More People Are Running - What Can Personal Trainers Do? The Future of Run Coaching 2020

The latest search trends suggest a lot more people are running. What opportunities are there for coaches and personal trainers?

Leo Kwan
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This is part 2 of a two-part segment on coaching runners.

In case you missed Part 1, I covered the three popular business models for personalized run coaching:

  • private in-person coaching
  • private remote coaching
  • running groups and teams

Here are the latest trends in the run coaching economy, and some opportunities personal trainers should consider.

Private run coaching will trend down

The annual Boston Marathon in April was rescheduled this year to September, and adapted into a virtual experience (same with the Chicago & New York City Marathon).

Update: the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) just announced it will postpone the 2021 Boston Marathon into late Fall.

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) has announced that the 125th Boston Marathon, traditionally held on the third Monday in April—Patriots’ Day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—will be postponed until at least the fall of 2021. The B.A.A., which has been meeting regularly with its COVID-19 Medical & Event Operations Advisory Group to determine when and how the Boston Marathon can be held again, will begin working with local, city, and state officials, sponsors, organizing committee members, and other stakeholders to determine if a fall 2021 date is feasible.

This will be a huge setback for the run coaching space, and it will only get worse if other 2021 races decide to postpone as well.

Learnings from virtual races

The virtual Boston Marathon this year tallied 17,945 participants, half the count to 2019' in-person marathon (30,234). The numbers for this past weekend's virtual NYC Marathon were also subpar: around 24,000 runners signed up, which was also half the expected number if the marathon ran proper (+50k participants).

For marathons like Boston and NYC, a runner qualifies either through time, lottery selection or charity. For NYC, you can also qualify by completing nine other New York Road Runner (NYRR) races in a given year, known as the 9+1 program.

No qualifications were required for virtual marathons. For the NYC Virtual Marathon, anybody could participate. Though, it cost $60 if you'd like a medal for completing.

Thoughts from a Run Coach based in New York

I spoke to a veteran run coach, Coach Corky, on how her coaching business has adjusted in 2020. Elizabeth and I also discussed the ramifications of marathon run training if races like Boston stay postponed.

There's so many brands and coaches right now that are like, "Oh, happened to my Zoom class for five bucks or 10 bucks." And you're going to need a lot of people to join you for that, to really make much of a profit for your time.

I'm coming from the background now of, I would rather work with less people and give them more - which is a strategy I've had to, in the last couple of months, honestly rethink because again, my clientele was mostly race driven.

Some of them have done virtual races, and have loved that experience. Some of them have thought about, I want to do a time trial on a track and think about goals that are speed driven when usually they're so marathon driven.

It's been a transition for me too. And that, again, a lot of the people I gravitate towards working with and look for me, it's all race, it's all race driven training for the most part. That's what I like.

I think Spring 2021 is probably not going to happen in terms of many in-person races. I'm not saying there won't be any anywhere, but I think the amount that will be able to happen safely are going to be few and far between, and I think runners who sign up for any of those races are going to have to go into it emotionally prepared to have it taken away after putting in all that hard work.

Elizabeth Corkum - Running Coach at Precision Run


Are more people running?

Despite the uncertain future of in-person races, data suggests more people have picked up running since COVID-19 shutdowns in April 2020.

1. Google searches for "strava" doubled in April 2020

Here is the monthly active searches for "strava" over the past 5 years. Notice the huge jump between March and April 2020, when COVID-19 shutdowns began- searches nearly doubled:

  • March: 259k searches
  • April: 450k searches 👈 📈
  • May: 577k searches
  • June: 542k searches
  • July: 484k searches

2. "running workout" searches peaked in May

Also, take a look at how many times "running workout" was searched for this year. According to Google Trends, the search term peaked on May 3rd, the highest activity in 5 years.

3. More runners starting a "couch to 5k"

I love the term "couch to 5k". From a search engine's point of view, there are so many signals to unravel in such a short phrase.

Not only does "couch to 5k" suggest an interest in running, it strongly points to a subset of runners: beginners who are ready to start running.

explodingtopics.com

Based on explodingtopics.com, "couch to 5k" searches peaked in April 2020. This trend suggests that a ton of people- likely sedentary- considered running for the first time.

4. More runners getting injured

Another signal pointing to more new runners is injury-related searches.

Queries like "runners knee" and "knee pain from running" hit peak search volume this April over the last five years.

The clear opportunity here for personal trainers: provide strength training for runners tailored around injury prevention.

Market Data

The data and anecdotal evidence feels clear: a lot more people started running during the pandemic.

Peloton's new Treadmill

Consider too that more people may be running because options are limited. Gyms are capacity-capped, and most indoor studios in the US are still closed.

Let's also look at public market data and startup investments in the fitness space. Companies like Tonal and Future recently sealed big rounds of investment.

And for Peloton: they are soaring high.

How high you might ask? Well, since the start of 2020, Peloton's stock has multiplied by more than 5x, from ~$25 per share to over $130 several weeks ago.

Conclusion

Again, a clear opportunity for personal trainers is offering strength training to new runners who successfully made running a habit this year. And not to worry — running media conglomerates like Runner's World have been influencing runners for years on the importance of strength training to running well.

It's important that you— the fitness professional— understand several running concepts: the general kinesiology of running, the tried-and-true methods of run training, and of course, methods of strength training within a runner's training schedule.

Marketing yourself

There are several ways to begin marketing yourself as a personal trainer for runners.

Reach out to running friends.

Start by researching the most popular races in your area and reach out to local friends who run. They probably know other runners just starting out, or more importantly, they have valuable insights on the runner's psyche when training for a big race. Ask about their purchasing decisions for the race, running strategy, workout schedule and motivation for training.

Resources

Here are some helpful links and introductory resources to get started in the running space.

⚠️ Disclaimer

The information on this blog is solely meant as educational content. Nothing on this blog should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are not a licensed health professional, please refer injuries and pain symptoms to someone that is.
Common running injuries
Marathon Templates From Nike
Better Running Technique
The Best Advice to Nail the Proper Running Form From Head to Toe
Great runners make it look effortless, but there’s a lot that goes into running efficiently.

TLDR;

Run tall/ don't hunch

  • neutral spine/ broad chest/shoulders comfortably retracted- don't hunch

Don't run leading with your head

  • Head and neck aligned with spine

Swing arms forward-back, not side to side

  • Sagittal arm movements; thumbs should stay pointing up as a reference

Hips and Legs: (same concepts in strength training)

  • Watch for knee valgus or "knock knees" (knees shouldn't cave in)
  • Promote hip and knee drive. Avoid hamstring "kickbacks"

Foot strike: rearfoot vs. mid-foot vs. forefoot

  • The most debated and subjective topic: here's a study. Here's the conclustion from "Is changing footstrike pattern beneficial to runners?":
In summary, there are 3 key points: (1) the scientific basis for encouraging runners to change their footstrike pattern is not warranted; (2) there is little conclusive scientific evidence that a mid- or forefoot strike improves running economy, eliminates a vertical impact force at the foot-ground contact, or reduces the risk of running-related injuries; and (3) there is a need for large, prospective randomized control trials investigating the risk of injury in both forefoot and rearfoot running.

If you have experience coaching runners that you'd like to share with me, please reach out to me at leo@superfitapp.com — I'd love to connect.

Leo Kwan
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