How to Become a Running Coach – From Getting Certified to Creating Training Plans

how to become a running coach

According to new reports from Statista, 60 million people now run to keep fit in the US alone… and the amount of people training for marathons doubled from 2021 to 2022, according to Strava data.

Running is simple, accessible and there’s no “gymtimidation”… and these factors are spearheading new growth opportunities, particularly for those interested in coaching and providing running services.

But what even is a “running coach” and how would someone go about becoming one?

This guide provides a clear overview of everything you need to know.

Quick Summary

  • Getting certified as a running coach is generally seen as a required first step.
  • You can offer services online or in-person.
  • You can offer one-on-one sessions or group training classes.
  • Running coaches are responsible for things like creating training plans, analyzing runners’ performance data, providing feedback on running technique, and conducting coaching sessions.

What Actually is a Running Coach?

A running coach is a type of fitness professional that specializes in helping someone improve their running.

Within this broader definition, there’s a lot of variety, including working with elite athletes and local clients trying to manage their weight.

From running technique to race strategy, a running coach helps provide support, accountability and guidance for all things running.

Running coaches can offer a variety of services, including one-on-one coaching, group coaching, in-person coaching, and online coaching.

  • One-on-one coaching involves working closely with a single runner, providing highly personalized advice and support.
  • Group coaching involves working with a group of runners, providing general advice and support that benefits the whole group.
  • In-person coaching involves meeting with runners in person, often on a track, in a park, or at a gym.
  • Online coaching involves providing coaching services remotely, often through video calls, emails, or a dedicated app.

A running coach’s day might involve creating training plans, analyzing runners’ performance data, providing feedback on running technique, conducting coaching sessions (either in person or online), and staying up-to-date with the latest running research and techniques.

Running coaches are incredibly useful for runners who want to improve their performance, train for a specific event (like a marathon), or simply get more enjoyment out of running.

General Fitness Certification

Running coaches may want to consider becoming a CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) too. Our guide on the best personal trainer certifications outlines what you need to know about getting certified.

Do You Need to be Certified?

While you don’t necessarily need to be certified to coach people to run, having a certification can be a big advantage. It provides credibility and ensures you have the necessary knowledge and skills to coach effectively.

One simple way to get started is through the International Sports Sciences Association’s (ISSA) Running Coach Certification. This program provides comprehensive training on running biomechanics, nutrition, and injury prevention, among other topics.

We recently wrote a comprehensive review of the ISSA Running Coach certification and think the cost and accessibility, means it will probably appeal to a wide audience.

Different countries have different national programs for certification and qualifications, and this usually becomes more important for those wanting to coach at an elite level.

For example, in the United States, the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) and USA Track & Field (USATF) offer recognized certifications. In the UK, England Athletics provides qualifications for running coaches.

Each of these organizations offers comprehensive training programs that cover the essential knowledge and skills you need to become an effective running coach.

Knowledge is Power

When it comes to any sort of fitness coaching, knowledge is power. Luckily, there is so many great certifications and courses available (often 100%), including sports nutrition, injury prevention, special populations and strength and conditioning, which are worth considering for those wanting a more complete approach to helping clients reach their fitness goals.

How to Become a Running Coach


The first step to becoming a running coach is to get certified. This isn’t just about having a certificate to hang on your wall – it’s about gaining the knowledge and skills you need to coach runners effectively.

Certification programs from organizations like ISSA, RRCA, USATF, and England Athletics offer comprehensive training on a range of topics, including running physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, injury prevention, and coaching techniques.

These programs typically involve studying a curriculum, passing an exam, and sometimes demonstrating your coaching skills in a practical assessment (the ISSA certification is 100% online).

This process ensures you’re well-equipped to help runners improve their performance and achieve their goals.

Business Plan

Once you’re certified, you’ll need to develop a business plan. This is your roadmap to success as a running coach. It should outline your services, pricing, marketing strategies, and financial projections.

It should also be aligned with your personal goals and what you want to get out of coaching.

Your pricing should reflect the value you provide, your costs, and what your target clients are willing and able to pay.

Your marketing strategies might include building a website, using social media, networking with local running clubs, or offering free workshops to attract potential clients.

Your financial projections should estimate your income and expenses to ensure your business is financially viable. Remember, becoming a running coach is not just about pursuing your passion – it’s also about running a successful business.

