ChatGPT For Running: Can AI Become My Running Coach?

AI can do a lot of things, but could it really replace your running coach or personal trainer?

ChatGPT is one of several artificial intelligence (AI) apps and has been a hot topic in the fitness world as runners turn to the AI chatbot app to create training plans, reducing the need for running coaches to guide them to a better running performance or to reach their training goals for upcoming races. 

But is AI technology all it’s cracked up to be? Or is it another short term fad that will disappear from our lives as quickly as it entered?

Let’s look at ChatGPT as we answer the question: Can AI become my running coach?

How Is ChatGPT Useful For Running?

ChatGPT for runners

ChatGPT, released late in 2022, is an AI technology that uses language processing modules to converse with users about almost any topic. From assistance to writing essays to a live chat with the ChatGPT AI bot, there’s very little that this incredible technology can’t do.

ChatGPT offers us runners an exciting array of opportunities. With its advanced language processing capabilities, it can assist in creating personalized training plans based on individual inputs, such as current fitness level, goals, and available training time.

We can also use it to find valuable insights and tips on improving running form, nutrition, and even preventing injuries over the long-term. AI could serve as an ever-available running companion, ready to answer queries, provide motivation, or help to analyze our post-run Strava data. It’s not an understatement to say that ChatGPT could potentially revolutionize the way runners train and perform.

That said, there are some downsides. A lot has been said about AI and its credibility in providing factual information in a format that makes sense to the reader. While some criticize the application’s inability to differentiate between fact and fiction, others feel the output information could be more concise. 

Say what you will; ChatGPT is here to stay. It might become useful for college students who need help writing essays or for runners looking to create personalized running training plans. It’s already happening and will only increase as the app gains more users and grows in popularity. 

ChatGPT as a Running Coach

Can ChatGPT be used to create workout or running training plans? The answer is yes, it can. But there are a few important things that you should note before you jump onto your computer or mobile phone to create your plan. 

ChatGPT is by no means a trained running coach but will provide information based on the variables you choose to share with the AI bot. Factors like previous injuries, your current fitness level, mileage, and running history are important to add and should be included in your initial question if you want unique results that will consider these factors. 

Running is a great activity that helps kickstart your metabolism, builds strong muscles, and helps tone the body while improving the health of your cardiovascular system. ChatGPT could be useful for those who want to up their running game or need help creating a training plan for an upcoming event or marathon. 

A Running Plan, Personalised by ChatGPT

We put ChatGPT through the ultimate test by asking it to create a training plan for runners based on the following variables:

  • Age: 37 years old
  • Injuries: A previous knee injury
  • Skill level: Beginner, no previous running experience
  • Fitness level: Fair
  • Number of days available for training: 5
  • Goal: To run a 5k
  • Variable: Mileage 
  • Timeframe: Two months

Here are the results:

“As you have a knee problem, it’s important to approach your training plan cautiously and consult your doctor or a physical therapist before starting a running routine. Here’s a training plan based on mileage that is tailored to accommodate your knee problem and help you prepare for your 5K in less than two months:

Week 1 and 2 (Starting Point):

  • Day 1: Walk for 30 minutes
  • Day 2: Cross-training (e.g., cycling, swimming, yoga, or weightlifting)
  • Day 3: Walk for 40 minutes
  • Day 4: Cross-training
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Walk for 50 minutes
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 3 and 4:

  • Day 1: Walk for 30 minutes
  • Day 2: Cross-training
  • Day 3: Walk for 40 minutes
  • Day 4: Cross-training
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Walk for 50 minutes, incorporating short intervals of jogging (e.g., 30 seconds of jogging followed by 1 minute of walking)
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 5 and 6:

  • Day 1: Walk for 40 minutes, incorporating longer intervals of jogging (e.g., 1 minute of jogging followed by 1 minute of walking)
  • Day 2: Cross-training
  • Day 3: Walk for 50 minutes, incorporating longer intervals of jogging
  • Day 4: Cross-training
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Walk for 60 minutes, incorporating longer intervals of jogging
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 7 and 8:

  • Day 1: Walk for 40 minutes, incorporating longer intervals of jogging
  • Day 2: Cross-training
  • Day 3: Walk for 50 minutes, incorporating longer intervals of jogging
  • Day 4: Cross-training
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Walk for 30 minutes, then jog for 1.5 miles at a comfortable pace
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 9 (Race Week):

  • Day 1: Walk for 30 minutes
  • Day 2: Cross-training
  • Day 3: Walk for 40 minutes, incorporating short intervals of jogging
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Race Day!

