Running coach teaches others to keep ‘putting one foot in front of the other’ 

— Photo from Lisa DiCocco 

Lisa DiCocco celebrates at a Hangover Half Marathon organized by the Road Runners Club. 

GUILDERLAND — Certified long-distance running coach Lisa DiCocco of Guilderland says that one thing most of her clients have in common is that they came to running later in life, as she did. 

Stress drove DiCocco from her job as an attorney in private practice, she says, and to running, initially as an avocation. She had also taught in a paralegal studies program. 

When she first took up running, DiCocco was a smoker — half a pack to a pack a day — and struggling with her weight, she said. She had heart palpitations and anxiety. 

“I said to myself, ‘I’m too young to be falling apart,’” she recalled. 

The first time she ran, she said, was at The Crossings in Colonie. She had long admired runners, she said, for their peacefulness and for their apparent healthiness. 

On that first run, she told herself to just go as far as she could without stopping. She went about a tenth of a mile, she estimates. 

“I just started putting one foot in front of the other. There were power walkers who were blowing past me,” she said. 

Next she signed up for a “couch-to-5K” program, which helps people of any skill level prepare to run a relatively short road race. She began running 5Ks and 10Ks, she said, all while continuing to smoke. 

She started eating healthier, but was still smoking as she prepared for her first full marathon, until one day she couldn’t ignore the contradiction any more. She asked herself what she was going to do at the end of the marathon? Was she going to light a celebratory cigarette? 

With that, she decided to try to quit, to just stop smoking for as long as she could, much the same way she had started running — without putting any pressure on herself. 

She was able to go one day, then extended it to “one week, one month, etcetera,” she said. In June 2020, she will have been smoke-free for eight years. 

“I replaced a bad habit with a good one,” she said, adding that she was certified by Road Runners of America as a running coach in March 2018. 

She is still licensed but does not currently practice law, she said. In addition to coaching, DiCocco works part-time as the member-services coordinator for the Guilderland YMCA.

She likes the accessibility of running, calling it a “go-at-your-own-pace” activity, good for people of all ages, sizes, and abilities. It doesn’t require a lot of specialized equipment. 

As a coach, she works with clients who are interested in starting running, or people who already run and who want to be more consistent or train for a race or a specific distance or other goals. She first talks with the client, so they can get to know one another and see if it’s a good fit. 

DiCocco also has prospective clients fill out a confidential questionnaire that gives her more background. 

She tries to meet with clients at least once a week, but will meet as many times as they need, she says. DiCocco works with each client to create a customized training plan. “I always tell my runners they have to be honest with me — what works, what doesn’t work, whether a workout is too easy or too difficult.” 


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