June 15, 2023

Zipper Team

How to Start a Run Coaching Business - A Complete Guide

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Are you passionate about running and eager to share your expertise to help others achieve their fitness goals? Starting a run coaching business may be perfect for you. As a run coach, you'll have the opportunity to inspire and guide aspiring runners, whether they're beginners or seasoned athletes. By offering personalized training plans, expert advice, and unwavering support, you can make a meaningful impact on individuals' lives while turning your passion into a thriving business. In this guide, we'll explore the essential steps to launch your own run coaching business, from honing your skills and establishing your niche to attracting clients and building a strong reputation in the running community.

Get ready to embark on an exciting journey of transforming lives, one stride at a time.

Who is your ideal athlete?

Figuring out your ideal athlete is a crucial step in developing a successful run coaching business. Identifying your target audience helps you tailor your coaching services and marketing efforts to meet their specific needs.

Start by considering the type of runners you enjoy working with the most and the expertise you can offer them. Are you passionate about coaching beginners who are just starting their running journey, or do you thrive in training competitive athletes aiming for personal records? Understanding your niche will allow you to focus your resources and provide a more specialized coaching experience.

Additionally, consider the demographics and characteristics of your ideal athletes, such as age, fitness level, goals, and interests. Are you drawn to coaching busy professionals looking to improve their fitness, or do you have a knack for coaching youth athletes? By defining your ideal athlete, you can better tailor your coaching programs, content, and marketing messages to attract and engage the right audience. Remember, finding your ideal athlete not only enhances client satisfaction and results but also fosters long-term relationships and word-of-mouth referrals, leading to the growth and success of your run coaching business.

What are your personal and business goals as a running coach?

Once you’ve figured out who your ideal athlete is, it’s time to understand the goals of your run coaching business - both personally and professionally.

Do you want to do this on the side or go full-time? Do you want to bring on a lot of athletes and sacrifice personalization and communication, or do you want to work with a handful of athletes and create a high-touch and very personalized experience? How much time do you want to run your coaching business each week? These are all important questions to ask so you set the proper expectations for yourself and for your athletes.

Start by setting short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals could include acquiring a specific number of clients within a certain timeframe, launching a new training program, or completing a certification course. Long-term goals may involve expanding your business to new locations, achieving a certain revenue target, or becoming a recognized authority in the running community.

Regularly review and reassess your goals, adapting them to changing circumstances and opportunities. Remember to break down larger goals into smaller milestones to keep yourself motivated and focused along the way. By setting goals, you create a roadmap for your run coaching business, fueling your ambition and guiding your actions toward growth and success.

Things to avoid when starting a run coaching business

When starting a run coaching business, it's important to be aware of common mistakes that can hurt your progress. Here are some key pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Lack of Business Planning: Going into the business without a solid plan can limit your growth and increase the risk of failure. Create a business plan that outlines your goals, target audience, marketing strategies, financial projections, and operational procedures.
  2. Underpricing or Overpricing Services: Setting prices too low may attract clients initially, but it can undermine your profitability and the perceived value of your coaching. On the other hand, overpricing may make your coaching services out of reach for a large portion of athletes. In the next section, we’ll outline some common pricing models to consider for your run coaching business.
  3. Not investing in marketing: Relying solely on word-of-mouth or underestimating the importance of marketing can also limit growth. Consider your growth goals, and put together a marketing plan. Maybe this involves a certain number of blog posts or social media posts per month. Or if you have money to put toward advertising, a budget to put toward Google or Instagram ads.
  4. Staying up to date with coaching trends: Failing to invest in your professional development can limit your ability to provide quality coaching and stay ahead in the running industry. Continuously seek opportunities to expand your knowledge, join coaching communities, attend conferences, and stay up to date with your certifications.
  5. Ignoring Legal and Insurance Requirements: Neglecting the legal side of your business can leave you open to risks in your coaching business. Find insurance coverage and form a business entity that can protect your personal assets (like with an LLC) to avoid issues down the road. Also, invest in liability insurance to further protect you from an unexpected lawsuit if an athlete gets injured for example.
  6. Poor Client Communication: Communication is key in any coaching business. Failing to establish clear expectations, provide timely responses, and maintain open lines of communication with your clients can lead to dissatisfaction and athlete churn. Prioritize effective and consistent communication to build strong relationships, and more importantly, set expectations in the beginning of the relationship around communication.