Remember to listen to your body, adjust the training plan if needed, and take extra rest days if you experience pain or discomfort in your knee. Good luck with your training!”

Is The ChatGPT Training Plan Actually Useful?

We need to look at a few things when assessing if this is a good training plan and if the information supplied by ChatGPT is factual or if the advice is dangerous and should be avoided. 

Did the AI bot include the variables we inputted? Is the plan provided safe, or does it contain dangerous elements that should be avoided? Can this plan be used to improve running technique and to prepare for a marathon or other running event?

Here’s what we discovered…

At first glance, this running plan is pretty impressive and has considered the variables we wanted to include. The plan starts with a suggestion to consult a doctor or physiotherapist to get the go-ahead before you exercise, which is obviously a great idea to prevent further injury to the knee. 

The plan has been broken down into nine weeks, including workouts leading up to race day with at least two rest days before the main event. In fact, the whole plan includes regular rest days, encouraging the user to give their muscles a break in between runs which helps to avoid common running injuries. 

ChatGPT’s running plan suggests regular cross-training, providing examples like cycling, swimming, yoga, and weightlifting. Cross-training is always a good idea and focuses on strength and cardiovascular exercises that will help build muscle, increase V02 max rate, improve heart health and the cardiovascular respiratory system, and prevent heart disease. 

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the running plan created by ChatGPT is that the plan alternates between walking, jogging, and running, allowing the runner to increase their pace as much or as little as they’d like. Pacing yourself is important when you start running and is the only way to avoid muscle aches and injuries like shin splints, tendonitis, or plantar fasciitis. 

The information provided in the training plan was factual and mentioned adjusting the plan if need be, taking regular breaks, and the importance of rest days while considering the knee problem.

All variables entered were considered, but we would have liked a few more options or more guidance on the types of cross-training exercises we should consider when training with a knee problem. Running is an intensive weight-bearing exercise, so the best bet for cross-training exercises would be something that focuses on cardio and core strength rather than swimming or weightlifting which could put unnecessary stress on the knee. 

Was ChatGPT’s Training Plan Any Good?

We believe that ChatGPT, when used correctly and with the correct variables, can be used to create a running plan for those looking for guidance on how to create a training plan easily.

There is, however, nothing that can replace the guidance of a good running coach that takes your form and progress into account to increase your performance and pace while reducing the risk of the more common running injuries that many runners are susceptible to. 

Try it and see if you can use ChatGPT to create a more personalized training program. It’s quick and easy to use, and the information it provided was factual and credible. 

However, you really do have to pay attention to what the tool spits it out, since it projects 100% confidence that isn’t always merited.

What Does AI Mean for Runners and Coaches?

Running coaches

While ChatGPT has created a great training program for a beginner runner, the plan might not suit everyone’s needs. It should be tweaked according to your individual fitness level, mileage, heart rate, and other variables – these can be included in the initial question. 

ChatGPT provides runners with a free training plan that can be adjusted where needed and minimizes the need for additional apps or assistance from a running coach. This is bad news for running coaches, who rely on providing their services to runners to pay their bills. 

Possibly removing the need for these services, the app is free to download and use, but a paid-for premium version is available for those who want a more refined version of the AI technology. 

To be clear, it’s hard to imagine any running coaches losing their jobs in the next few months. But one can easily imagine a future where personalised data and AI work in tandem to produce highly effective training plans — at a fraction of the price of one-on-one personal coaching.

Is There a Downside To AI-Based Running Plans?

To make a completely fair and accurate assessment of the training plan provided by ChatGPT, we need to look at the downside of using AI technology to create something as personalized as a training plan to meet an individual’s needs as a runner. 

Sadly, there is a downside that could increase the number of injuries a runner may have when using an app rather than a running coach. While there is no problem with the plan itself, it’s important to note that a running coach is best placed to create a training program that looks at a runner’s form and movement patterns. No two bodies are the same, and this is where ChatGPT could potentially be dangerous, as it recommends a series of workouts that might, in fact, cause more problems. 

And though the AI chatbot took the problem knee into account, there was no guidance on cross-training exercises that would be best for that type of injury. It did suggest that you consult a doctor or physiotherapist for advice and guidance, but this is effectively strapped to every query as a disclaimer.

A good running coach can easily spot the various performance points of a runner, making recommendations on how they can improve their stride, pace, and overall performance based on these points. AI cannot and will not ever be able to see your body while you are running, creating a margin of error that could result in injury. 

