Longtime runner and international educator joins MTA team with a vision to tailor training plans to the athletes and ensure they meet their goals.
By Henry Howard
Chris Galaty has literally completed too many races to count. Marathons, half marathons, Ironmans and shorter distances.
Among his treasured finishes are the Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon and the Lake Placid Ironman.
Goal setting is important to him — “empowering,” as Galaty says. But that not only motivates him as a competitor, it drives him as a coach. And now, he has joined the Marathon Training Academy stable of coaches.
Meet Chris Galaty
Galaty began running after college, about 25 years ago. As he has matured, the 45-year-old has adjusted his goals and expectations. “Sometimes that has been successful, like finishing an Ironman, other times not as much,” he said. “That has helped me learn more how to be true to myself, something I believe I can share with others that I coach.”
When he competes, the finish line has a special draw.
“When I know that I have finished a race and achieved the goal I set out for myself, I find myself eager for more. It is one main reason why I like to coach other runners. Helping them achieve their own goals is an amazing experience. Of course, it is important that the goal I set for myself and the goals I help support for others are achievable and realistic.”
Growing up Galaty played soccer and swam. After college, he needed a goal to continue to maintain his health and exercise. “Running different events became those goals,” he said. “Then, as I improved, it started to become more fun and so I continued doing it.”
That desire to stay fit transitioned into 18 marathons, eight half marathons, two half Ironmans and a full Ironman, plus lots of other races. And Ironman training paid off in other ways.
“One aspect of completing triathlons is that you do a lot of cross training in three disciplines,” Galaty said. “This has given me a chance to train different parts of my body and different muscles. I actually feel stronger and more confident. It has reminded me of the value of cross training with running. Too often some runners feel that cross training only means a day that could have been spent running. By completing triathlons, I’ve realized the value of these days cross training.”
Coaching from China
From 1997-2002 or so, Galaty lived in Washington, D.C., and trained with the Washington Running Club. Then he and his family moved overseas.
Galaty and his family moved to China last August, where he teaches at Nanjing International School. He teaches math, and has previously coached cross country, track and swim teams at various international schools in different countries over the years. However, his client list does not include Chinese runners.
Before China he lived and taught in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and earlier, the American School of Warsaw in Poland for five years.
“All of these schools have students from all over the world and the curriculum is similar to what is taught in the U.S.,” he said. “In many ways it would feel just like a U.S. high school. So, it is a great experience as we get the overseas life but we also spend most Christmases and every summer in the U.S. at our home.”
Living outside the U.S. has changed his training plans.
“A big difference with the training is that one needs to be flexible with their training schedule,” Galaty said. “We have holidays, trips, time in the U.S. and so on and so we need to be aware of that when we complete our training. I think a second difference is that there is a lot of racing overseas and one that runners in the U.S. should consider. It would be easy to plan a race-vacation and have a great experience. There are a lot of different races overseas in different place around the world. It is fun.”
Flexibility is key when training in some places overseas.
“We sometimes have to adjust our training depending on where we are and what we are doing,” he said. “For example, running in Bangladesh is more difficult than in the states. It would be easy to not run outside and just forget it. Instead I did more of my training on a treadmill and, during my time there, I completed four marathons, several half marathons and a half ironman. In fact, two of these marathons were done in the U.S. the day after I flew home from Bangladesh. I finished both of them very successfully. This made me realize that even living in a unique situation like mine can create great running opportunities for me.”
Coaching tailored to the athlete
And now Galaty, who received his RCA coaching certification in 2011, has transitioned his love of running and coaching into joining the MTA coaches. He entered the world of coaching because he “wanted to learn more about running and wanted to share that knowledge with others.”
After 25 years of running and a resume of strong race finishes, he knows what it takes to succeed — from couch-to-5Kers to Ironman finishers.
“I have gained so much from running and wanted to support others in that experience,” Galaty said. “I believe that I have a lot of knowledge and experience as a runner than can be beneficial for others. Also, my experience working as a teacher can help me better connect with an athlete and educate them as much as coach them. I believe it is important to teach as much as coach. I have found that adults who have a coach want to learn as much as they want to be pushed and trained.”
Galaty has a multi-tiered approach to training runners.
“The first aspect of my coaching philosophy is that athletes needs to set goals that they would like to achieve,” he said. “This goal should be specific and measurable and be not too great that achieving it is unlikely. A second aspect is that a training plan should be developed to help the athlete meet that goal and that this plan should reflect the athlete’s life and lifestyle as much as possible.”
Still, flexibility is key.
“This is not to say that athletes might have to make some changes in their lives in order to fit their training plans into their schedules and their goals,” Galaty said. “The plan, however, should also reflect their lives as much as possible. Too often I find that a runner finds a training plan that has workouts that do not fit within their schedule and although they try to make it work, many get tired and burned out as they cannot balance their lives with their training and training goals.”
