LIRF: Run Leader Course

Getting up at 6.50am on a Saturday morning when I’ve had a rather Prosecco heavy night is not ideal, but at least it was for something interesting and, actually really fun. I was taking a course to become a qualified running leader so that I can volunteer and lead groups with A Mile In Her Shoes.

 Our morning started with an icebreaker to meet the others in the class before settling in to a slideshow presentation. I won’t share it all with you, but I’ll go through a few things that I found interesting. This would be great for those that organise a run group with friends, colleagues or members of the public.

The role of a leader is to;

  • organise and promote the group
  • provide a safe environment at the right level for the participants
  • encourage and maintain involvement in running and walking 
  • signpost runners to development opportunities
  • provide a safe and fun environment
  • be individually centred leader- having an awareness that you have a group of individuals
It’s important to think about placing the needs of the individual before the interests of the leader or group. 
Athlete Development
This is the flow of an athletes development through training. It’s not just children that start with the fundamentals, it may also be those coming back from injury or severe illness. Similarly, those that used to be heavily involved in exercise but have had a number of years out may be back at the foundation stage. 

Fundamentals- Agility, Balance, Co-ordination
Foundation- Running, Jumping, Throwing
Event Group- Speed endurance, Wheelchair racing, jumping, throwing 
Event Specialism- 5K, 10K, Half marathon, marathon
Performance Athlete

Planning a Running Session 
You need to think about;
  • safety (asses risk area, equipment, athletes, keep athletes on task, follow correct coaching practise and progressions)
  • organisation
  • instruction and explanation
  • demonstation
The sun was shining, so we were all thrilled to take the practical lesson outside. First up we learnt how to plan and lead a warm up. 
Warm Up
The main purpose of a warm up is to increase body temperature, heart rate and utilise muscles that will be used in the training, and to prevent injury. This is done through dynamic movement to work on balance, co-ordination and agility. For example jogging on the spot, high knees, and knees to bum. 

Our group was nicknamed Team Peach as Katie, Leah and I were all wearing the exact same colours.

Start by introducing yourself, asking if anyone is new and if there are any injuries. Then lead the group in a range of easy exercises to get them warmed up, offering alterations for those that might be new or beginners. 

The key to the training session is to plan it in advance, but be prepared to be flexible, adapting to the needs of your group (and the weather!). You might want to include drills, technical skills, as well as longer runs, to keep your session interesting, and to aid progression amongst your runners. 

 Tips for Correct Running Form 

  • Tall posture with high hips- imagine there’s a helium balloon lifting your head 
  • Relaxed shoulders with efficient backwards arm action
  • Rhythm guides optimal speed and efficiency
  • Foot lands naturally underneath the centre of mass, moving down and backwards
Cool Down
A lot of us skip a cool down when we’re on our own, but it’s really important to lead your group in a cool down and stretch. The main purpose is to bring the muscles back to their pre-workout length. Things to focus on are lowering the heart rate, stretching the muscles focused on and ensuring that individuals are performing the stretches correctly. 

After a general session you should hold each stretch for 15 seconds, however after a really light session you can hold them for up to 30 seconds. The harder the session, the lighter your stretching should be. Your stretching should be based on your session.  
I always thought that after a hard session you should stretch more!
After a lunch break and some more teaching where we learnt how to plan a session, we were taken across the road to the park to practise leading sessions in groups. This was such a fun part of the day, and made me miss training in groups. I loved playing the games, it felt like being back at school. 
Leah leading the warm up, with Katie loving it! 

Here’s a shot of me organising our group training session! 
Back in the classroom we learnt  a bit about injuries, progression and planned a 6 week plan. I had a great day, learning a lot and I can’t wait to lead a group with A Mile in Her Shoes. I highly recommend attending this LIRF session if you’re a run leader or are thinking of becoming one.  Find out more at

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