Our coach interview blog posts were such a big hit in the past that we decided to bring them back as a weekly Coach Spotlight Series, better than ever! Come back every week as we ask some of our most successful coaches on CoachUp their tricks of the trade and how they get the most from their athletes. Whether you’re a coach, an athlete, or a parent of an athlete, we guarantee there are some great points for you to takeaway from the Coach Spotlight Series. This week, we spoke with Natalie Johnston, one of CoachUp’s wonderful Running and Track + Field coaches. Coach Johnston is located in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, so don’t be afraid to message her if you’re curious about her programs, exercises, and training sessions. Additionally, she’s coming up on her one year CoachUp anniversary — so we reached out with some questions to get to know Coach Johnston a little better.
CoachUp: Hello, Coach Johnston! Can you tell us about yourself and your experience with Running?
Natalie Johnston: I’ve been running since I was 13 years old and have been a competitive athlete since the age of 3. I competed in sports like horseback riding, competitive swimming, and dance. However, running was the one sport that stole my heart! Running frees my mind and soul, you can just grab your shoes and run anywhere! I ran competitively for Division I and Division II colleges in both Cross Country and Track. During my college running career, I battled numerous injuries and can truly sympathize with the frustrations that go along with it. I took those frustrations and made it my goal to understand the body, how to train, and fuel more efficiently. In my post-collegiate years, I have trained mostly for road racing from 5ks to marathoning. Some of my personal records include: 1500m (Indoor) – 4:56 2000m Steeplechase – 7:29 3000m Steeplechase – 11:42 5000m Cross Country – 18:19 5 miler – 31:01 10k – 38:45 10 miler 1:05:00 Half-Marathon – 1:29:00 Marathon – 3:25:00 — I ran Berlin 2014, my first + only Marathon so far!
CU: What is your coaching style or philosophy?
NJ: I believe that you should train like you want to run until you’re one hundred years-old! When I was younger, I was injury prone thanks to poor training, poor nutrition, and a lack of guidance. So, I try to teach my athletes about those building blocks and that sometimes less is more. Also, training is not linear — we will have our ups + our downs, so learn from your downs, and find joy during your ups! I am energetic, passionate, and believe that all my athletes have greatness in them, you just have to work hard to unleash it. Ultimately, becoming a better runner takes patience, commitment, and dedication, so don’t give up before the miracle happens!
CU: What can a client expect from private lessons with you?
I love this job and all the opportunities I have to help athletes, so expect tons of energy! I usually start off my sessions with running specific drill work + a dynamic warm-up. From there, it’ll be different for each client based on their goals and desires moving forward. Additionally, there may be some strength components added in if that’s what we identify as a focus. After drill work, we might do structural endurance runs or interval training, but I’m very specific to the individual’s goals.
CU: Can you describe any big or little “wins” that you’ve had with the athletes that you train?
NJ: One of my clients hadn’t trained for a marathon in 10 years and she PR’d her old marathon time by 10 minutes! Another favorite was when one of my teenage athletes had a great race on a very tough course and placed 3rd out of 124 athletes, which was such wonderful improvement. And, finally, I coach an autistic athlete and he is kicking butt! He came in 5th out of 90 runners and crushed his PR with a time of 18:53!
CU: What do you enjoy most about coaching?
NJ: I think my favorite aspect is being able to affect people on a personal level. It’s not all about fast times and I truly believe that running and fitness guided me through life in such a positive way. I love seeing the smiles on my athlete’s faces when they’re with me and I love celebrating with them when they defeat their goals — but also supporting them when they don’t.
CU: What’s your mantra or favorite saying?
NJ: I’d probably have to say my favorite is: “Longer, Stronger, Faster.” Simply put, it means that the longer we go, the stronger we’ll get and the faster we’ll become! In life, you truly have to pause and live in the moment because we only get this moment once and then it passes. Live your life, don’t just exist here!
CU: Do you have any specialties within the sport that you coach?
NJ: I’m also a personal trainer and working on my CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist).
CU: What is your favorite moment in your athletic career?
NJ: When I ran the Penn Relays and came in dead last for the 3000m Steeplechase! I ran my fastest time ever because of those ladies! I’d also have to say that making it to Nationals during college and running the Berlin Marathon are up there as well.
CU: What’s the most important advice you give to your athletes?
NJ: Don’t be so hard on yourselves! Perfectionism doesn’t serve anyone well, so work hard and results will come, I promise. Negatives can always be transformed into positives, don’t forget! At times, you won’t do your best, but you can always learn and grow from it.
A big thanks to Coach Johnston!
First and foremost, we want to thank Coach Johnston for taking the time to answer our questions today. If Coach Johnston’s mottos and mantras rang true for you, think about how you are going to incorporate her advice into your training or coaching. If you’re a local to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, consider heading here and booking her for a session or two! It’s clear that Coach Johnston will help you work towards achieving your goals in a fun, efficient, and active way — making her an absolute perfect coach for our Spotlight! Thanks again, Coach!