Oct 30, 2016

Put Me In, Coach! Ekiden Coaching Review | BibRavePro

Disclaimer: I received the 6 weeks training with Ekiden Coaching to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador, tell them I sent you), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

As a runner, I've been fully self taught. Now, I've done a lot of research and a lot of reading to make sure I'm doing things right, but I've never worked with anyone on my technique, or my training, or what I can be doing to get better. I've thought many times about having a coach, but have never worked with one. That is, until I recently got the chance to work with my own running coach Jenny from Ekiden Coaching.

Who is Ekiden Coaching?

Ekiden Coaching is a new name in coaching, looking to "bring a great human coaching experience to every athlete, not just a training plan". It was born from a conversation among friends: Peter Duyan, Brett Rivers, Eric Edelson and Mario Fraioli. They're bringing together coaches and athletes with "intuitive digital tools" and a passion to help every athlete reach their goals, regardless of age, ability or experience level.

What is the process like?

I was given the opportunity to try out a free 6 week session. The process started with a questionnaire about my abilities, my goals, and how I like to train. This was used as a starting point to match me with a coach and set some starting plans out. After being paired with a coach (Jenny M.) we looked to set up a time to chat more personally about my goals. We were having some time getting this to work, so instead I ended up laying out my hopes of what I wanted to get out of training. I expressed a desire to try and balance weight loss with my race training through "other" activities in addition to weekly runs. This was a perfect fit for my coach, who loves to use a lot of cross training in her plans. I also talked with her about how my biggest problem is consistency, and that I could really use a proactive coach, checking in to make sure if I haven't tracked a work out that I get it in before the day is done.

Since Ekiden is looking to connect coaches and athletes across a digital world, they need good digital tools. From what I see (putting on my developer hat from my day job) they have a really great base in their tools. They're online site works great on my computer as well as my phone (Android). It provides two features: Messages (for chatting with your coach) and Planned Training (with your training plan, duh). The messages is simple and straight forward. A nice added piece is text integration. When your coach messages you, you also receive it as a text message. You can then reply to the text, and it will appear in the app, or you can hop into the web app and reply there. The training plan section provides you a week by week view of your training, with each day able to provide as much information as your coach needs or wants to provide. In addition,, you're able to connect your Strava account so your workouts tracked their can be match against your training plan in their app. This is a great touch to show if you've completed or missed a workout. You also receive text reminders of workouts, which I appreciated, though I didn't seem to always receive these.

What was it like working with a coach?

Having never worked with a coach before, this was a new experience for me. While my training plans from Jeff Galloway (free via the runDisney site) have worked well for me training, I loved having a well rounded plan beyond running. It was also great to have someone who could adjust it, such as when my wife was away for the weekend, so running wasn't much of an option with my two kids as I only have a single, not double, running stroller. I really liked the options and suggestions she gave me for cross training, both options for home and for at the gym I use at my work. Running a 5 mile race? Well that will be our Saturday mileage and we'll work around that.

Since I was starting my 6 weeks when the opportunity came up, it was a little awkward in that I was already part way into a training plan and the 6 weeks would not make it all the way to my goal race: the Dopey Challenge (which I am running for charity, please donate). This situation made it different from what you otherwise may do with a coach. Needing to work her plan with plan I started made for some small challenges, but I think also helped her see what I was used to. I would really enjoy being able to work with a coach from the beginning, instead of trying to jump in part way through.

What can be improved?

While I enjoyed my experience, there are some areas I feel could be improved. They do consider themselves in beta, which in technical terms, means they're in their early stages and looking to improve and streamline their idea (sorry, developer hat again). My first issue was in communication. I frankly would have liked more of it. This is more of a coach issue than their program, but I felt sometimes there was too long of a time before I'd hear back from her (a day or two). In addition, I expressed interest in some proactive help in "encouraging" me to get my workouts in, but that never really happened. Now, after later looking over their plans, they offer a personal plan, which includes weekly check in or a Plus, that includes regular check in. Sounds like what I wanted would more be a Plus option, though it would have been nice if she had made that more clear to me when I expressed that up front.

Another issue that was likely just do to the unusual situation with my testing was that my plan was never more than a week ahead. This was troublesome to me and I like to see the plan farther out, especially for in adjustments are needed, but also so i can better plan my hectic life of our family of four. If I were to work with a coach in the future, I would want a full plan with at least the framework laid out for a longer time period that maybe we reevaluate on a week by week basis.

I made mention to the text reminders that I loved, but didn't always receive. Obviously, just resolving any small technical issues, I'd love to see this packaged as an app for the phone with push notifications. In today's world (and judging by their design) I'm sure this is on their roadmap. While I love the Strava integration, I'd love to be able to better track in app manually if I'd like. That way it's easier to see that I did run, but only 12 miles instead of 14 or put feedback in directly against a workout. Otherwise it has to go in my notes in Strava they have to look at, or in the chat, which is then disconnected from the training. I like the auto so I don't need to track in yet another place, but there are times when I'd like the option to at least add to it.

The Takeaway

Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience with a coach. I'd love to do it again for a future race, but right now personal budget doesn't fit it in. Their plans seem really reasonable for what you get. They offer both the personal and plus options I mentioned previously. The personal is just $59 / month, but you can save more by signing up for more than one month at a time. I'm big on leveraging digital tools for things that are traditionally done "in person" so I'm on board with digital training with a real coach on the other end of the web. I still need that interaction with the person regularly for it to work for me. This may not work for everyone, to not be "seeing" your coach in person regularly, so you have to see what will work for you. I do believe I'd use Ekiden again for a future race, and instead of jumping in from the middle, work with them from start to finish line. My desire to use them again is about the best endorsement I could really give.

Do you work with a coach? What is the most valuable part to you?


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