Could ChatGPT Replace A Traditional Running Coach?

ChatGPT made me a training plan, and here's what I thought

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In the quest for faster running times, some runners are turning to the ever-growing world of artificial intelligence (AI) to coach them to their next personal best.

Where the real question lies is whether AI-generated training plans can truly replace the guidance of a human coach.

In this article, we dive into the nuances of AI training plans and see if personal running coaches have maybe gone out of date. 

Both approaches offer different advantages and bring unique perspectives to the table, leaving runners to ponder which path aligns best with their aspirations, preferences, and the intricacies of their individual running journey. 

In this article, we’ll navigate the roads of marathon training, exploring the pros and cons of both AI assistance and the time-honored wisdom of a real running coach.

Could ChatGPT Replace A Traditional Running Coach? 1

ChatGPT Training Plan

Let’s start off by taking a look at the training plan given to me by coach ChatGPT:

Creating a marathon training plan involves several key elements such as building a solid base, gradually increasing mileage, incorporating speed work, allowing for adequate rest, and addressing nutrition and hydration.

Keep in mind that individual fitness levels, goals, and preferences may vary, so it’s essential to tailor the plan to your specific needs. Here’s a sample 16-week marathon training plan:

Week 1-4: Base Building

  • Day 1: Easy Run (3 miles)
  • Day 2: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 3: Short Intervals (6 x 400 meters) + Strength Training
  • Day 4: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 5: Long Run (6 miles)
  • Day 6: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 7: Easy Run (4 miles)

Week 5-8: Increasing Mileage

  • Day 1: Easy Run (4 miles)
  • Day 2: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 3: Fartlek Run (30 minutes) + Strength Training
  • Day 4: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 5: Long Run (8 miles)
  • Day 6: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 7: Easy Run (5 miles)
Could ChatGPT Replace A Traditional Running Coach? 2

Week 9-12: Adding Intensity

  • Day 1: Easy Run (5 miles)
  • Day 2: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 3: Tempo Run (4 miles at a challenging but sustainable pace) + Strength Training
  • Day 4: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 5: Long Run (12 miles)
  • Day 6: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 7: Easy Run (6 miles)

Week 13-16: Tapering and Fine-Tuning

  • Day 1: Easy Run (4 miles)
  • Day 2: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 3: Intervals (5 x 800 meters) + Strength Training
  • Day 4: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 5: Long Run (10 miles)
  • Day 6: Rest or Cross-Train
  • Day 7: Easy Run (3 miles)

Race Week

  • Day 1: Rest
  • Day 2: Easy Run (2 miles)
  • Day 3: Rest
  • Day 4: Marathon!

ChatGPT Tips

  1. Listen to Your Body: If you feel excessive fatigue or pain, consider adjusting your training or taking an extra rest day.
  2. Hydration and Nutrition: Stay hydrated and pay attention to your nutrition, especially during long runs. Experiment with fueling options to find what works best for you.
  3. Rest and Recovery: Allow your body sufficient time to recover. Adequate sleep and rest days are crucial for performance and injury prevention.
  4. Cross-Training: Incorporate activities like cycling, swimming, or yoga to enhance overall fitness and reduce the risk of injury.
  5. Build Gradually: Avoid sudden increases in mileage or intensity to prevent injuries.

Remember, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions. Adjust the plan based on your individual circumstances and progress.

a man jogging along sea side

Comparing Coach ChatGPT VS. A Personal Coach

While the AI-generated training plan can provide a structured and balanced approach to marathon training, there are several key differences between it and a plan crafted by a personal running coach:

Personalization

  • AI Plan: The plan provided by ChatGPT is a generalized template based on common training practices. It does not account for individual differences, such as fitness level, running history, injury history, and personal goals.
  • Coach’s Plan: A personal running coach considers your specific strengths, weaknesses, and goals to create a customized training plan. They can make real-time adjustments based on your progress, feedback, and any unforeseen circumstances.

Feedback And Adjustments

  •  AI Plan: ChatGPT does not provide real-time feedback or adjustments. It’s a static plan that doesn’t adapt to changes in your performance, health, or other factors.
  • Coach’s Plan: A personal running coach can provide ongoing feedback, monitor your progress, and make adjustments to your training as needed. They can address challenges, modify workouts, and adapt your training to ensure optimal results.

Motivation And Accountability

  • AI Plan: While the AI plan provides structure, it doesn’t offer the motivational support or accountability that a personal coach can provide.
  • Coach’s Plan: A personal coach can offer encouragement, motivation, and accountability. They can help you stay on track, overcome mental barriers, and celebrate achievements.
Could ChatGPT Replace A Traditional Running Coach? 3

Individualization of Specific Workouts

  • AI Plan: The AI plan provides general workout types but may not consider individual preferences or respond to specific needs.
  • Coach’s Plan: A running coach can tailor workouts to suit your preferences, such as running terrain, preferred workout times, and workout types that align with your strengths and weaknesses.

Communication

  • AI Plan: There is no communication with the AI. You follow the predetermined plan without the ability to ask questions or seek clarification.
  • Coach’s Plan: A personal running coach provides a communication channel. You can ask questions, discuss concerns, and receive guidance on various aspects of training, nutrition, and recovery.

Holistic Support

  • AI Plan: Focuses primarily on the training schedule and may not address broader aspects of an athlete’s life.
  • Coach’s Plan: A personal coach can provide holistic support, considering factors like stress, work, and other life commitments. A running coach can provide guidance on sleep, nutrition, and mental well-being.

While a ChatGPT plan can offer a solid foundation, a personal running coach brings a level of personalization, adaptability, motivation, and holistic support that may be crucial for maximizing performance and preventing injuries. 

The choice between an AI plan and a coach depends on your individual preferences, goals, and the level of support and guidance desired.

Could ChatGPT Replace A Traditional Running Coach? 4

What Our Experts Suggest

ChatGPT will provide you with a bread-and-butter program, which can be great for some people, especially those who don’t necessarily have specific goals, are running solely for enjoyment, and just want a bit more structure to their running routine.

However, if you’re a runner who is chasing a goal race or a personal best, choosing a personal running coach could be the better choice. 

Having a coach will help you see results faster, as they can adapt training to your needs while also providing other advice and wisdom from their years of experience.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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