Training Alone or in a GroupDonovan van Gelder
Training for endurance sports alone or with a training partner or group, which is better? Both have advantages and disadvantages and it is as much a question of our different personality types than what we are trying to achieve from our training sessions. As in most things in life, there are pros and cons to both approaches to training. Let’s look at a few.
Training in a group Pro – We can get pulled to performances and effort levels that we may not have reached on our own. In sessions where we want to get the most out of ourselves, sometimes having a carrot to chase, or fast wheels to follow, will squeeze that little more effort out than we would have simply looking at our device.
Training in a group Con – We may get pulled to an effort level that is too high for the desired outcome of the session. For instance, doing a recovery session with others who are either keen to go harder or just in better shape than us. Resulting in having to go harder just to keep up and leaving our legs more fatigued than we started.
Training in a group Pro – Making a commitment to a group session will help get us out of bed on a cold dark morning. Knowing that there will be someone waiting for us or, someone who is going to give us a hard time if we don’t pitch, is often a very good motivator and reduces the internal debate when the alarm clock goes off at ‘stupid o’clock’.
Training in a group Con – Having to fit into a group schedule can be limiting if we have more flexible hours. Having to go out in the cold, dark, Winter morning to meet a group, when we had the time to go out later in the warm sunshine doesn’t always make sense.
Training alone Pro – We get to set our own targets and intensity levels. We are able to be very specific with our sessions and there is no waiting or being waited for.
Training alone Con – Mental boredom can cause us to vary from our set training goals. For example, doing an endurance session solo can be boring and result in us pushing a bit harder than required to make it interesting or pass quicker. In a group, conversation and banter will help to pass the time at lower intensities.
Training in a group Pro – Training in groups or with others prepares us for race day, shoulder-to-shoulder competition. Mentally these tight racing situations can be tough. So, practicing them in training intervals or tempo sessions where there is nothing at stake but pride and bragging rights, can develop a stronger race day mentality.
Training in a group Pro Con – Doing every session in a group can be mentally draining. Sometimes we just want to focus on the sensations or our own effort rather than getting pulled into a race at every session. On race day we are rested and sharp but in training, not everyone is at the same level of freshness or readiness to go hard and this can lead to a build up of negativity over time.
Training alone Pro – We get to decide when we are good enough for a race-paced effort depending on our own training schedule and our level of fatigue. Sometimes it is even necessary to ease up in a planned harder session when we feel and see that we are not physically up to it. This is very hard to do in a group scenario.
Training alone Con – Sometimes we may feel like we are not ‘up’ for a big effort but once started, we realise that the body is ready. We may not have attempted the harder effort on our own but in a group, the focus tends to be less internal and more external and we find ourselves completing workouts that we may not have started on our own.
So, as I think is obvious, there are pros and cons to both approaches and, as in the rest of our lives, a balance between group and solo training is best for most athletes. Choosing when to join a group for a session and when to head out on our own will be determined by what we are looking for from a particular session and who we are or aren’t going out to meet up with. As long as we keep a firm eye on what we are aiming to achieve in the session and the event that we are training for and choose our training partners accordingly, we will find the correct balance.