“Why Hire a Coach?” by Ali Ramirez

There are the obvious reasons: to complete your first marathon or triathlon, to improve your swimming skills or to lose those extra pounds for some seminal event like a High School reunion or daughter’s wedding. But, what if the reasons aren’t so obvious? For example, I’m a physical therapist and have trained myself for multiple triathlons and marathons including Boston. I’ve got the knowledge. I’ve got the experience. I’ve got the goods to be a self-starter. So why should I hire a coach?

I was asking myself this very question last October while on a hike with my friend and coach Elizabeth Azze, who co-owns Mountain Peak Fitness with her husband Joe. We met 8-years ago, when I hired her to train me for the North Face Bear Mountain 50-mile challenge. This was my first ultra—and first trail race of any kind. At the time, trail maps confused me; therefore, I needed help and fast. I placed 9th for females -- thanks to Elizabeth!

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Over the ensuing years, while obtaining my Doctorate in Physical Therapy, I would hire Elizabeth occasionally not for a milestone event but to keep me accountable. With school work, clinicals, commuting, and family, I didn’t have the time or the discipline with so many competing priorities to train myself. Again, the reasons were obvious.

Now back to that October hike. Elizabeth and I were discussing upcoming races for 2018. I mentioned that I would be running Montana’s Rut 50K and Bridger Ridge Run, my first high-altitude trail races. Elizabeth told me that I was more than capable to train myself for these runs….But was I?

November, then December came and went and I was struggling to follow my training program. Defeated, I grudgingly hired Elizabeth, who got me back on track by holding me accountable. Nevertheless, over the next few months, I started to question my decision to enlist a coach’s help. Think of all the money I could be saving. Looking at Elizabeth’s plans, I was thinking, I know this stuff; I can coach myself.

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That mentality came to a screeching halt in April, when a challenging work schedule and a nasty bout of the flu derailed my training. When weeks passed without a single run, self-doubt and negative thoughts flooded my brain. Elizabeth kept reassuring me that I was on track. Once I was feeling better, I saw a long, fast-paced run on my Training Peaks schedule, and I thought, there is no way that I’m capable of running that distance and pace after being sick for two weeks. What was Elizabeth thinking?

Well, I started the 16-mile run and noticed my legs felt strong. I was keeping pace. 5 miles went by, then 10 and with each mile my negative thoughts started to dissolve and my confidence grew.  With only two miles left and a huge smile on my face experiencing the best run of the season I remembered again why I needed to hire a coach. Elizabeth knew me better than I knew myself.

In short, a coach like Elizabeth, provides athletes the accountability, motivation, and the nudge to push workouts that both experienced and recreational athletes require, to move to the next level.

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