He also believes that training plans should reflect the athlete’s level ability. “It should include strength training in addition to the various types of speed workouts, tempo running and distance running needed in order to meet their goals,” Galaty emphasized. “I also tried to include other aspects of my coaching philosophy in these responses including an importance in teaching whenever possible and the need for cross training (including strength training) and yoga and stretching in a training plan. Lastly, it is important to point out that my coaching philosophy should include a recognition that running can be empowering and life-changing.
“I have found that meeting these goals can really impact one’s life.
Valuing the MTA community
It’s no coincidence that Galaty’s approach to training mirrors that of Marathon Training Academy coach Angie Spencer.
“One main reason I wanted to join the MTA team is that I found that their team and their philosophy resonated with my own. I felt I could fit well with what they do. In addition, I also valued how they have created a community — a team of runners who connect together. This is important to me as I have always found running to be a social sport. Runners want to connect with other runners and be part of a community and MTA has helped to do that. I appreciated that and believed that I could make a contribution to that.”
Within the community, there are newbie runners, back-of-the-packers, age group winners, Boston Marathon qualifiers and everyone in between. The community — and coaches — are open to everyone, not just elite athletes.
“If you look at it from the perspective of my coaching philosophy, having a coach for a runner at any ability level makes sense,” Galaty explains. “Any runner should look to improve both mentally and physically and having a coach can do that. My goals as a coach would help any runner train and race with the intent of not only improving but doing it long-term. A coach can create a runner who is motivated to continue to run for a long time. I also believe that a coach can educate and teach. Learning about different aspects of running can be useful for a runner at any ability level.”
Goals as a coach and athlete
For himself, Galaty lists several goals, including to run for as long as he can. “That means I am not only physically able to do this but also mentally able,” he said. “I don’t want my body or mind to burn out. That should be, in many ways, all of our main goal.” As far as specific bucket list items, he lists:
- Complete another Ironman triathlon and to improve my time in doing it.
- Race the Great Wall Marathon, since I currently live in China, I should probably do this.
- I do a one-mile race every summer, if I can. The course is fast and slightly downhill and my current PR is about 4:56. I’d like to improve that next summer.
- Race a half-ironman distance triathlon with a time of under 5 hours.
As a coach, Galaty’s primary goal is to “help the MTA team and to contribute to all that they do and try to accomplish.”
Secondly, Galaty says, his second goal is to “help coach runners to become better, to meet their goals and do it safely and without injury. I would say my third goal is to create lifelong runners. Ideally, I’d like to see runners mentally and physically motivated to continue to train and race for many, many years.”
Name: Chris Galaty
Hometown: I am originally from Green Bay, Wisc., but my wife and I have a home in Keene Valley, N.Y., which is in the Adirondacks in northern New York. So, that is where I spend most of my time now. We are currently living in Nanjing, China, and work at Nanjing International School. I am married to a wonderful and very supportive woman, Gretchen, and we have two children, Leo, age 7 and Tomie, age 4. They are all very supportive and give me time to train and race.
Number of years running: I started running pretty regularly after college. So, that is about 25 years now.
How many miles a week do you typically run: That really depends on what I am training for and where I am with my training. If I am training for a marathon and am at the peak of my marathon training, then I am probably close to 50-60 miles a week. If I am resting between races then probably closer to 10-20 miles a week. It all depends. For me, it is important to not only be flexible in my training but also to recognize that my body prefers to have some changes in my training mileage. It also gives me time to recognize my family, friends and not to just focus on running. Lastly, it allows my body and, more importantly, my mind a chance to rest and recover.
Point of pride: I can think of several points of pride. The first is when I ran the Boston Marathon in 1999 (I believe). The experience was incredible from start to finish. The second point of pride was the Chicago Marathon in 2001. It was the first time I ran a marathon in under three hours and that was special. The third was the Lake Placid Ironman this past summer, 2016. My only goal was to finish and the experience was amazing. I finished in 12 hours and 7 minutes, better than I even expected. The last point of pride was when I completed the Himalayan Rush triathlon in Nepal last March. It was held in the mountains in a small town about three hours from the capital of Kathmandu on a very mountainous course. I finished in third place and was very excited about it.
Favorite race distance: I would say that the half marathon is the best with the marathon distance a close second. I love the marathon distance and the challenge that comes from running a marathon but the recovery period after a marathon is harder. A half marathon gives you a pretty challenging distance with less recovery. Plus, the training for a half is easier and, with a busy life and family, that is not a bad thing.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Again it depends on the training run and the outcome I want from it. If I am doing a very easy, and fun run, then I don’t worry too much about what I eat/drink beforehand. If it is a long run or a run at a high pace, then I definitely consider what I eat and drink before. I do have an old tradition that I go out for pizza after a marathon. It is a nice one for me to remember and motivate myself during and after a race.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to:
It changes but right now it is “Hall of Fame” by the Script.
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