Long distance running attracts its fair share of introverts. Like swimming, cross country skiing and other individual athletics endeavors, distance running is a time to be alone in thought and at peace in an increasingly busy world. When it comes to improving performance, however, utilizing like-minded training partners is a proven way to up your game on race day. And for runners prone to inconsistency, running buddies provide much needed accountability.
But are training partners beneficial in all instances? Let's take a look at both the pros and occasional cons of training with others.
Workouts of Intensity
Whether your workout is a tempo run, long run, faster interval session or fartlek, training partners are immensely beneficial 90 percent of the time. Running stride for stride with an individual of similar ability (or someone perhaps a bit swifter than you) allows you to run at a quicker tempo at the same effort as you would be running solo. Coaches often refer to training partners as "living caffeine" as that legal stimulant lowers perceived exertion rates in similar percentages to running with others.
But it's essential to remember that each workout of intensity has a physiological goal and a proper method of implementation, so a runner should rarely train at full intensity. If you end up racing every run, you put yourself at risk of injury or burnout. Leaving enough in the tank for race day is immensely important (particularly in marathon training) and while training with others is effective, getting pulled too hard on too many harder workout days consecutively can leave you in a hole with no chance to recover.Recovery Days
Relaxed recovery runs are as important as any harder effort, and top coaches and athletes recognize rest and recovery as part of their training. Manifesting all harder and more intense work with paired—and often successive—recovery days is critical to success. Having a training partner who trains and races at a tempo a bit slower than you is an excellent way to make sure your recovery days are effective.
How easy is easy? To make sure recovery days are effective, runners be under 75 percent of their maximum heart rate, the pace of which can vary significantly based on, but not limited to, fatigue levels, menstrual cycles, hydration levels and overall training volume. These days will often. You may find that your recovery paces will vary by as much as 1:30 per mile.