it is done.

If you are looking for an entirely online option, choose NAASFP because of the flexibility in the programming. Unlike the UESCA version, you do not have to do a research-based writing project every couple of years to maintain certification. 

You need to dig into the choices and make the choice that is best for you. Just like the running programs are unique, so is a perspective coaches’ needs and what will work best. 

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