Your running coach would create the best training program for your body type, fitness level, running history, and more, which is impossible when using AI technology and ChatGPT, regardless of the number of variables you choose to include in your initial question to the chatbot. 

Can AI Become My Running Coach?

To answer the main question, yes, AI and apps like ChatGPT can be most useful in helping to create training plans that help reach a particular goal. If you’re struggling to find or develop a training plan that considers your fitness level, age, injuries, and running experience, you can try ChatGPT. 

But – and there is always a but – take note of the activity level it suggests and adjust the training plan as you see fit. No running training plan should ever be set in stone, so switch around the days and create a plan you’re comfortable with. 

Listen to your body, and if in doubt, consult a professional.

ChatGPT vs. Running Coaches: Do The Training Recommendations Align?

AI training plans are not always the best for a personalized plan, but they can give runners a few tips on what they should be doing to achieve their goals while improving their running performance. 

The recommendations provided by ChatGPT are in line with the information you would get from a running coach and emphasizes the importance of getting the go-ahead from a doctor or physiotherapist to start a new program, includes rest days, and makes mention of pacing yourself and making adjustments to the plan where needed. 

As far as we can tell, and from tweaking the question by changing the variables to be included in the plan, we can say that ChatGPT has provided accurate, safe information and is a great app to use for those who want a plan to follow when they first start running. 

Looking at the training plan we got the app to create for us, we can see that the information provided by ChatGPT is neither dangerous nor incorrect, leading us to the conclusion that ChatGPT can be used to create safe training plans that might just help you reach your fitness and running goals. But this was just in our test – as we mentioned, use your discretion.

Why a Running Coach is Still the Best Option in 2023

Despite the increase in mobile running apps and, more recently, ChatGPT and Bard, the best option for runners who really want to up their running game is to seek the advice of a running coach. 

And while we aren’t saying you need to run out and hire the services of a running coach if you run for fun or to keep fit, some can benefit from the guidance and expertise that a running coach can provide.

These services, like many others, don’t come cheap, which is why so many people opt for free running apps and services like ChatGPT, Google, and Strava to help them train for their next event. Free or not, nothing comes close to that personal touch that a running coach brings to your running game. 

Here are just a few benefits you can enjoy when you hire a running coach:

  • A customized workout or training plan that takes into account your form and performance points
  • An increase in performance, endurance, and pace as your coach guides you to reach your full potential
  • A decreased risk of injury
  • A more refined training schedule 
  • Someone to hold you accountable
  • Help in developing a race strategy
  • Health and fitness advice from someone who has your best interests at heart

Yes, ChatGPT can give you a training plan to guide you in reaching your goals, but a personal running coach comes with years of training and expertise to help you become the best runner you can be. 

Read any article on running, and you’ll see that many runners have tried ChatGPT but prefer to use it as a guide only, making adjustments and fine-tuning their training plans to suit their needs and goals. 

If you don’t like the idea of being coached, you can seek advice and support online thanks to the many virtual running groups that have now become more popular after the pandemic. These groups create their own virtual events that are both fun and non-committal, so do some research and join a club to help you reach your running goals. 

The Future of AI in the Fitness World

While we don’t see pro athletes give up on their coaches any time soon, those who run for fun or to keep fit are turning to apps and AI technology programs like ChatGPT to create their training plans for them, using key variables to create a more custom plan to suit the runners needs. 

Looking ahead, there is expectation of these apps becoming “smarter” as users train the program or app to output the information they want. This is already happening and will only increase as the app “learns” from its users and expands its information pool. 

ChatGPT For Running: Our Verdict

Want to run a 5K but have no clue how to train for it? ChatGPT can help. 

The app has, however, created quite a stir in the running community as more runners turn to ChatGPT to create their training schedules. Known to output fiction and label it as fact, the app has a misinformation problem, making those in the running and fitness world question its validity.

But, as shown above, ChatGPT can create semi-personalized running plans and training schedules based on the variables you input into the app. It’s great for runners that are just getting started and can also be used by more serious runners who already know their own capabilities. 

Give it a try today and see if the training schedule it provides works for you.

Author Profile

Alex Randall

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Alex is the editor at Revel Sports. It was his idea to take our post-club-run chats and build a website out of them. He is responsible for dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when any of us have something to post. (Basically: it’s all his fault). A ferocious 5K powerhouse on his day, Alex is known for not understanding the meaning of the term ‘negative split‘.
Alex Randall

Revel SPorts Contributor

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