How do I price my run coaching services?

Figuring out your pricing is an important step to building your run coaching business. From researching coaching prices across the internet, as well as chatting with over 100 coaches, we’ve found that run coaching typically falls in the following buckets, mainly determined by the level of a coach’s experience and communication expectations:

  • New coaches typically charge ~$100/mo for an athlete. For many coaches, a major goal is to get a few testimonials from happy athletes they can use to attract more athletes and ultimately raise their pricing.
  • Intermediate coaches that have coached for 3-5 years charge $125-$175/mo on average. They have a number of happy athlete testimonials and have figured out mistakes to avoid to make the athlete<>coach relationship smoother
  • Advanced and Pro run coaches typically charge $200-$300/mo. They have been coaching for 5+ years, have many happy athlete testimonials, and typically only with elite runners who require their expertise and learnings to realize gains.
  • One-off packages - Do you have any one-time services you can provide for athletes to further drive revenue? If you’re in the same location, maybe it could be an in-person track session focusing on running form. Or if you’re a Licensed Physical Therapist, maybe it could be an injury prevention strength program. One-off packages can also be a great way to start building a relationship with an athlete who isn’t yet readymonth-to-montha month to month coaching subscription. An easy way to price one-off packages is to consider the amount of time required to provide this one-off service, give yourself an hourly rate, and price accordinglfor For example, or an in-person track session, if you’ll spend an hour prepping and traveling to and from the track, then an hour with your athlete, and you’d consider your time worth $30/hr, make this package $60. If you’re looking for an easy way to create and charge for your coaching services, check out Zipper Payments.
  • Note - Some insurance policies may only cover virtual training vs. in-person. Make sure to check your insurance and consider the risks when providing in-person training.
  • Other revenue drivers - Consider putting together camps, one-off events, and training programs that can diversify your revenue stream.

How should a run coach process payments?

With athletes ready to go, there are various options for processing payments. Before you decide on how to process payments, first think through how you want to charge. Do you want athletes to sign up month to month or pay in blocks of time (ie each 6 months)? Would you prefer a monthly minimum? Do you want to charge an onboarding fee?

We most commonly see new coaches charging month to month without tartup fee, as they start building credibility and a larger roster, requiring startup fees as well as a contractual commitment. A good rule of thumb is to focus on making it as easy as possible for your first athletes, get testimonials, then you can start to up your pricing and requirements. Once you have a plan for your pricing, consider how you want to accept payments. You can use Venmo, but it was require manually rquesting payments or look at setting up subscriptions through platforms like Stripe or Paypal. Zipper Paymeo makes it really easy for coaches to set up subscriptions and packages.

Where can I get a run coaching certification?

When starting a run coaching business, it can be a good idea to invest in a run coach certification. Although you don’t necessarily have to have a certification to be an outstanding coach, they can provide a level of professionalism and also come with other perks, like discounted insurance and access to community.

  • RRCA - The Road Runner’s Club of America provides education for people who want to become knowledgeable and ethical distance running coaches. They have 2 certification levels that aspiring coaches can learn about here.
  • Trainingpeaks - Trainingpeaks is a training platform that provides accreditation for aspiring and current endurance coaches. Check out the courses here.
  • Vdot - Vdot is a run training platform developed by legendary running coach Jack Daniels. He put together a course and an 80-question exam for coaches who want to become certified in his training methodology.

What kind of business entity should a run coach form?

When it comes to choosing the legal structure for your run coaching business, there are key differences between a sole proprietorship and a limited liability company (LLC) that you should consider:

  1. Liability Protection: One of the advantages of an LLC is that it provides personal liability protection. As an LLC owner, your personal assets are generally shielded from business liabilities. If someone were to sue your business, they would typically only be able to go after the business assets, not your personal assets. In contrast, as a sole proprietor, there is no legal separation between you and your business, meaning your personal assets could be at risk if your business faces legal issues or debts.
  2. Taxation: Sole proprietorships and LLCs have different tax implications. A sole proprietorship is considered a "pass-through" entity, where the business income and expenses are reported on your personal tax return. This means you'll be subject to personal income tax rates. On the other hand, an LLC offers more flexibility in terms of taxation. By default, an LLC is also taxed as a pass-through entity, but you have the option to choose corporate taxation if it's more advantageous for your business.
  3. Formalities and Compliance: Establishing an LLC generally requires more formalities and compliance obligations compared to a sole proprietorship. As an LLC, you'll need to file articles of organization with the state, create an operating agreement, and maintain proper record-keeping. Additionally, there may be annual reporting requirements and fees associated with maintaining the LLC status. In contrast, a sole proprietorship has fewer formalities, making it easier and less costly to set up and maintain.
  4. Perception and Credibility: While this may not be a legal consideration, forming an LLC can often provide a sense of professionalism and credibility to your run coaching business. Clients and potential partners may view an LLC as a more established and reliable entity compared to a sole proprietorship.

