We all have the capacity to improve in whatever we do in life; running and walking is no exception. Coaches help Olympic athletes get to peak performance, and recreational and casual athletes can benefit from a coach in the same way.

A running or walking coach can help anyone from a beginner to a seasoned veteran. Their services and advice can be found online, in books or in-person, and can range from a basic training plan that you follow on your own, to daily advice, adjustment and tutelage.

Good coaches care about helping you succeed. They can examine your training more objectively than you can, and can give feedback that will help you push your boundaries. They can tell you when you are going too hard, or not going hard enough. They can tell you when you need to rest, recover, or be more realistic with your goals.

Locally, Don White coaches our junior athletes and regularly offers coaching to the rest of us through clinics like Run for Mom and “Getting started, getting better, getting faster” sessions. He has given me a lot of important tips over the years, from posture to footing to training advice.

Shelley Gellatly is another local coach and athlete who can provide a personalized training plan and other athletic testing for a fee. To increase your speed, you can join the Wednesday night group led by Michael Brooks that meets at the running track in Whitehorse. Another place to start is by following one of the basic programs found in the Running Room’s Book on Running.

I turned to a coach this year – Derrick Spafford, an ultrarunner from Ontario – to help improve my performance and training efficiency as I train for my first 50K race. He provides a personalized training plan delivered through an online service called Training Peaks. He uploads my workouts every week. As I complete each day, I upload training data from my running watch along with comments about how I feel, my morning heart rate, and any other factors. We correspond daily and mix in video chats as required. We talk through goals, training, racing, fueling, hydration and recovery.

With Derrick’s excellent coaching and my commitment to training, I’ve made great strides and hit personal bests in every distance. There is a cost, and it is not insignificant (slightly more than a monthly gym membership), but it is worth every penny to me.

Working successfully with a coach requires building a relationship and it may take some time to find the coach whose personality and style works best with yours. If you haven’t considered coaching before, think about adding it to your training toolbox. You may just find that elusive personal best.

Sadly, the twilight of the summer running/walking season approaches. Next up is the Klondike Road Relay on Sept 6-7, and later in September is the Cross Country Championships. Visit athleticsyukon.ca for more details.

Until next time, keep putting one foot in front of the other towards a healthier and happier life.

Had an experience with coaching that you want to share? Connect with Athletics Yukon on our Facebook page or send a note to [email protected]

Ben Yu Schott is an Athletics Yukon board member, a running dad and a coffee nut.