Step 2: Be Flexible
While it's best to run workouts that are at your ability level and geared to your goal race, you can be flexible when it comes to certain aspects of training.
If you like to run your faster workouts on Wednesday and do a long run on Sunday, the group may not share the same plan. The scheduled runs for the group might be a Tuesday workout and Saturday long run. If running with a group is important to you, some schedule shuffling will be necessary.
Some groups run more than one fast workout per week, which may not be appropriate for you if you're a beginner without a lot of experience. If that's the case, it's more beneficial to choose one workout and skip the second one—or go to the second workout and cheer on your friends from the sidelines.
Step 3: Sample the Group Workouts
There's a middle-ground for runners who want to do their own training but still run with a group for the extra motivation. You can simply do some of the group's workouts, or add to them, depending on your preferences.
A great example is the classic tempo run. Some groups may do 3 miles of tempo running on the track so runners can monitor their splits, and run evenly. But what if this is too much fast running, or maybe too short of a workout for you? You can simply cut the tempo run to 2 miles to make it easier. Or to make it longer, run another mile to make the tempo 4 miles total.
This principle can be used with any workout to make it longer or shorter. And by running intervals faster or slower, you can make a workout much easier or more difficult than what is prescribed by the running group's coach.
Running with a group is a wonderful way to meet other runners, give yourself extra accountability, and boost your performances. Just make sure you're running within your ability level and aren't pushed too fast (or too slow), and you'll be ready to PR in your next race.race.