Ultimately, the choice between a sole proprietorship and an LLC for your run coaching business depends on your specific circumstances, risk tolerance, and long-term goals. A few options for your business formation are Zenbusiness, LegalZoom, or contact us for help forming your run coaching business. We also recommend consulting with a qualified attorney or tax professional who can provide valuable guidance in making the right decision for your business.

Should I insure my run coaching business?

Purchasing insurance for your run coaching business is highly recommended and can provide essential protection against potential risks and liabilities. As a run coach, you have a duty of care to your athletes, and accidents or injuries can occur during training sessions or events. Liability insurance can cover legal expenses, medical costs, or damages if a client or third party sues you for injuries or property damage. Additionally, obtaining professional liability insurance can safeguard you against claims of professional negligence, like if an athlete claims you provided them with bad training advice or programming.

Insurance not only offers financial protection but also demonstrates your commitment to your clients' well-being, which can enhance your professional reputation and build trust with potential athletes. Ultimately, purchasing insurance for your run coaching business is a smart investment that provides peace of mind and safeguards your livelihood against unforeseen circumstances. RRCA provides run coaching insurance through their certification process, or check out services like NEXT to get a run coaching insurance quote.

How to build a run coaching business website

Creating a website for your run coaching business offers a lot of benefits that can take your business to the next level. Firstly, a website acts as your online storefront, allowing potential athletes to easily find and learn about your services at any time. It serves as a central hub where you can showcase your expertise, share success stories, and provide valuable content like training tips and resources.

Having a professional website boosts your credibility and builds trust with potential clients, demonstrating that you take your coaching business seriously. Additionally, a website enables you to expand your reach beyond your local area, attracting clients from different locations or even internationally. It provides a platform to promote and sell your coaching programs, whether they are one-on-one sessions, group training, or online courses.

They also can streamline operations to create a better experience for both you and prospective athletes. With features like online booking and contact forms, your website can make getting in touch a breeze. It also opens up opportunities for online marketing, search engine optimization, and social media integration, allowing you to reach a wider audience and drive more traffic to your business. Your website should include:

  • About you
  • Coach philosophy
  • Services offered
  • Sports and distances
  • Certifications
  • Athlete testimonials
  • Pricing
  • An easy way to get in touch

Having a well-designed and user-friendly website is essential for establishing a strong online presence and growing your run coaching business effectively. You can check out website builders like Wix and Squarespace, or use Zipper’s Site platform that’s specifically designed for coaches to launch and better manage their coaching business website in a few clicks.

What training platforms should you use for your run coaching business?

Once you’ve gotten your business formed, website launched, and have athletes ready to go, it’s time to figure out how you want to manage run programming. The two main options we see run coaches use are (1) spreadsheets or (2) training software.

Spreadsheets are great for coaches that want to have a lot of flexibility with their training programs. You can easily put together training with notes and formulas and have full control. However, spreadsheets require that athletes manually enter their training data and notes, which can cause some friction in the process and make it difficult to understand how an athlete is progressing if they aren’t keeping their sheet up to date.

That’s why there have been a number of training applications that have been built. These platforms still make it easy to build workouts and programs, but they also integrate with wearable technology like watches, heart rate monitors, and power meters so data is automatically uploaded following a workout. This helps coaches provide better feedback and ensure that their athletes aren’t overtraining, without having to be with them in person. Three of the top training applications for run coaches are Trainingpeaks, Finalsurge, and Today’s Plan.

