Is it better to train with others or alone? Have you ever thought that running with someone else or with a group of people might help you become a better runner? On the other hand, maybe you train with people a lot and you could benefit from more “solo” training sessions. In this blog I cover some of the benefits that each can bring. If you are a high school or college runner you might be training with others during cross-country and track season but for a lot of us we can choose to seek training partners or go it alone.
Training with others can be fun. Easy runs and long runs can go by fast when you are socializing. There is a lot of accountability in running with others. Your training partners are going to want to know where you were if you “no show”. Running with others can also put pressure on you in a good way. Not only is there pressure to show up but to keep up as well! Plus, there is no “giving up” and cheating on the workout by cutting off a few intervals or miles. Then again, running with others can also help you slow down on those days you should be running slower and not faster.
Good runners also give each other feedback, share tips, and encourage each other during the hardest parts of the training runs. Just running with other people can take the intensity up a notch in hard workouts and there is something powerful about running with others. Your energy level and adrenaline goes up when you are “racing” with others in a training session.
A lot of running experts and coaches would say that if you are really serious about becoming a faster runner you should run with others. Most of the worlds elite runners run with other elite runners. Many have training partners or belong to certain groups of elite runners. This support network helps fuel their training. So, is running with others the best way to train?
In my opinion, you can still improve and be a better runner with “solo” training sessions. There are a lot of runners who train by themselves (for the most part) and still can run at a very high level. Maybe it is because of their schedule, maybe it is because of where they live, maybe it is simply their preference. One of those people would be me. I live in remote countryside where there are not many distance runners. I also have a training plan and schedule that doesn’t fit well with others around me. Another problem I find is getting together with someone at my ability level for those training sessions I need to push the pace. Yet, running alone can still have its benefits as well.
I have found over the years that running alone forces me to be disciplined (I am my own accountability) and self-motivated (no one is going to be cheering you on). In training I can also be focused on training the way I need to train. When you are running with others you are sometimes limited to whatever everyone else is doing. For example, slowing down to your partners pace or speeding up to keep up but it’s faster than what you should be training.
On race day I’m ready. I do not need a “pacer” or “someone to be at my side giving me help, encouragement, or instruction”. I am not emotionally attached to my training partner or to a group of runners. I can focus on running the race I need to run. Training by myself has taught me to be “tough” day in an day out and to go above and beyond. If I want to improve I have to be consistent everyday not because I have others to support me but because I’m driven deep down inside.
Some of the other benefits of running alone include you can change up your workout on the fly with ease. You don’t have to get the approval of your partner or a group. You can run less or run more. Change your route, change your intensity, and even change your pace without throwing anyone else off from what they are trying to do. I also like running alone to focus on myself. When you are running with others there can be conversations going on or you are focused on the group dynamics and group goals. Running allows me to keep my focus on my own pace, goals, and thoughts.
In the end I would encourage you to tinker around with how you train either alone or with others. You might discover the right blend of running in a group, with a partner, and alone that allows you to reap the benefits that each can bring. In the end, remember that we are all different. Some of us need more support and might be energized by being around others. Then again, some people are wired to be more comfortable alone and running is a place they can get away from others and not have to expend energy on them. That’s the beauty of running. It can be done alone, with someone, or with as many as you like.