Develop Training Plans

As a running coach, you’ll need to develop personalized training plans for your clients. These plans should be based on each client’s goals, fitness level, and other factors.

Developing effective training plans requires a deep understanding of running physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, and injury prevention.

You’ll need to know how to design workouts that improve endurance, speed, strength, and flexibility, how to schedule workouts for optimal recovery and performance, and how to adjust plans based on a runner’s progress and feedback.

Coaching Structure

Finally, you’ll need to decide on your coaching structure. This involves deciding how you’ll deliver your coaching services.

Will you offer one-on-one coaching, where you work closely with a single runner? Or will you offer group coaching, where you work with a group of runners with similar goals? Will you meet with runners in person, or will you offer online coaching, where you communicate with runners via video calls, emails, or a dedicated app?

Your coaching structure should be based on your skills, preferences, and the needs and preferences of your target clients. It should also be flexible enough to adapt as your business grows and evolves.

You may want to try different coaching structures to begin with and take it from there.

Benefits of Becoming a Running Coach

Revenue Source

One of the main benefits of becoming a running coach is that it can provide a source of income.

Whether you’re looking for a full-time career or a side hustle, running coaching can be a profitable venture. You can earn money by offering one-on-one coaching, group coaching, online coaching, or selling training plans.

You can also keep expensive relatively low too, making it a profitable venture.

Popular Physical Activity

Running is a popular physical activity worldwide… and it’s showing no signs of slowing.

It’s a simple, affordable, and effective way to stay fit and healthy. As a result, there’s a high demand for running coaches to help runners improve their performance and achieve their goals.


If you love running, becoming a running coach can be a fun and fulfilling career. You get to share your passion with others, help them achieve their goals, and spend a lot of time doing what you love – running!

Getting Started

Unlike other careers or side hustles, becoming a running coach doesn’t need a lot of capital or time-investment, making it a great option for anyone.

Things to Consider


Becoming a running coach involves some upfront costs, such as the cost of certification and setting up your business… but this shouldn’t break the bank.

Nevertheless, you’ll need to budget for these expenses and ensure you have the financial means to cover them.

It’s also a good idea to have some savings to cover your living expenses until your coaching business starts generating income.

Do You Have a Passion for Running?

Being a running coach requires a passion for running and helping others achieve their goals. You’ll be spending a lot of time running, talking about running, and thinking about running.

It goes without saying, if you don’t love running, this career might not be for you.

Other Fitness Certifications

While a running coach certification is an obvious first-step, having other fitness certifications can complement your running coach certification and make you more versatile.

For example, a Personal Trainer Certification can broaden your knowledge of fitness and allow you to offer more comprehensive coaching services… such as park HIIT sessions or strength and conditioning workouts in between your running classes.


As a running coach, you’ll need to consider getting insurance to protect yourself and your business. The type of insurance will depend on where you’re coaching (private/public space) and the country you’re based in.


Online Vs In-Person Running Coaching

Both online and in-person coaching have their pros and cons, and the best choice depends on your and your clients’ preferences and circumstances.

Online coaching is flexible and convenient. You can coach clients from anywhere in the world, and your clients can access your coaching services whenever and wherever it suits them.

However, online coaching can lack the personal touch and immediate feedback of in-person coaching.

In-person coaching allows for more personalized and immediate feedback. You can see your clients’ running form in real time and provide instant corrections and encouragement.

However, in-person coaching can be less flexible and convenient than online coaching, as it requires you and your clients to be in the same place at the same time.

Running Coach Average Salary

The salary of a running coach can vary widely depending on factors like location, experience, and the number of clients. As of 2023, the average salary for a running coach in the United States is around $50,000 per year. However, this can range from around $30,000 to over $80,000 per year.

Remember, as a running coach, you’re essentially running your own business. Your income will depend on how much you charge for your services and how many clients you have. It can take time to build up a client base and reach your income goals.

Many running coaches will also be CPTs or have other jobs too, so average salary statistics probably aren’t very indictive of earnings potential.

Bottom Line

Becoming a running coach can be a rewarding career for those who have a passion for running and helping others achieve their goals.

It involves gaining the necessary knowledge and skills through certification, developing a business plan, creating effective training plans, and deciding on your coaching structure.

While it can provide a source of income and the opportunity to do something you love, it also requires careful planning and consideration.

Remember, becoming a running coach is not just about pursuing your passion – it’s also about running a successful business. So, keep learning, keep planning, and most importantly, keep running!

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