5 Ways to Benefit from Group Workouts

Odds are that no matter how good you are, you can benefit from the strengths of others. I trained for 10 years with Paul Pilkington, a world-class runner who won the 1994 L.A. Marathon. Though I hated long runs, I rolled a 20-miler every weekend because he did. On mile repeats, I had the advantage, yet he stayed by my side. Ultimately, we both improved as we strengthened each other's weaknesses. In a running group, your workouts may be more intense but feel like they take less effort. Still, reaping the rewards of group workouts requires a little thought and planning.

Get on the Same Pace

Nothing is more frustrating than being run into the ground in every workout except, perhaps, having to run so easy that your heart rate doesn't get above resting level. Ask about the planned paces and distances of your training partners before committing. Try runners who finish close to you in local races — they may live near you and probably have similar levels of fitness.

Know Your Limit

If you stay with your group on the first intervals, but fall farther behind on subsequent laps, you will soon be in trouble. Not only will you be missing your goal paces, but you'll also get less recovery if you attempt to start the next interval with the group. If that happens mid-workout, average the time of your completed intervals, and target that pace for the remaining laps. Or slow down to catch your breath. But don't rest then blast the next rep faster than the group — you'll be pretty unpopular if you do. If you always need to sit out or run slower, run with a group that is not quite so fast.

Communicate

You can occasionally run faster (or slower) than the pack — just let others know what you're doing so they don't get sucked into your vortex and ruin their workout trying to stay with you.

Share the Load

No one likes a one-stepper, someone who even on easy days insists on being one step ahead. If there are other competitive people in the group, a one-stepper can turn a casual run into an impromptu race, where the pace keeps increasing as others attempt to keep up with the runner up front who accelerates to remain in the lead. Being the leader occasionally is fine, but let others share the job. If you're always in the lead, try finding a group that's a little faster.

Take Your Turn Up Front

Provided you can hit the desired pace, take your turn up front every now and then. Rotating after two laps of a long interval or every few reps allows you to help the group and lets others catch their breath.

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