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Happy Workout Wednesday! Before I get into recapping my training experience, I wanted to call attention to the fact that yesterday was American Diabetes Alert Day, when people are encouraged to weigh their risk of determining Type 2 Diabetes.  You can take the 2-minute risk assessment here – please do, not only for your health, but also because for every test taken, Boar’s Head is donating $5 to the American Diabetes Association!  You know that diabetes is a cause near and dear to my heart, and although I primarily support research for Type 1 diabetes, the ADA covers both.  $5 can really add up, so please take the quizdiabetes alert day

RRCA Running Coach Training

This past weekend, I headed to Minneapolis to complete my training to become a Certified Running Coach. The weekend was intense – 18 hours of classroom lecture, a 344-page textbook, practice sessions to develop training plans, and more – all on a Saturday and Sunday! Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.25.56 PM (picture source)

Overall, I really enjoyed the training, and learned a lot.  In addition to learning new material, it was nice to solidify what I already knew from my own independent research and continuous learning, meet other fellow coaches, and have the opportunity to ask coaching questions.

Our group of 30 or so hopeful coaches had one instructor, Cari Setzler, who did a fantastic job at engaging the audience for so many hours in a row!  She is an impressive running history, is an RRCA-certified coach herself, still runs competitively, has her own running coaching company, and is a full-time veterinarian.  Awesome! Cari_Setzler(picture source)

We covered so much content that it would be impossible (and probably against the rules) for me to try to tell you everything I learned.  After all, that’s what you hire me for, right? 🙂  Instead, I’m going to share the content sections we covered, and give a few interesting takeaways bits of knowledge that can stand alone and may be interesting to you.

What the Training Covered

  • Overview and Coaching History
  • Types of Runners and their Training Needs
  • Running Physiology
  • Building a Periodized Program
  • Running Form and Drills
  • Coaching Nutrition (the only section that I found underwhelming, although I guess this is to be expected)
  • The Business of Coaching
  • Sports Psychology
  • Injuries, Heat, and Altitude
  • Building Training Programs  rrca course book

A few interesting takeaways

  • Running statistics: The “average” runner in the US is 39.3 years old for females, 43.8 years old for males.  ~65% of US runners are married, ~75% are college educated, and ~75% earn a household income of over $75,000.  Female runners have been running 9.6 years (13.6 for men), 49.2% of female runners and 65.9% of male runners have completed 1 or more marathons, and average weekly mileage is 20.2 miles for women, 25.2 miles for men.  42.5% of female runners and 38.1% of male runners say their favorite race distance is the half marathon (amen!). overload(picture source)
  • How to get better at running, at a cellular level: I always knew that running at a fast-for-you pace in small bursts increases your speed, and running at conversation pace for longer periods of time makes you more efficient at running overall.  However, I didn’t understand the cellular changes that were happening when you run at conversation pace (about 45-60 seconds/ mile slower than marathon pace).  First, your muscle cells experience an increase in number, size, and distribution of mitochondria, so you can be more efficient at using energy.  Second, oxidative enzyme activity increases, so oxygen can be processed faster.  Third, more capillaries in your muscles become active, which means more oxygen can be utilized and muscles can fire more efficiently.  Cool, huh? running mitochondria(picture source – who knew you can even find a picture of a running mitochondria online?)
  • Periodizing your training: I always knew it was smart to periodize your training program, but I never thought of periodizing on three levels: the macrocylce includes the entire training period up until the goal race, the mesocycle includes a shorter training phase within the macrocycle that is targeted towards a specific goal, and the microcycle is a short period (usually a week) within a mesocycle. cycle(picture source … lame graphic, sorry)
  • Building overall training plans: This was the largest portion of the training, and the piece that is hardest to recap on a blog post, since it involves actually putting together effective plans to help people reach their goals.  The underlying message was that a training plan should vary considerably for a person’s preferences, abilities, strengths, work and life restrictions, injury status, base mileage, race experience, and so much more.  I learned how to incorporate all of that into personalized training plans, and the truth is that the training really confirmed what I have been doing for friends and colleagues for several years.

