Extrovert, introvert, Type A or B or completely socially incompetent. It doesn’t matter to me what kind of character you are, if you want to get the absolute best out of your body you need to run with other people from time to time. The more serious you are about competing in an event – whether that be to set a new personal best, win the race or just finish it – the more important this becomes. For those of you who simply run for pleasure with no end goal in mind, there’s still something in this for you.
Here’s my reasons why running with a buddy or two, or in a training group, is worth the effort.
It is psychologically rewarding. Breaking up the monotony of your daily solo efforts is a very exciting prospect, and can provide some much needed variation in your training cycle. Simply having someone to talk to or focus on while you run can make a workout much more enjoyable, and often the time will seem to go by much faster; this can be great on those two or three hour enduro runs, but just as helpful during that painstaking interval session when your heart rate is maxed out!
Motivation. While having a running buddy to meet up with will hold you accountable, it can also be very motivating. Whether it is the prospect of helping someone else to get out and run, or knowing that you’re going to get better by running with them, it’s all very encouraging. Speaking of encouragement, perhaps the group you train with are a super inspirational bunch!
You’ll probably learn something. Running with others is a fantastic opportunity to learn different tactics, to have your technique analysed or to discuss pacing strategies. You might pick up some interesting nutritional tips, or maybe you’ll witness ways which aren’t advisable (i.e. poor technique or a bad attitude). What’s that? You already know everything about running technique and physiology? Well, depending who you run with, you could learn about international politics, the housing market, or maybe the next best stock in which to invest your hard-earnt.
There’s always someone better than you. One of my favourite quotes is “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. The same goes for participating in training groups; if you’re the fittest and fastest, find a group where you aren’t the best. This leads me to another favourite of mine; “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”. Quite simply, you will not grow and get better if you do not challenge yourself. Your base pace will not increase, your technique will not get better, your recovery will not improve. Get out there and see who can provide you with your next challenge.
I’m not saying you need to train with others all of the time. As I mentioned at the beginning, there are many different personality types out there, and those who are more introverted will prefer to work hard on their own. The fact remains, there is always advancement to be found in spending at least a few sessions in a training cycle with other runners.
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