My coaching journey

Ever since I took my frist steps into running back in August 2012, I have always had an appreciation for the time and effort that coaches and volunteers provide to the sport. It was this appreciation which led me to volunteer as Event Director of Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun towards the end of 2013, for which the inaugural event took place in April of 2014. The experience that I gained from this volunteering opportunity (which I continued with for 5 years) also led me to getting involved with leading athletics and running activities.

The journey required in order to qualify as an Event Group Coach

Leading Athletics (14/12/2014)

My coaching journey started in December 2014 when I was invited by Tonbridge Athletic Club to attend a British Athletics, “Leading Athletics” workshop. This was a 3 hour workshop which took place at the Angel Centre in Tonbridge and was an introduction to leading athletics (running, jumping and throwing) for developing athletes.

Coaching Assistant (19/07/2015)

The next stage in my coaching journey involved completing a British Athletics, “Coaching Assistant” course. This was a two day course which I completed over a weekend in July of 2015 in Coulsdon, Surrey. The content of which expanded upon the previous course that I had attended and provided me with the technical skills and knowledge to be able to provide assistance to a lead coach in an athletics environment.

I used this qualification in order to assist one of the coaches at Tonbridge AC with their sessions for the younger age groups. It was with this experience and that gained from my volunteering at Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun that I decided upon starting up my own running group, for which I would need a further qualification in order to gain the required knowledge and insurance.

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun

Leadership in Running Fitness (14/05/2016)

Thanks to the support which I had received from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for the parkrun event, I was provided with funding to attend the British Athletics, “Leadership in Running Fitness” course. This was a one day course that I attended at a venue in Dulwich, London. The course itself provided me with the practical skills required in order to deliver safe and organised running sessions for people aged 12 and above.

I didn’t wait very long to get up and running with my own group as I already had interest and support from friends and fellow parkrunners – the first of two “test sessions” took place just 3 days after this course on 17th May 2016 for which you can read more in the inaugural blog post from my RTW runners website. The official launch date for the group was the 31st May 2016.

Coach in Running Fitness (05/03/2017)

Having led group running sessions in Southborough for a few months, I decided that I would take the next step in my coaching journey and so in January of 2017 I booked a place on the British Athletics, “Coach in Running Fitness” course. The reason for my attending this course was that, in addition to leading running groups, I wanted to gain the qualification and insurance which would allow me to provide coaching on a 1 to 1 basis. Working with people on a 1 to 1 basis allows for a much more personal approach and enables the coach to focus on the strenths and weaknesses of the individual, which is not possible in a group environment.

This course consisted of 4 days worth of attendance over a period of 4 months – an initial weekend course in March, followed by an assessment preparation day 6 weeks later and finally, an observed practical assessment day in July 2015. The venue for the first 3 days was the excellent indoor facility at Brunel University Athletics Centre, London. The practical assessment day took place just down the road from here at Brunel University Sports Park, which was an outdoor athletics facility.

Indoor facilities at Brunel University

The course conent was much more in-depth than those which I had attended previously and included such skill developments such as, injury prevention and management; physical preparation; monitoring and testing of athletes; planning training; fuel and hydration; running drills; and energy systems and their role in endurance running.

In-between the first weekend of the course and day 3, I attended a 5-day warm weather training camp in the Algarve which had been organised and led by none other than 1988 Olympic silver medalist Liz McColgan.

Algarve training camp (April 2017)

I decided to attend the training camp in order to gain insight, experience and knowledge from one of the finest, Great British female distance runners that Scotland has produced. Since retiring from International competition in 2001, Liz has been coaching her daughter, Eilish McColgan and moved to Doha, Qatar in 2014 where she set up Doha Athletic Club and Doha Mini athletics club.

In fact, not many people know this but Liz coached herself to the world 10,000m title in Tokyo (1991) and to wins in the New York (1991), Tokyo (1992) and London (1996) marathons. Liz followed up her London marathon win with back to back runner-up places at the 1997 (2:26.52) and 1998 editions (2:26.54).

You can read all about my experience at the Algarve trainnig camp in this blog post.

Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training (29/09/2017)

Towards the end of 2016 I had made the decision that I wanted to pursue my passion for health, fitness and exercise and so decided to embark upon an intensive 5-week Personal Training diploma course. The course took place at one of the Train Fitness gyms on Pocock Street in London, which involved me cycling to and from Tonbridge train station every day for 5 weeks and commuting up to London by train.

The first two weeks of the course involved studying for and qualifying as a level 2 gym instructor, as this is a pre-requisite for attending the level 3 course. Weeks 3 and 4 involved theoretical and practical assessment in orde to achieve the Personal Training qualification and week 5 was an optional diploma week which I attended in order to gain CPD qualifications in Group Indoor Cycling, Exercise Referral, Circuit Training and Group Outdoor Exercise Sessions.