After this last section (and the in-class trials that were evaluated by our trainer), I feel even more confident in my ability to make customized plans from 5K to marathon distance … so let me know if you’re interested in working together!  My focus will be on those who are relatively new to a race distance (for example, a non-runner who would like to complete her first 5K, or an experienced runner who would like to complete his first marathon); however, I also know how to build great plans that improve your speed at any given distance!  I offer a simple, one-time customized plan based on your unique situation, OR a more interactive package where we check in weekly, I make adjustments to your plan to accommodate for interruptions, injuries, what you’re accomplishing, you have a resource for questions that arise, and more.

The Lyons' Share Customized Training Plans

So, there you have it … 0.0001% of what I learned over the weekend.  Truly, I’m so glad I completed the program, as it’s been on my list for a long while now (and it’s VERY hard to get into the sessions … in fact, every training for the remainder of this year is already full!).  I always love learning, and learning about something that is such a big part of my life is even better!

So tell me in the comments … If you’re a runner, how do you compare to the “average” statistics?  Have you ever used a coach for running?  If not, do you make your own training plans yourself or use standard ones online?  What is your risk level for Type 2 Diabetes?



  1. Michael Anderson on March 26, 2014 at 6:06 am

    I scored a ‘2’ – one for being a guy, one for being an old (but not TOO old) fart. 🙂

    Running stats? I’m about 5 years older than average, but otherwise pretty typical (married, educated, decent money). Have been running 25 years (~2x average) and run ~55 miles / week (~2x average). Have run marathons, and the full marathon is my favorite distance.
    Michael Anderson recently posted…Motivation Monday – Stuff to Do In Your 30s, Merrell Preview, and Monday MixtapeMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on March 30, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Haha, you’re not too old! I do think you’re a little crazy for choosing the full as your favorite distance, but I guess that’s what you get for running 2x average miles per week!

      • Michael Anderson on April 13, 2014 at 5:05 pm

        haha – *I* know I am not too old, but on a math basis my age counts against me as a risk factor.

        As for the full – it pushes me, and I like that. I run a half most weekends by myself, and for me it is a very comfortable distance. Not that I can’t improve, but I have routes that are flat, windy, rough, take me up 1500 foot hills, and so on … so I already LOVE that length. The full takes me out of my comfort zone and I learn new things about my body and myself every time. Make sense?

        Not that I’m not also a little crazy 😉
        Michael Anderson recently posted…Sunday Runday – 2 Year Runner-versary, 23 Year Engag-aversary, and More!My Profile

        • Megan Lyons on April 16, 2014 at 10:58 pm

          I think ” a little” might be an understatement! All runners are a little crazy … marathoners are even past that! 🙂

  2. Lisa @ Running out of Wine on March 26, 2014 at 8:04 am

    It sounds like you had a great experience! I have been really considering doing this training. I am constantly looking out for an RRCA training to open up that I am available to attend and is somewhat convenient. I have made several training plans for friends and family members over the past few years. This stuff is so interesting to me!
    Lisa @ Running out of Wine recently posted…Raleigh Marathon Training Week 13…Taper BeginsMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on March 30, 2014 at 10:46 am

      I highly recommend it, Lisa! When I saw so many RRCA classes that I wanted to sign up for already filled up, I finally just bit the bullet and decided to travel to get it done. Let me know if you ever have more questions about the training!

  3. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun on March 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Congrats Megan!! It sounds like you had a great weekend and learned a lot! I bet this class was so informative! I love seeing you taking everything and going forward towards your dreams 🙂 I have never used to a running coach but always wanted to! Right now I just try to go off how my body feels and go slow back into running, but I’ll get back into a plan eventually – right now I am enjoying just kind of doing what feels right and taking it slow!
    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun recently posted…Why I Avoided NSAIDS During My Stress Fracture RecoveryMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on March 30, 2014 at 10:47 am

      I think you’re smart to just take it cautiously and listen to your body as you’re coming back from time off! At this point, you know your body the best. I think a coach is most helpful either for beginning runners who want to conquer a new distance, for those who need accountability to keep them running, or for someone who wants to train to PR at a specific race distance. But you do your own thing for now!

