If you really want to qualify for the Boston Marathon, complete an Ironman, win your age group, or set a new personal record, then you should hire a coach. Admittedly, there are dozens of great ways to improve your fitness and reach those goals that don’t involve a coach, such as online programs, workout books, joining a gym, or trial and error. But most serious athletes will tell you that without a coach, it’s too easy to fall into convenient training patterns, which often lead to plateaus. However, when you hire a quality coach, you allow yourself to be guided toward training harder and smarter than you can alone.

Local coach Austin Stuchell summarized it best when he remarked, “Do you really think that the best college teams and athletes would be so competitive if their coach just gave them workouts via email or Skype?” A local coach knows the area, knows the climate, and can even suggest great training locations or trails to help break up the monotony. It’s a more personal relationship, and occasionally the athlete and the coach can train together. Even better, if it’s a local race, your coach can be there to cheer for you and congratulate you at the finish line.

Local coach Byranna Petrie says, “I like being able to see my athletes and watch them run. This makes it easier for me to check form and make suggestions on improving cadence. It allows me to establish a relationship with the client, so they feel comfortable sharing their goals, their fears and how their body is adapting to my training plan. I can see their physical gains, and even help with possible injuries. It’s easier to show stretches, show proper form and to educate on strength training.”

No doubt, every training method has advantages and disadvantages, including price, time, availability, and previous conditioning. A coach isn’t perfect for everyone. Then again, if you’ve tried the other methods, and you need a better plan with some encouragement and mentoring, then you should certainly consider a local coach.

Author’s note: Bryanna Petrie has a Masters in Human Nutrition and is a certified Marathon Coach, NAASFP. You can learn more about her at Wholesomelyfit.com. Austin Stuchell is a USATF Certified Level 1 Coach and an Assistant High School Cross Country Coach. You can find out more about him at Facebook.com/SpokaneEnduranceTraining.