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The 5 Reasons You Need to Hire a Running Coach: an Interview with Coach Deanna

We’re gearing up for our big panel on 1/11/15 at 7 p.m. at the store (Lively Athletics, 109 N. Oak Park Avenue): Thinking About Hiring a Running Coach?  In preparation, Lively co-owner Anne spoke with Deanna Doohaluk, one of the panelists. Editor’s note: Deanna has also dragged Anne unwillingly into participating in the Run the Edge 2,015 miles in 2015 Challenge.

Anne: So, what’s your coaching style like?

Coach Deanna: I don’t have a one-size-fits all coaching style and philosophy. I work with each athlete to develop a customized program and approach based on the athlete’s goals and experience. I offer both group coaching and individual coaching packages. Group programs are 8-10 week training programs usually targeted for a specific race. For example, in 2015 I am offering group training programs for the Chicagoland 10K/Half Marathon, Solider Field 10 Miler, Rock and Roll Chicago Half Marathon, and Chicago Marathon. Group programs are great for beginner runners who have never trained with a “training plan” or runners looking to tackle a new distance. My group plans include a detailed training plan, weekly group workouts, and unlimited communication with me. Group training gives athletes a chance to see what it’s like to train with a coach.

For those looking for a bit more personalized attention or looking to train for multiple races in one season, I offer individual coaching. Individual coaching is a highly collaborative relationship between me and the athlete. Prior to developing a training plan, I use a series of questionnaires and in-person meetings to take the time to get to know each athlete so that together, we can set realistic, attainable goals and plan for a specific race or races. The custom training program I develop is designed to complement the athlete’s strengths and address limitations. And while I have a yearly outline, I typically send athletes workouts in one- to two-week blocks so that I can monitor your progress real-time and adjust as necessary.

With all of my athletes, I find that some are looking for constant communication and feedback after each workout while others take their training program and “run” with it. I work with each athlete to develop a communication program whether it is text, email or phone that works for them. Having all of my athletes use an online training log ( really helps with communication. Workouts are emailed directly to the athlete each day and its super easy for them to comment and log each workout. Each of these are sent directly to my email so that if an athlete struggles, asks a question or has a minor ache, I know immediately allowing me to offer advice and make any needed updates to the training plan.

One thing that may set me apart from other running coaches is that I train my athletes using a mix of heart rate-based, pace-based, and effort based workouts.

So many runners are focused on pace, pace, pace all of the time that they miss queues their body may be sending them.

Incorporating heart rate based workouts takes into account outside influences (weather, terrain, fatigues) and ensures the runner is doing exactly want is exactly needed in each workout. I have found there are two primary types of runners: runners who run too hard all the time and runners who never run hard enough. By using incorporating heart rated based-training in all my training programs, I can help guide my athletes to run easy in some workouts and push their limits in others. This balance in training helps runners stay injury free. Don’t let heart rate-based training scare you. It is very simple to learn and has proven results. And with the increase of heart rate-based monitors on the market, it is an affordable way to make sure you maximize your training.

deanna jumps

Anne: Why do you think people should hire a running coach? Can’t I just buy a pair of shoes (from Lively Athletics) and a sports bra (from Lively Athletics) and hit the road?

Coach Deanna: Just like with the increase in the number of running races, training programs and coaching services are becoming increasing more available and affordable for runners. A good coach can inspire athletes to dig deeper and achieve more than they ever thought possible. Here are my top five reasons you should hire a coach:

1. A good coach will inevitably have a breadth of knowledge regarding racing, program development, nutrition, body mechanics, injury prevention, etc. that most athletes don’t have the time (or desire) to acquire.

2. A good coach can give you objective feedback you could not get on your own. Ever wondered why you can’t seem to have the same run on race day that you did in practice? An experienced, knowledgeable coach will recognize strengths and weaknesses in you that you may never see, or never want to address. Those weaknesses may be in skill or mental training, and a great coach can address problems and find strategies to find a solution.

3. A good coach sees a holistic approach to your training, takes into account your life and work balance, and can develop the most efficient plan specifically for you, helping you get the most done without wasting time or energy in workouts you may not need.

4. A good coach knows when it’s time to say when. Runners are driven, and will push themselves to their limits. A good coach can help prevent injury by helping an athlete make a good choice in rest and recovery.

5. A good coach is interactive, personalized, and flexible. A coach will help you alter a workout, explain the goal of each workout, and explain how to prioritize workouts.


Anne: What’s your favorite race you’ve ever run?

Coach Deanna: This is a hard question as I have run so many different kinds of races in many beautiful places. I guess if I had to pick just one, I would pick the hardest race I have ever run: TransRockies 6-Day Solo. TransRockies is a 6-day stage race starting in Buena Vista, CO and ending in Beaver Creek, CO. The race is 120 miles long with over 28,000 feet of elevation gain with the majority of those miles above 9,000 feet in elevation on trail and fire roads. Each day you run between 15 and 24 miles and then camp at various locations along the trail. Thankfully, the organizers set up camp and cook all our meals!!
Most athletes run the 6-day race as a team of 2 but I tackled the challenge as a solo runner. Not only was the race beautiful with its mountain top views but each day challenged me mentally and physically. Being a flat-lander, the terrain and elevation was entirely different than what I was able to train on: rocks, mountain passes, stream crossings, and descents. And then mental struggle of knowing that no matter how tough a day was, you had to get up and do it again the next morning. Each day tested my limits and by the time I reached that final descent into Beaver Creek, I realized I was a much stronger athlete than I ever thought I could be.

deanna trans rockies

Deanna during Stage 2 of her TransRockies 100k.


Anne: What’s your dream race to run?

Gorge Waterfalls 100k. The Gorge Waterfalls 100k is held each March in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. The course is primarily single track trail and runs by (and under) more waterfalls than you can count. It is reportedly one of the toughest 100K in the Country.
Anne: If you could train a celebrity, who would it be? (I’m really looking for you to pick Kim Kardashian as that would kinda boost the traffic to our blog. And use the phrase “Kim Kardashian’s butt” at least once in your answer)

I honestly have no answer for this question. I have never been one to want to meet a celebrity and I definitely don’t have a “hall pass” celebrity. So I guess I’ll punt and say Kim Kardashian so Anne’ gets some added traffic to her blog.
Anne: How can clients reach you?

Lively Athletics


08 Jan, 2015



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