The alarm goes off at 4:30am. You realllllllllly don't want to get up and run, but you remember someone is counting on you for a workout this morning. You can't roll over and go back to sleep. So, you get up, get ready, and head out the door. Of course when it's over, you'll be glad you did.
So, how do you choose an ideal running buddy? You have friends that run, but you're not sure if they're the right choice for you with regards to training. Here are a few helpful tips:
Have A Few Pals
Having an exclusive running partner is wonderful. It provides you with someone to talk to, bond with, and learn with. But what happens when they get sick, injured, or are away for work or vacation? Having multiple training buddies or joining a group is smart. This way, if your go-to pal gets a stomach bug or chooses to go on a cool vacay without you, you'll have other people to call on for help with your weekly long run or mile repeats.
Additionally, sometimes you like different training partners for different workouts. Some people enjoy a Chatty Cathy on a long run (some wish she would shut up). Maybe you want someone to visit with on your long run, but that same person isn't ideally suited for you during speed work. For those mile repeats, maybe you need someone who can push you a little harder (aka less talk, more work). Nothing wrong with that.
Pick a Faster Runner
Is there someone in your group who is usually just a little bit ahead of you? Maybe they finish in front of you at almost every race. There's your new buddy. Introduce yourself. Get to know this person. Ask if they mind if you tag along during their workouts. They likely won't slow down for you, but they'll probably be happy to have you on the track with them. In fact, they'll probably be happy to push you a little and help you improve. Finding people who are a little better than you or who appear to have an edge over you can help you improve in both running and in life. There's an old saying that says "if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room." The same goes for running.
Even if you cannot keep up with them, you'll get a workout chasing them down. Plus, you'll have a goal during each training session. Also, pick their brain. Learn from them. Remember, smart athletes (and smart people in general) recognize they do not know everything, and they accept that. They make it a priority to keep watching, listening, and learning. Do not stop learning. When you stop trying to learn more, you stop growing. Plus, no one likes a know-it-all. So, choose someone a little faster than you. Train with them. Watch them. Learn from them. In the meantime, remember that you may be this person to someone else. Encourage them, and allow them to learn from you.
Don't Choose a Debbie Downer/Negative Nancy/Know-It-All Whoever
Why in the world would anyone want to run on a daily basis with someone who complains about each and every workout, and thinks they know everything about everything? The last thing you need is someone complaining about how early/late it is, the weather, the location, etc.
Choose a partner who is willing to try harder and push farther. Find someone who will talk positively both to you and themselves. If you consistently listen to negativity, that's what will start filling your head. If you run and train with this person, you'll soon be riding the complaint bandwagon. Remember, positivity begets positivity. You deserve a partner who shows up and says, "It's workout day. Let's kill it." You don't need to hear "That's too fast. I can't do it" or "It's too early" or "This is stupid. Why are we doing it." On the flip side of that, you don't need to hear "Why are we going so slow" or "this workout is sooooo easy for me" or "Geez. Can't you run a little faster?" either. All of these things ooze negativity. Choose a positive partner who doesn't show up with a bucket full of excuses every time you meet.
If you have a partner who believes they know everything about running or training, pick someone new. A smart individual yearns to learn more, and recognizes the fact they do not know everything. Your partners should not continuously tell you how to do things or tell you you are wrong. Find a partner who is positive, trains smart, and is willing to learn. This will help you on your journey.
Running partners and coaches are different (although your coach can still be your running buddy). The point here is, unless your buddy picks you specifically for your experience and asks for your insight, remember your role as a partner and peer. You're not the coach. That being said, if you see dangerous behavior of sorts, or something that could be a problem. Speak up. Take care of your friends.
Sync Your Training Schedules and Ensure Compatibility
If you're training for a marathon, it can be hard to be compatible with someone training to drop time off their 5k. It's the same way that someone who runs 12 minute miles is going to have a hard time being compatible with someone who averages 6-7 minute miles. But - that doesn't mean you can't still be running buddies. For example, an easy 5 miler for one runner could be a challenging tempo for another. You just have to work it out. That being said, it's not wise for the 7 minute miler to do all of their runs with the 12 minute miler. Why? Because while the 12 minute miler will benefit, the 7 minute miler will not. Find someone you're compatible with regards to pace. That doesn't mean a faster and slower runner cannot run together once in a while, just remember your goals when choosing a partner.
When it comes to compatibility, there are other issues to consider as well. Perhaps you don't mind running in the cold or rain, but your partner heads indoors to the treadmill every time it drizzles or is under 60 (or above 70). Also, consider your definitions of "early" or "late". If early to you is 4am, and to him it's 10am, you're going to have some problems.
Why Should I Run With a Friend/Group?
Okay! So you've picked your pals. Is having a training partner really beneficial? Many of us like to run solo. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, we recommend a good mix of running on your own and with a group/partner as both offer different benefits. Running solo allows you to clear your head alone, focus on your speed, and think through whatever is on your mind. It also allows you to focus on you and see where you're doing well and where you need to improve. Also, if you plan to race solo, you need to make sure you do some of your runs solo. You need to learn how to listen to your body and recognize the cues it sends.
So - why pick a buddy or train with a group? Sports psychologists have recognized that athletes perform better in groups than alone since possibly the first study of social facilitation among cyclists was published in 1898. Essentially, this study shows that athletes will exceed their expectations or personal bests when performing with a group or in front of a group. You are more focused and less preoccupied with pain and discomfort when others are watching or running with you. So, the key is to find someone who keeps you positively focused on your goal.
All runners can benefit from group training. Less experienced runners may find that accountability is what they need in order to help them commit. They may also find it beneficial to learn from more seasoned runners. More experienced runners may enjoy having buddies that help them add miles and shave minutes.
We encourage you to run both on your own and with a buddy or group. Staying connected to the running community can benefit your attitude (assuming your buddy is positive), your goals, and your pace.
Keep showing up with a positive attitude each week. Thank you for being willing to put in the work. We know the workouts are not easy. If they were easy, they wouldn't be speedwork, and you wouldn't be growing as runners. Not every workout will go in your favor, the same way not every day is perfect. If the workout is tough for you, don't complain. Simply learn from it for next time. That's how growth happens. We truly appreciate your willingness to learn. Keep asking questions and keep growing. We don't know everything - we are still learning (and will continue to learn), but we will gladly share the knowledge we do have with you.
We will see you Wednesday morning for hills. Meet at the Civic Center/YMCA.
Who Picks the Topics?
Each week, we notice different things. We try to incorporate the questions we are receiving or the training issues we are noticing into our post(s) for the week. If there is something you'd like us to cover, let us know!