How to onboard a new athlete

Once you and an athlete have decided to work together and it’s time to get started, creating an easy onboarding process will help you better understand your athlete's history and goals, while showing them that you are invested in creating a truly customized experience for them. Put together a questionnaire to learn more about your new athlete. Some questions to consider:

  • What is their athletic background?
  • What is their availability?
  • What races do they have on the calendar and do they have any goals for these races?
  • Do they have any injury history?
  • What is their preferred method of communication and communication expectations?

Check out Google Forms or Typeform to manage your questionnaires.

How do I generate leads for my coaching business?

Generating leads is one of the hardest parts of a successful coaching business, but it’s required for your coaching business to grow and thrive. Some avenues to consider:

  1. Social Media: Post helpful content, athlete success stories, offer tips and test ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube. Check out Coach Evan Schwartz’s TikTok where he posts helpful content to drive leads.
  2. Content Marketing: Create a blog on your website to share thought leadership and other content related to improving at running. Offer helpful other helpful content and guides that a potential athlete can download in exchange for their email address, then follow up to see if you can help answer any more of their questions.
  3. Email Marketing: Build an email list by offering a newsletter or exclusive content related to running. Send regular updates, training tips, success stories, and promotional offers to nurture leads and convert them into clients.
  4. Local Running Events: Participate in local running events and races to connect with potential athletes. Set up a booth or sponsor an event to increase visibility and capture leads.
  5. Partner with Fitness Centers and Gyms: Collaborate with local fitness centers and gyms to offer your run coaching services to their members. Provide guest workshops, seminars, or training sessions to showcase your expertise and generate leads.
  6. Referral Program: Establish a referral program where you incentivize your existing clients to refer their friends, family, or colleagues to your coaching services. Offer discounts, free sessions, or other rewards for successful referrals.
  7. Online Advertising: Invest in online advertising platforms such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads to target specific demographics or locations. Create an easy way for potential athletes to get in touch as they click to your website with calls-to-action or compelling landing pages.
  8. Influencer Partnerships: Collaborate with fitness influencers, bloggers, or local running enthusiasts who have a significant following. Have them promote your coaching services through sponsored posts, reviews, or giveaways to reach a wider audience and generate leads.
  9. Webinars and Online Workshops: Host webinars or online workshops on topics related to running, training techniques, injury prevention, or nutrition. Collect attendees' contact information and follow up with them afterward to see if they have any additional questions or would be interested in learning more about your coaching services.
  10. Networking Events: Attend local networking events, health and wellness expos, or industry conferences to connect with like-minded professionals and potential athletes. Follow up with a thank you email and a point or two from your conversation. If they aren’t looking for a running coach, they may be able to connect you with potential athletes who are.

There are many ways to generate leads and the best way you can find the most effective way is to diversify your strategy. Pick a few channels, test them out, and see which are the best at generating the highest quality leads.

Create a cancellation policy

If you are doing in-person sessions, make sure you consider a cancellation policy. This will help set proper expectations with athletes, will avoid you from wasting your time, and will make sure you don’t land in any awkward situations.

A simple cancellation policy is a use a 24-hour notice. This will give your athlete a window to cancel if something comes up and will make sure they don’t cancel as you are on your way to the session. In your follow-up email confirming the session, or in your onboarding questionnaire, simply outline that there is a 24-hour cancellation policy to avoid being charged for the session. Anything else within this window will require the athlete to pay for the session.

Make your athlete feel important

At the end of the day, coaching is all about building a strong relationship with your athlete. Many coaches get into the business because they want to see their athletes excel and achieve goals they never thought possible. The best coaches take time to make their athletes feel special. They check in to see how their athletes are feeling, they make them the stars of their social media posts, and they always text or call them the night before the race and are the first to congratulate them after they cross the finish line. Take the extra steps to build strong relationships with your athletes and not only will it keep them motivated, but it will help your business succeed.

Work for free to generate testimonials

As you're getting your coaching business off the ground, it can feel uncomfortable starting to charge athletes when you haven’t had any success stories yet. Something that many coaches do in their early days is coach friends and family for free. They’ve mentioned that this helps them build confidence, get feedback from people they trust, and start to generate positive testimonials they can use to market themselves and their services. Generating a few quick wins in the early days via free coaching can be a good way to jumpstart your run coaching business and your confidence.


The world needs more coaches to help people achieve goals they never thought possible. If you’re passionate about running and love to help people, maybe starting a coaching business could be the way to start making a big impact on people’s lives while doing something you love each day.

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