  4. Amy @ The Little Honey Bee on March 26, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Well I am younger than the average runner 🙂 This is awesome Meg! Okay, I have been meaning to email you. I also wanted to ask you if I would be crazy to run a half on May 4… (I’m doing a 10K April 12 and was going to assess after that)…
    Amy @ The Little Honey Bee recently posted…What I Ate Yesterday {WIAW 36}My Profile

    • Megan Lyons on March 30, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Like I said in my email to you, Amy, I don’t think it’s CRAZY, but I also don’t think it’s the smartest thing in the world. Runners tend to push themselves to the limits (as you and I both well know), and the fact is that you haven’t been running long distances in a while, so you are at increased risk for injury if you push yourself too hard in the half. That said, if you are willing to listen to your body and accept the fact that it might not be a PR for you, there’s definitely a way to ensure that you can finish the distance safely. I’ll be sending over a little more sometime soon!

  5. Lauren @ Focused To Be Fit on March 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Congrats on becoming a running Coach – so awesome – looked intense! I scored a 0, low risk!
    Lauren @ Focused To Be Fit recently posted…More Than Flexibility – Man Flow YogaMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on March 30, 2014 at 10:49 am

      AWESOME, Lauren! Glad you’re such low risk, and thanks for taking the test!

  6. Captain Competition on March 27, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Sounds like an intense program for such a short period of time. I have never used a running coach, but have been through a ‘gait evaluation’ session. I am going to try to run some races this year and see how I do on my own, but I know if I really get into it and want to get better a coach is the way to go.
    Captain Competition recently posted…Other People’s Food – Sweet and Tangy Barbecue SauceMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on March 30, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Thanks, Captain! Good luck with trying out your races; I hope you have a blast! If you do decide you need a coach in the future, let me know!

  7. Amy @ Long Drive Journey on March 27, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Um, I might seriously have to take you up on the offer to work together. I would love to get back into running, but I am so scared of getting injured again!
    Amy @ Long Drive Journey recently posted…That Time I Almost Threw Up On My Instructor…aka My First Aerial Silks ClassMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on March 30, 2014 at 10:54 am

      Yes! I’d love to help you out with a training plan! Let me know if you’re serious! Injuries are super scary, but hopefully know that you know your body and have been to the “dark side,” you’ll be able to listen a little more carefully and back off when you need to.

  8. Laura @ Mommy Run Fast on March 27, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Yay!! Congrats on the RRCA course! Cari is amazing, isn’t she? She was “in training” at the training I went to about a year ago so it makes sense that she’s off and running her own show now.
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…Detox trends and WIAWMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on March 30, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Yes! She was great! It must have been really hard to keep up her energy for that whole time and remain interesting, but she did great!

  9. Arman @ thebigmansworld on March 28, 2014 at 4:56 am

    Wow, congrats on a successful weekend, Meg! Similar to what others have mentioned, I have the injury fear at the back of my mind- also the weightlifting to running change up!

    Diabetes…..Everyone on my dad’s side have it!
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted…How ‘Food Challenges’ can re-ignite the diet mentalityMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on March 30, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Wait, does this mean you’re thinking about running more often?!? If so, the world might be coming to an end ;). Sydney is a great place for running!! Sorry that everyone on your Dad’s side of the family has diabetes. Good thing you’re living a healthy and active lifestyle to give yourself the best chance to avoid it!

