I would like to share with you my personal impressions of the 10km training plan with Coach Jeff Galloway. I know this is going to be a long post, so if you don't want to read it all, just skip until the last paragraph.
A bit of background
Let's start from something basic. I'm not exactly a sportsman, I try to do some physical exercise because I like it and I think it is healthy, but I'm not running in any competitions and I'm not even a member of a sport association. Before the COVID-19 came to Germany, I was biking everyday to work and sometimes also during the weekend and this was enough. When I started working from home, I felt that something was missing to my daily routine so I took advantage of having a treadmill at home and start walking/jogging/running some km every day, until I felt brave enough to try my first outdoor run.
5km runs were never a problem, but my first 10 km was a disaster. It took me almost 80 minutes and I felt exhausted for a few days after. Pain everywhere, feet, knees and even elbows, not to mention the tiredness feeling. When I have realized I could follow a personalized training, I felt intrigued and decided right away it was worth a try. Since I could run 5km with no problems I opted for the 10 km with 1 hour finishing time as a target. I don't remember why exactly I picked Coach Jeff, but so I did.
Personalized training plan
At the beginning my expectations were extremely high, I was fascinated by the fact that the training plan was personalized on my performance and that it was supposed to evolve while running. Unfortunately the adaptation is very little, comparing with other runners, it looks that we all had the same training plan being the pace (in the speed and in the race-like splits) the only difference. I think that the only really personalized item is the "confidence level".
Lack of support
In the Garmin Coach tab of the Garmin Connect app, from time to time, there are interesting videos or articles to read. They were rather informative for a real beginner as me, but maybe not really adequate for a more experienced runner. Moreover I was expecting to find here a dedicated part of the forum where different Garmin users could share experiences, report difficulties or simply ask questions. Honestly I was expecting someone of Jeff's staff to be available as a moderator. Instead I could only find a few comments and questions here and there but not in a well organized way.
Despite the fact that the training plan should adapt to you, I have the feeling - and apparently my opinion is shared by other users - that the load is by far too heavy. Coach Jeff mentioned in a video his intention to train for a bit longer distance, in order to have the confidence to finish the race distance without issues. But I had a few training sessions longer than a half marathon and this is in my opinion far too much. If at the beginning the training load is reasonable, towards weeks 9 - 10 it becomes brutal.
Not only the running distance is exaggerated, but also the required training time is too long. If I am planning to run my race in 1 hour, I can accept a training session to last 1.5 h, but not 2.5h.
I decided to bring it to an end, because of my character. If I take a decision, it is very rare I quit half way, but this time I was really tempted to leave the program or at least to change the trainer.
Unit of measurement
I'm European and I'm a newbie in running. So for me, especially at the beginning, it was already tricky to understand pace value ('/km) and always wondering why not using speed value (km/h). After a while, one get used and understand what it means to run "1 min faster or slower". The situation is even worse when Coach Jeff is using miles instead of kms especially when defining running paces in '/mi. I know that many american Garmin users can find it exactly the opposite, but it would be very helpful to provide both units of measurement.
Run, Walk, Run
This is the key aspect of Coach Jeff training. When he introduced it, it said that the running and walking intervals depend on your goal pace, he pointed to a table (obviously in '/mi) and suggested that the smartwatch would have helped us in keeping this running / walking structure. I looked at the table and I didn't make out the math to convert it in '/km because I was relying on the fact that the watch would have told me when to walk and when to run. In the first real training there were running splits followed by recovery walks, so I naively though that those were the running and walking intervals. Only later I discovered that I should have run/walk/run during the running splits but the smartwatch was not telling me when to switch. Too bad...
I realized that one can use the alert function of the training program to do that, but I believed it should come automatically. Even better, the run-walk-run should adapt to your performance and change during the training weeks.
The coach is suggesting to use the Golden Miles time to evaluate our improvements. But I would have expected during the 12 weeks a few test races, to gain confidence on the right distance and on the right pace. In my opinion this is very important for a beginner, because we are not fully capable to understand our body and to evaluate how much fuel we still have. The risk is to run out too quickly or to finish too late.
At the end of training, the smartwatch is asking how it was. That's already important, but the same question should be repeated also 12 hours later. When you finish a run, even if you are tired, you feel good, but after 12 hours you start feeling all your joints, knees in my specific case. Both evaluations should be asked and provided - in my opinion - to really allow a training optimization. Moreover I was expecting that the Garmin coach was evaluating my results telling me what I could improve and possible how.
Final words (or read here if it was too long)
My virtual race was last Sunday (28.06.), but I had so much pain in my knees I could not run it. Thankfully it was a virtual race, so I simply reschedule it for today (30.06.), but if it would have been a real one, I would have lost my chance to run.
As I said, I run my 10km this morning with a 55'40'' time, so more than 4' better than my goal. This is making me happy, but not really satisfied, because I had to postpone it of two days to be able to run it.
In conclusion, I will probably try again the Garmin Coach, but with another trainer, or I will give a try to some other third party applications.
Keep on running!