Benjamin Barwick

I joined Full Potential in 2009, providing biomechanical advice and supporting running specialists all over the UK, in collaboration with adidas. What started off as maternity cover has taken me on a journey of becoming a running coach and business owner. If only I could have warned that young man what he was getting into!

 

As a school kid, I hated running, I just didn’t get it. I loved team sports and played to a high level, but me and running never got on. It hurt to run: my lungs strained, my shoulder would burn, my legs ached and I wanted nothing to do with the activity. 

 

Once I joined the Full Potential team I actually learnt how to run and train efficiently. I could combine my love of technology, numbers and hard work to make training fun. I ran my first half marathon in just over 2 hours, crossing that line and getting that finishers medal, I was hooked. It was the furthest I had ever run (by a long way) and I wanted more. What followed a few months later was 3:58 marathon. Training for that had it’s ups and downs....mainly downs. I had a breakdown in the middle of a long run (I sat on a tree just sobbing, thinking there was no way this was humanly possible for me to run that first marathon), believing a game of football counted as a long run, and drinking way too much a week before the race. That humbling experience got me into training more seriously. 

 

Running really allowed me to gain a growing sense of myself, I found all these amazing things about what made me tick. I realised that I can do things my way, just because something was written down on the internet, or in a book, it didn’t make it gospel. It’s this idea I want to pass onto my clients, we can train their way. We are all different and there’s no right way to do things. Just their way. 

 

Running became a huge part of my life, I looked at new ways to improve performance: whether that be subjecting myself to lactate testing, living in an altitude tent, running in magical footwear (or not footwear) or wearing the latest in GPS watches. I made life long friends, trained hard and in the UK and abroad and loved it. I enjoyed the journey, winning races, running PB’s I’d never dreamed of running, but my obsession came at a cost and in the end I burnt myself out and couldn’t keep putting myself through it. The anxiety brought on by training (never mind racing) meant that everyday became ‘the most important day’. It came to a head in April 2018, I ran my fastest ever 10 mile race but felt empty afterwards. This coincided with an achilles injury and it meant I took a step back from training and racing. I released myself from the burden I was placing myself under. 

 

I started coaching in 2011 and being able to direct my passion outwards to others has been both rewarding and challenging. It’s such a treat to see people develop as an athlete and as a person. You really don’t know what you are going to get each day. It’s special to build that athlete coach relationship up, and it’s a privilege to become part of someone’s life in this intimate way. 

 

I am really interested in the mental side of training and performance. It made a huge difference to my training and racing, and something I want to share with runners. It’s amazing what we unlock with the right attitude. 

 

I’d say my coaching style is aimed at drawing out the athlete within. I need my athletes to be invested in their training and themselves. They are in charge of their training and I need to know what they are interested in. Do that and you’ll get boundless energy, support and enthusiasm. 

 

I’m also a yoga practitioner and love to bring some of that philosophy into my running coaching. 

I now spend my time on my peloton bike, running for fun and some yoga thrown in too for good measure. Plus walking the dog each day keeps me active!

 

Steve Prefontaine summed up perfectly how I feel about running: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift". Those are wise words to not only train by, but also live by. 

Ben's Testimonials

Adam

Why did you decide to get a coach?

I was having persistent running injuries and my sports masseuse at Backs and Beyond recommended my getting a coach to balance my running better and to have someone to build in injury recovery to the schedule. She gave me three recommendations and I checked them all out and plumped for Full Potential as they seemed to have coaches who worked with people in my situation. The response was really rapid and efficient and I had plans within a week.

How long have you been coached?

3 ½ years

What have you achieved?

I ran my first marathon ( 2017, Tokyo) and have now run seven! Berlin, Moscow, London, Rotterdam, Chicago and a Covid-19 one - 100 laps of a school field to raise money for digital poverty: laps for laptops.

What do you enjoy most about the coaching?

It’s the security of a plan: not only what I do day by day and week by week - that gives me structure; I like going to bed knowing what training I will do in the morning - but the long term, patterned training which has its phases adding variety but also getting me ready for each race, and making sure I don’t over-train.

My coach is the lovely, ever-attentive Ben. I’ve only met him once face to face when he ran a running camp my kids were on, and I speak to him if I need to but I choose to communicate by email. His messages are cheerful and encouraging, and his plans detailed and with just the right amount of context. But it’s the individual responses, the ‘Hey Adam, that was really great the way you knew to ease off last week’ or ‘That’s some great running; you don’t need to worry about x ...’.

Touch wood, but I’ve had no injuries and not needed to take any breaks from training. It’s worked for me and I’m a complete convert to long distance running now. I like the fact that Ben encourages me to do other races and to get outside my comfort zone. Efficient, encouraging, respectful, professional service.

What would you say to someone thinking about signing up to coaching?

