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19 Apr 2018 141
Inactive people Developing Mindsets

Secrets of a Running Coach: Lamp Posts and Trash TV

Engaging people in a physical activity is one thing, getting them to maintain their participation is another. Coaches can use a number of different approaches to help people stay active and participate in sport long term

As a coach, I have always watched with great curiosity my community becoming more physically active at this time of year.

I am a running coach in a small rural village of no more than 3,000 people, yet in the months of March to April it would seem that the majority of them are negotiating the narrow, uneven footpaths at the same time. Cycling, walking, jogging, even horse riding; you name it, everyone is at it!

But, unfortunately each year around May the same pattern emerges: people become less and less active. But why? Other than beer gardens and Easter holidays, my only thought for the decrease in activity is that people don’t discover the benefits they were expecting to find.

Promoting long term engagement in sport

I am lucky enough to work in the coaching sector. So as a practising coach I benefit from having the time to gain a deeper understanding of the profession through my work, specifically in physical activity.  

I am very aware of what it means to be physically active and I make sure to build certain characteristics into my sessions to try and assure my group that they will see the benefits of sustaining an active lifestyle. UK Coaching designed a really useful infographic, which looks at physical activity and how a coach can help.

Tips to help people create active behaviours

I used the UK Coaching infographic (linked to below) to reflect on my own practice as a coach. I learnt a few extra bits, and here are a few tactics I’ve employed to try and make my sessions as active as possible and to help people create active behaviours that will last for a lifetime:

  • Lamp posts are a coach’s best friend: For new runners the idea of continuous activity is a real barrier, as it seems such a huge leap from where they are starting from – usually walking. Using a focal point such as a lamppost is a great way to break up activity into manageable chunks.
  • Give it a go: I try to develop confidence in my runners during my runs to help them be able to go it alone. Giving them independence during the session. To me it’s about helping them learn from experiences with you there to support them - often this leads to some great ‘How…?’ questions from my runners.
  • Come back and tell us all about it: I hear lots of great suggestions from my runners about other activities to try, often linked with the question: ’Would this be good…?’ Linked to building confidence and helping to build group cohesion, I often ask, “Why don’t you give it a go and come back to tell us about it?”
  • Trash TV Talk: I would definitely describe my group as social. By definition, we talk a lot normally about the latest ’Secret Housewives of…’, or ’The Only Way is…’ series. I employ this tactic intentionally, as weaved between the gossips are clues to how active people have been since I last saw them. I use this to frame the advice or support I give to different people.

Related Resources

  • Reducing Physical Inactivity in Adults

  • Reducing Physical Inactivity (Part 1)

  • Behaviour Bitesize Blog: 6.3 Engaging


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