  10. AwesomelyOZ on March 30, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    This is so great! I’ve been trying to become a runner and it is not working. I ‘m also not consistent but anyways, what tips would you give to someone who wants to love running but can’t seem to get the hang of it? One of my main issues is I get very dizzy when I’m running – could be nutritional probably don’t eat what I should prior to. Definitely best of luck with the training and have a great one Megan! -Iva
    AwesomelyOZ recently posted…What It Feels LikeMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on April 1, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Iva! It’s so great to hear from you. Congrats on making the decision to try to start running! I know it can be really tough in the beginning – I struggled with trying to “get the hang of it” for about a year before I actually began to like it! You can read more about that on the “About Megan” page. My best tips would be: don’t start out too fast (many times, runners either literally run too quickly, or try to do too much mileage at once, and this can be dangerous because they end up getting injured!), and have patience with yourself – you won’t be an Olympic marathoner in your first month of running! 🙂 You’re right that consistency is key, and continuing to run will lead to improvement. While I’m not a doctor, I wonder if nutrition, hydration, and/ or holding your breath is contributing to your dizziness? If you’re interested in a training plan, I help beginning runners work up to their first 5K distance (or other distance if you prefer). One of my training plan packages comes with periodic 25-minute consultations to make sure you’re staying on track and getting any questions you might have (e.g. nutrition) answered. If you’re interested in becoming a coaching client, I’d love to have you!

  11. Carina on April 1, 2014 at 11:49 am

    So glad you did the training! I did it several years ago in Dallas (2011 maybe?) and felt like I learned so much. I’m pretty average as a runner I suppose, though my weekly miles and I expect number of marathons are atypical. I almost always use a coach, even though there aren’t really any new distances for me (I guess I could do an ultra, but no interest). I’ve tried being self-coached, which should be easy enough since I’m certified, but it never works out in practice and I just prefer reporting to someone else and being told what to do. The coach I’ve used the most is connected to me on garmin connect, so even when I’m not in training, he feels compelled to comment on my workouts, which is funny.
    Carina recently posted…TTT: Your World View and TravelingMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on April 1, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Carina! It’s so funny that going to the coaching training actually made me consider getting a coach for myself, despite technically having the knowledge that I would need to continue coaching myself even better. I think there’s a huge something to be said for the motivation and accountability factor! Connecting on Garmin Connect is a good idea!

  12. Ashley @ This Is The Place on April 2, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Congratulations! I would love to do this – not to coach other people, but just for myself! Have you read Brad Hudson’s book “Run Faster”? It talks a lot about periodization and explains how to make your various macro and micro cycles work together. It’s really interesting.
    Ashley @ This Is The Place recently posted…Spring Training Recap: Week 1My Profile

    • Megan Lyons on April 6, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      Ashley – I initially wanted to do the training just for myself, too! I learned a ton that I think will help my own training, but I also now will use it to help others with theirs. NO, I haven’t read “Run Faster,” although i’ve heard a lot about it – with your additional recommendation, I’ll have to check it out! Thanks!

  13. Lauren on April 7, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    How cool, sounds like an interesting program! I’m a cross-country coach, but the head coach does most of the planning since he went through this program as well. I help mostly with the sports nutrition side of things and motivation. It’s fun!
    Lauren recently posted…Friday Favorites #8: IBS and Low FODMAPs Diet EditionMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on April 14, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      That’s awesome, Lauren! I would love to get into the sports nutrition side of things and coaching a team, eventually!

  14. […] 7 tips on how to choose your next race will be helpful!  And remember … now that I’m a certified running coach, I’m happy to help you out in selecting and training for your next race! Email me at […]

  15. […] started a race to raise money for children with cancer (which just held its 3rd annual race!), become a Certified Running Coach myself, run over 10,000 miles in training (I have logs with varying detail back through 2008), and […]

  16. […] year, RRCA (the organization that certified me as a running coach!) hosts National Run@Work Day, which encourages people to get in 30 minutes of exercise on that […]

  17. Cynthia @ You Signed Up For WHAT?! on November 21, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks for the recap – I’m doing the coaching certification in April and was glad to read about what to expect!

    • Megan Lyons on December 8, 2014 at 9:30 am

      Of course, Cynthia, I hope you enjoy it!

  18. Alax Hopper on September 26, 2017 at 11:25 am

    I have been trying to drink more water lately, and do pretty good during the week at work, but need to seriously do a better job on the weekend! This was a good reminder of how important it is to my body and fitness. Thank you!

  19. Ravi on August 27, 2019 at 5:43 am

    Interesting story you have shared it is useful and getting a lot of new thing its really nice and making best thing.

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