May be you won’t need to remain on your trainer’s books as long as I have - I admit that I am an addict - but do it: running is so enjoyable but you do need to look after yourself when doing it past 40. Full potential has added a new dimension to my running and running has done the same to my life. I have a busy and quite demanding job so the training I do needs to be worthwhile, and FP and Ben get that and make it happen.

Debbie

Why did you decide to get a coach?

I first decided to get a coach after qualifying for the 2018 Aquathlon World Championships (swimming & running). I was keen to improve my running and get a structured programme tailored to my needs, as well as a coach who could help me balance my running around swimming training.

How long have you been coached?

I first started working with Ben towards the end of 2017. Under his guidance I found that running became my favourite discipline and this is where I excelled in the multi sport races. I then took a year to focus on triathlon but found that I really missed the running element and guidance from Full Potential, so I decided to return again in 2020. I’ve really enjoyed having the structure of Ben’s training during lockdown and I’m starting to get my running mojo back!

What have you achieved?

Since working with Ben I have set PBs over all distances which I’ve raced (5km to half marathon). I also placed 6th in my age group at Aquathlon World Championships under Ben’s guidance!

What do you enjoy most about the coaching?

I really like having the structure and being able to discuss my goals with my coach. It’s great having someone to support my running and provide me with confidence, which is so important to progress. Another key thing for me is to enjoy the training and stay motivated, and this is something which Ben has really facilitated. He is flexible to work my swimming / triathlon training into the plan and always willing to change things when needed.

What would you say to someone thinking about signing up to coaching?

I would definitely recommend Full Potential as I’ve really enjoyed working with Ben. I would encourage anyone looking to proceed with coaching to have a chat with the coach beforehand to ensure that you get along well and communicate well. In my opinion this is crucial to ensure things run smoothly and that you are happy with the service.

James

Why did you decide to get a coach?

I signed up to run the 2019 London Marathon on behalf of the NSPCC and they arranged for Ben at Full Potential to produce me a training plan. I was so pleased with the results (see below) and enjoyed the process of training with Ben so much, I immediately signed up to continue coaching on completing the marathon.

How long have you been coached?

A year and three quarters

What have you achieved?

The improvement in my race results was truly astonishing and more importantly I’m enjoying my running more than ever.

5k 17:23 to 16:47

10k 36:17 to 34:47

HM 1:22 to 1:13

Marathon 3:07 to 2:38

What do you enjoy most about the coaching?

I love the structure and discipline that a training plan brings to my running. Also the opportunity to discuss my training with Ben - both his expertise and the clarity that discussing your running with someone you trust brings. He brings a wonderful positivity to the training, supporting me with my self-criticism, while managing to temper my wilder ideas and wish to overdo it!

What would you say to someone thinking about signing up to coaching?

If you’ve got a running goal, whatever it is, go for it. With Full Potential it’s a wonderfully positive experience (although I sometimes don’t feel that mid rep 😀)!

Celina

Why did you decide to get a coach?

Because my running had stagnated. I had been doing the same things for years, kept getting injured, and was starting to lose motivation and enjoyment. Some friends convinced me to go to one of the Full Potential running camps in Portugal, where I was impressed with the approaches of all of the coaches and their commitment to supporting runners of all ability and experience levels. I had some really interesting chats with Ben in particular about his coaching philosophy and, once I got back home, decided to give coaching a try. I figured that I didn’t have anything to lose and everything to gain!

How long have you been coached?

I’ve been coached by Ben since 2017.

What have you achieved?

My main goals were to enjoy running again and to be able to run without getting injured, and I’ve certainly achieved both of those. The sessions that Ben gives me are varied enough and challenging enough that I never get bored, and his structured but flexible approach to training has meant that my slightly wonky biomechanics have coped well with the demands of increased mileage. I’m now able to manage higher weekly mileage than I ever have and I’ve been able to run even ultramarathon distances without injury. I wasn’t particularly concerned about improving my pace – I’ve always been a solid middle of the pack runner who finds enjoyment and fun more motivating than speed or races - but an unexpected side effect of training with a coach has been that I’ve gotten faster. I’m still middle of the pack, but now I’m upper middle rather than lower middle, which has made me surprisingly happy!

What do you enjoy most about the coaching?

Having a varied programme of sessions to keep me motivated. Having someone else think about how to fit it all together so that all that I have to do is show up and run. Not only receiving expert guidance through the training programmes but, almost more importantly, receiving support with the psychological aspects of running and performance as well. And, of course, being able to have a laugh about it all.

What would you say to someone thinking about signing up to coaching?

I would say that coaching is not just for elite athletes or super-speedy club runners, and not just for younger people. I’ll be 60 this year and I’m faster than I’ve ever been and am enjoying my running more than I ever have. No matter what your goals and abilities are, a good coach will help you to achieve the first and maximise the second. (Thanks, Ben!)

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