training buddies: they’re actually awesome.
I started running in high school. All of my friends were on the cross country team, and that seemed like a good enough reason to join. In my mind, the fact that I had never run further than the length of a basketball court wasn’t really a consideration. Clearly, I was the slowest person on the team for the first few months, and as such I got very used to training by myself because I didn’t want to hold my teammates back!
It turned out that I really enjoyed running alone. Along with all the other benefits of running, it gave me time to zone out with my iPod and was really convenient. Anytime I wanted to go running, all I had to do was grab my shoes and head out the door. It was only when I started training for a half-marathon in Australia that I really began to understand what people were talking about when they said that running with a training partner or group was preferable. It turns out that running for an hour or two at a time really does start to get boring when you’re doing it every other day! It got so boring, in fact, that eventually I stopped following my training schedule, and didn’t run in my goal race.
So this year, with two big running goals set for myself (a 10K in under 55 minutes and finishing my first half-marathon) I decided to take the advice of nearly everyone who has ever written an article, book or blog post about fitness goals, and start training with a partner. Surprise surprise, it really does have all the benefits everyone always says it does! While I’ll still go for a run, a yoga class or a workout by myself when no one’s schedule fits with mine, I’ve gotten a lot out of training with other people. The following are my own top three reasons to train with someone else when facing a big fitness goal!
#1. Accountability. I don’t break commitments; letting people down isn’t my style. If someone’s waiting for me at the gym, the field house or just a regular house waiting for me to go running with them, I’m going to be there. It’s already gotten me to show up to several training runs I would have skipped because of school commitments, work commitments or just plain old sleeping commitments. Even if I end up bailing after four laps because I’m sick, I will be there.
#2.Pushing limits. If you pick a running buddy who’s faster than you (which is a criteria many, if not all, of my friends meet) then you’re not going to want to hold them back. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child, but instead of keeping to my tried-and-true pace of 6 minutes per kilometer, I consistently choose to step it up and keep up with my training partner. The real benefit of this is realizing that your current pace might be more of what you’re used to and less of the limit you think it is. Over the past few months, I’ve worked up to a 5:30 minute kilometer on longer runs and can even keep up a 5:15 minute kilometer pace as long as no one is asking me to run more than 5 kilometers!
#3. Social time… sort of. I am consistently in awe of people who can keep up a casual conversation while running. Regardless of how slow or fast I’m going, talking to someone else will quickly consist of yes or no answers, and only to direct questions that require an immediate answer. However, I’ve really come to appreciate the pre-run goal setting conversations I have with my training partner (“How far are we going to run today? …6k? …Great, no, that’s what I was thinking too…”) and the fact that pretty much everyone in the world is more conscientious than I am about post-run stretching. I know it’s important, but I never really make time to do it properly unless someone is sitting there with me! Plus, there’s nothing like sprinting in to the end of your run and having someone right there with you, just as winded as you are.
Have you had a good experience training for a race or fitness goal with a partner?