Tom O'Grady: Coach Interview Questionnaire

What is your background/qualifications that led you to coaching?

I’ve been a runner for over 20-years. I ran in HS, college, and continued to train post-collegiately. The first time I worked with a private coach was in 2012 when I was “stuck” at 2:31 in the marathon. Working with a coach – Scott Bessette (a top New England runner in the 2000’s, run coach, and psychologist) – from 2012-2014 helped me in breaking 2:30 in the marathon (2:28:27) and setting lifetime bests. The biggest thing it helped me with was allowing me to “off-load” the thought process required in coming up with a plan while I was in graduate school, starting a career, and starting a family. I realized coaching was a time saver and stress reducer. I’ve always been deeply interested in the science of training and my natural interest led me to consider coaching for others. For private coaching I have a NASM personal training certificate and a USATF certification. I have also worked with the local high school running power house – Shenendehowa – for cross country and track & field which also requires a NYS coaching license.

Years of experience coaching? Years of experience running?

I have 4-to-5 years of coaching experience where I’ve worked with a small group of dedicated individuals throughout that time period. I’ve worked with beginners and advanced runners to help them train for a variety of events from first 5k’s and marathons to major events such as the Boston Marathon and Leadville Ultramarathon. Additionally, I worked with the Shenendehowa team for 3-years. Working with the team was very enjoyable and I can easily see myself enjoying working with a high school or college team again in the future – although it may have to wait until I retire from my full-time career. Before I made the decision to formally coach people, I also provided informal advice to many runners on their running plans. I received so many questions about training recommendations that it made sense to make the switch to formal coaching as something “I did”.

In terms of running experience, I have been a runner for over 20-years. As time moves quicker as you get older and watch your kids quickly grow-up, my running experience is actually closer to 25-years now! I started in middle school and have been going ever since. I ran in high school and while at RPI. I was never the best runner on the team, but I was always a consistent contributor. After graduating from college, I kept training consistently and kept seeing fitness improvements for years after.

Do you have a personal coach, why or why not? 

I do not currently have a personal coach and I like it that way for now. We each need a coach for specific reasons. I find I need a coach to help me with specific goals (i.e: When I was “stuck” at 2:31 and needed outside help to crack through the plateau I was at). My primary goal related to running at this point in time is for my health and enjoyment. It is easier for me personally to achieve that goal without a coach because I already take a very structured and regimented approach to my own running.

What distances do you specialize in/PRs in those distances?

For running or coaching? For coaching I work with people primarily on road races from 5k up to marathon. I also work with people on ultramarathons. As noted – I’ve worked with high school runners and with them I worked on the 800-meter to 2-mile in track and the 5km for cross country.

For running I would say my best events are the 15km to the marathon. My personal best in those events are 49:53 (15km), 1:10:27 (half-marathon), and 2:28:27 (marathon). I’ve also had some success in the ultramarathon but I’ve only really raced one so it’s hard to say “it’s my event”. I ran a 6:36:27 and came in 10th place at the 2018 JFK Marathon.

Do you program unique schedules for each athlete, or have pre-written programs for specific distances/time goals. How do you program around your athlete’s schedules?

It depends on what the athlete is looking for and their commitment level. Usually, I’ll be helping a person on a specific goal for a season and I’ll make the program specific to that goal. Therefore, it will be a unique plan tailored to the person’s goals versus some pre-written / cookie-cutter schedule.

I work with people to come up with a program that fits their schedule. If I think they are not committing enough time to their specific goal, then we’ll discuss alternative goals or the amount of training that would need to occur to reach their goal. A re-evaluation of their plans is important if they want to achieve the results they set out for.

Do you specialize in coaching specific distances and or surfaces? I.e. road or trail?

I’ve worked with people on road races, cross country, and track races. I would say I “specialize” in distance events but that ends up being a broad term. For instance – I’ve had success coaching a 2-time Leadville Ultramarathon finisher, multiple Boston Marathon qualifiers and finishers, and 2-top CEOs in the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge. While working with the high school team I was part of a coaching staff that won the Section 2 Class-A Championships twice in 2018 and 2019 (and subsequently came in 4th and 2nd in the NYS Meet respectively) and worked with some great individuals in track & field.

Do you prescribe cross-training as a part of your training schedule?

Yes, I work with athletes to include cross training and strength training in their schedules. Cross training can be an important aspect of a balanced training schedule.

Do your athletes have the ability to contact you as needed? Or are check-ins planned on a weekly/monthly basis?

I do not find the “as needed” or unlimited contact option to work well. Some coaches offer that, but I do not find it to be time efficient or an effective means to improve a person’s training. We have regularly scheduled check-ins to ensure the training is going as planned with expectations set at the beginning, so we remain on the same page so that the athlete and I can accommodate feedback and comments.

What is your first step when an athlete comes to you with pain or injury?

Because of my background (I work in public health and I also attended 1-year of medical school before starting public health) I frequently get questions about injuries. I am very up front with anyone I work with that I am not a clinician and do not diagnose or treat injuries. If an athlete believes they have an injury, I refer them to their physician. Before working with anyone, I also have them sign a waiver saying they are medically cleared to exercise. Any coach or trainer who represents themselves differently is acting unethically and is exposing themselves to unnecessary liability.

Do you offer free consultations to your prospective clients?

Yes, I am happy to talk to people about their goals and discuss training options before any decision needs to be made.

What medium do you deliver your plans in?

Currently I only coach people “virtually” meaning I work with them online and do not have a physical location where I meet and train them.

What is the address of your coaching website/Best way to contact you?

Best way to contact me – or my website

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