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Pros and Cons of Training Partners

By Martha Grinnell | May 06, 2009, 12 a.m. (ET)

I have my workouts that I like to hit "solo" depending on my mood or the workout (all depends on how much thinking I've got to do). However, there is nothing like having the support of training buddies. I was very, very fortunate to have a core group of wonderful folks to train with when I was racing as a professional triathlete. I still can't thank them enough for "showing up."

With that being said, you can either benefit or sink yourself depending on the folks you choose to surround yourself with on easy, moderate or hard days. I say the choice is yours because ultimately, you are and should be in control of your workout. So, here are my top tips:

  1. Training partners need to have a mutual respect for each others training goals. Talk about and agree upon the effort and objective before you head into the workout.
  2. Try to hook up with folks who understand that an easy day means EASY! There are those individuals out there who always start pushing the envelope. You know the type .... the one who picks up the pace during the last mile or two of a run. The one who always picks up the effort when going up a hill on the bike .... or the run for that matter! There is one guy who occasionally swims at the same time as I do at the YMCA who ALWAYS wants to share a lane with me or swim in the lane next to me. No prob ... he's a nice guy but is always "racing me." I could be doing kicking drills on my side, and he's splashing away (yes, he's a splasher) right next to me! He's not my training partner, but he seems to want think that we are training together. I just shut off the fact that he's next to me. It's a good skill to have. Also, never be afraid to speak up during a workout if someone starts pushing during an easy training session. I do it all of the time! It's all about "keeping folks honest!"
  3. During easy days, try to find training partners who are at the same level or even a bit slower than you so that you stay true to the goal of going easy.
  4. During hard interval sessions or time trial efforts, try to find training partners who are slightly stronger or at the same level as you so that you stay true to the goal of challenging yourself. A nice way to organize recovery efforts during intervals, is to circle back and pick up those who might be slightly behind. In swimming, determine a send off time that is fair for everyone (assuming everyone is close to the same level).
  5. Know what you are getting into when joining group training sessions! We have a local cycling club that has occasional evening and weekend group rides. I know my heart rate will be well above threshold for several sections of the ride. I also know that I can choose to go on a more "mellow" ride if I choose. Why? I have researched the group and understand the intensity levels of the rides. If you are unsure, bring a buddy that you know you can hang with if things get dicey. Better yet, create your own group ride with those who are at your level of fitness. There are certainly times when you need to GO FOR IT and step outside your comfort box ... and that may mean showing up with the big dogs for a time trial or hard group ride. Just make calculated decisions as to when you are going to do it. 
  6. BIG EGOS mean BIG TROUBLE. Try to choose training partners that are not afraid to encourage. It's always nice to finish a workout with someone and say "GREAT JOB" to each other. Or, "Man, I was tired, but you pulled me through today, thanks!"
  7. Try to choose training partners that have a sense of humor. Makes things fun. Can you imagine being serious ALL OF THE TIME when you train with people? Nothing like a good stride stopp'in belly laugh on a run!
  8. Be clear on your own training objectives and don't get swayed into training with "hammer heads" on a continual basis. There's a time for that as I noted in No. 4.

Martha Grinnell is a USAT Level I Certified Coach and holds an MS in Exercise and Sport Studies from Smitch College. She's also ASCM Certified and is a former professional triathlete. Visit her website at