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February 12, 2017

On the long run: What goes into choosing a post-collegiate team?

Introducing “On the Long Run”! In this space, I’ll use my 16+ years (omg, wtf) of running experience to take letters and answer questions on the life of a professional runner from our Citius (some pronounce it as Kitty-us) Mag readers. I’ll try to keep the jokes to a minimum, promise.

Our first question is from Kellie in Milwaukee, Wis. She asked: Was there any criteria when seeking a post-collegiate team that you wish you would have considered when selecting a team?

First, Kellie, thank you for being our first reader submission! I’ll do my best to give you an organized response you can make sense of. Fingers crossed.

On big things like this, I tend to assess quickly and decide (what seems like) impulsively off a heady mixture of feels and intuition. In my assessment, this tends to work for me. But when I slow the process down and look at it objectively, these are the criteria I can spend time on when selecting a post-collegiate situation:

Do I need funding, housing or gear? You’ll need physio–can you afford that/will you need help funding that? Do you have a job or other income source that will allow you to provide these things for yourself or will you need help meeting these training and competition needs?

How much freedom do I want versus how much structure do I need? Do you want to be able to be gone from the group for days or weeks at a time? Or do you need the accountability of a structured group that meets most days of the week?

Weather/location Is it an issue? Do you like seasons or do want to live in a place that skips the crap ones? Do you want be in the mountains or near sea level? Does it even matter to you, one way or another?

Ask coaches about their training philosophies Do you want something that’s like the training you’ve done before or the challenge of something different? How do you feel about planned days off, cross-training, long runs? What type of workouts have you benefited from in the past that might be your bread-and-butter? Where in your training do you want to see growth and how might one coach better facilitate that than another? Do you want to jump onto a group training plan and get to work or do you want a more individualized training plan?

Visit groups you’re interested in and ask questions. Is this a group you can see yourself meshing with on a daily/weekly/seasonal basis? Is meshing even important to you in the first place? Get a feel for the coach/group’s vibe and decide if it’s something you would be excited and happy to be a part of.

Then decide which of these things you want, need and won’t compromise on. Go from there and listen to yourself. People you trust–like mentors, friends, former teammates and family–can give you great insight and help you better understand yourself as an athlete. Take their advice and guidance into consideration. But ultimately only you can prevent forest fires know what’s best for you. You’re the one who has to hustle and grind daily, to make your success happen, when nobody’s watching. You’re the one in your shoes. So be honest with yourself and know you’re the one who’s most qualified to make your decision.

Which combination of all of the above will make you happy but also challenge you to grow into the athlete you suspect you can be?

I hope this helps and good luck with your search and decision!

If you’d like to write in and ask a question On the Long Run, you can email me at [email protected].

May the footing be ever in your favor.

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