In 2018 I was runner-up in the “Sports Achiever” category of the TWBC Love Where We Live Awards for the contribution that I had made to the community with my RTW runners group

Movement Skill workshop 1 (03/11/2018)

I attended this one day England Athletics workshop in order to hone my skills and knowledge of the movement skills and exercises which are required in athletics. The course took place in Crawley, West Sussex and I even managed to sneak in a 19:01 5km at Tilgate parkrun in time for the 10am start!

Movement Skill workshop 2 (02/02/2019)

The second of these England Athletics, “Movement Skills” workshops saw me travel up to Gateshead in order to attend. The weekend itself had seen significant snowfall and upon arrival into Gateshead I was met with rather unpleasant conditions for my walk from the station to my accommodation. I had planned for another pre-workshop parkrun, however, the adverse conditions had led to the event being cancelled! Fortunately, the instructor who was leading the workshop was unaffected by travel diruption.

The course itself was delivered at the Indoor Athletics Arena in Gateshead and provided me with ideas for exercise progressions for running, jumping and throwing.

Getting stuck-in at the last National Cross Country Championships

Physical Preparation (05/05/2019)

The final of the three England Athletics workshops which are still currently available (online only at this time due to Covid) provided me with the types of exercises required in order to improve physical competency as well as improving balance, range of movement and stability in athletes.

This course took place at the Julie Rose Stadium in Ashford and with it being held on a Sunday there was no opportunity this time for a pre-workshop parkrun!

Basic Sports first aid course – St John’s Ambulance (18/02/2020)

Ever since I qualified as a Leader in Running Fitness and commenced providing running sessions I have always kept myself up to date with regular first aid training. However, since I took the decision to go full-time with my running coaching and personal trainnig, I felt it would be beneficial for me to attend a sport-specific first aid course.

I attended this one day course not long before the first National lockdown. The course was very useful and provided me with the assurance and understanding of how to assist my clients should first aid be required.

Event Group Endurance (25/04/2021)

I registered for this course in May 2020 as British Athletics were providing a significantly discounted price for the course due to all learning having been cancelled due to the Pandemic. It was a course that I had had my eye on for some time and this seemed like to good of an opportunity to pass up. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I had to completely adapt my coaching and personal training services (which had of course all been in-person) to online only, I couldn’t find the time to complete the necessary 30 hours of online study.

However, at the end of March 2021, I took one week’s annual leave from my employed job and allocated all of my time, effort and energy to completing the online content of the course. The course itself had suggested that the online content would take between 20-30 hours to complete, however, I believe that I took closer to 40 hours overall when taking into account the integration day pre-course tasks.

Upon completion of the online element of the course and in order to achieve the qualification there is a requirement to attend an integration day. Of course, at present with all learning taking place online, the integration day was provided over the weekend of 25th-26th April 2021 in two 4-hour slots.

I found the integration element very useful as there were only another 5 coaches in attendance along with the instructor. The purpose of this element of the course was mostly for information and knowledge sharing between coaches and it was great to share our ideas. There were two pre-course case studys to complete in preparation for the integration day, both for developing teenage athletes, one of whom was a male, middle distance endurance runner and the other a female race walker. It certainly was interesting and insightful having to learn the skills and technique involved in the race walking event and I even volunteered to design a session for the female race walker during the online session!

Continued Professional Development (CPD)

I was a member of the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) since qualifying as a Personal Trainer in 2017, however, REPs merged with The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) earlier in 2021 and so I am now a registered member with this body.

As a member of this professional body I am requried to complete CPD courses in order to maintain my status on the register. The courses tend to be online and there is a wide range of subjects from which to choose, for example, nutrition, safeguarding adults, mental health awareness and upon completion of the learning you are provided with CPD points which are required to maintain your member status.

Not only does this ensure that my own knowledge of sport and physical activity is up to date, but it also provides my clients with the assurance that they are under the coaching and guidance of a fitness professional who is up to date with their own training and education.

Continued reading

In addition to the CPD that I periodically undertake, I also like to read about coaching, running, strength training as well as biographies and non-fiction books to do with athletics coaches and professional athletes. This information provides me with inspiration and ideas which I put into my own coaching philosophy and training for myself and my clients. Being mostly self-coached takes a great deal of discipline in all aspects of my life and I see myself as a good example to which my clients can look to.

A selection of the books from my library

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this long and detailed blog post. It has been an enjoyable journey for me so far and one which I know will never be complete as there are always new ideas and principles to learn and practice in coaching, mentoring, planning and training.

If your training has plateaud or you are looking for a fresh approach to your exercise routine then please give me a call on (+44) 07743 073788 and I would love to have a chat and assist you in achieving your goals, no matter what they are. Getting into a regular routine is difficult, but is the best place to start laying the foundations to your training. If you are in need of a training plan or advice on which exercises are best to perform in order to achieve your best performance then please contact me – joewatts@plegafit.com

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