Running is like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake – you could do it alone, but you tend to get a lot more out of the experience when you do it with a group.
Here, run coach Dom Cadden shares some of the benefits of running with a group. It might be just the motivation you need to get your running on track in 2019.
YOU CAN’T SEE YOURSELF WHEN YOU RUN ALONE
Often you’ll never know there’s something about your running technique that’s holding you back, but it’s usually something that’s very easy for others to spot – even if they’re not a qualified run coach. Do you lean to one side? Do you land hard on your heels or overstride? Do you crumple at the core? Does your stride seem to be half the length of those around you? We all think we know how to run because we’ve been doing it most of our lives, but few of us have had any proper training. A good coach or other experienced runners can tell you when they notice bad habits, or when they think the issue with your lack of form is all in your head.
A GROUP KEEPS YOU HONEST
You can tell yourself that when you thought about running on Tuesday and Saturday, it was just a suggestion that was totally up for debate. Tell the group you’re running on Tuesday and Saturday, and they’ll hold you accountable. Running groups are ruthless this way, maybe because everyone knows how easy it is to slack off when no one else relies on you.
You’ll tend to push harder when you’re with a group – and suffering with others is always more fun. Something else happens when you join a group – even if you absolutely, positively have to skip a session with the gang, the commitment makes you more likely to do a catch-up run on your own because the pressure is on to keep up.
Groups also work well when you’re trying to follow a specific training plan that includes keeping track of paces, split times, and distance runs. A lot of marathon training plans include certain distances that you have to complete each day to prepare your body for the full 26.2 miles, and some people may even write down goal times or run times for each of these distances to track personal improvement.
Regardless of your goals, your running community can help keep you honest and on track, ensuring that you don’t cut your distances or cheat your times. It can be easy to allow yourself to run only a mile instead of two when you’re accountable to no one but yourself, but the second a running buddy knows your training plan, they will push you and help make sure you finish where you intended to.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
When you’re busy and you run alone, it’s easy to fall into the habit of doing something that’s comfortable and familiar – same pace, same location or terrain, similar distance. Even experienced runners often neglect some aspect of their training, whether it’s speed, hill training, distance or strength training. Usually we’re physically capable of doing any of these sessions, we just struggle with the mental side. When you train with a group, someone has not only taken care of the schedule to make sure different types of training are covered, there’s extra variety built in due to the mix of abilities within a group.
Running partners or groups can help spice up the variety of your runs from a social aspect as well. Even if you run with a serious group, the socialization and pre-run encouragement can help give you something to look forward to and keep you motivated to show up and keep pushing.
If your running group is more casual or recreational, you may enjoy mid-run conversations or breaks that really help give your mind something to focus on other than the actual running, which can be tiring and dull. It is a great way to make new friends and camaraderie while training. This helps your mind stay stimulated and occupied, so time will fly by, and you’ll end up finishing your run before you know it.
COMPETITION KEEPS YOU KEEN
Ask any experienced trainer and they’ll tell you that some kind of training with a competitive aspect helps runners stay on track with their exercise. The competition might just be to improve and everyone in the group can appreciate that, no matter what their level. You may not run as quickly as the next runner, but are you improving at a faster rate? Competition and the markers it involves – whether that’s marking yourself against other runners or your own times, or other performance measures such as how good you feel or how well you recover – help conjure up positive memories of small victories. These boost your confidence, which helps you enjoy running more.
Most runners want to improve their personal times and race faster than before. Finding motivation is essential to achieve this. Some people can make great solo runners and find that motivation within, but running with a group that pushes you to race yourself or a fellow runner each time you hit the track or trail almost always yields better results.
But you want to make sure the competitive spirit stays encouraging and lighthearted, as intense and unnecessary aggression within your group can do more harm than good. Find running buddies you get along with and who you know have the whole group’s best interests at heart. Like-minded people can support your mental healthand physical health and offer a sense of community.
THEY’VE ALL “BEEN THERE”
The collective experience of a group will be an endless source of information, inspiration and support. Whatever it is you’re experiencing, someone’s probably been there before. Remember this when the negative voices in your head start telling you that you have to be good enough or well enough to train with the group. Join the group and you’ll improve faster than if you didn’t. If you’ve been sick or injured, the others will understand – it happens to everyone, so they’ll look after you. Slogging through some life issues and having trouble with motivation and time? The group’s all been there too, and will help take your mind off it while you punch out the kilometres.
The endless sources of knowledge and first-hand experiences your group can provide you with are especially helpful if you are a beginner runner or training for a new distance race. Preparing for and running a 5k isn’t the same as a half-marathon, which isn’t the same as a full marathon. The same is true in reverse; shorter distances require a different mindset and plan than longer ones. So if you’re switching up your distances or just starting out, finding a group that has run the race you’re running before can be extremely valuable.
YOU SHARE A GOAL
There will always be someone in the group who shares a similar goal. This automatically makes you teammates who will share strategies, training, gear and nutrition tips, and you’ll motivate each other no matter what the difference in your speed or experience.
Sharing a goal can be even more strong and effective when you and your running partner or group are training for the same race. This isn’t necessary; you can still experience all of the benefits of group running with people who are all training for different things, but it can be very effective.
If all of your fellow runners are working towards the same race, end date, and finish line, you will all be united in preparation and may even share similar eating habits, outfit planning, and more. All of this can make the training process even more fun and provides you with a group of people to lean on who are all going through the same thing you are.
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
Running with a group is just safer. You don’t have to be running through a warzone, gangland killing fields or even late at night through a dodgy neighborhood, either. If an injury strikes or animals attack, it’s good to have others around. If you’re under the weather or pushing to the max, your run crew is there to keep an eye on you. You can go running in new places without fear of getting lost (or at least, getting lost together sucks less – most trail runners know this!).
Extreme Weather - Summer
Running in a group or running club can also be a lifesaver when training in extreme weather conditions. Hot summer sunlight and heat can quickly escalate into serious dehydration and fatigue. One minute you can be running normally, and the next, your body can begin to shut down. This scary situation can happen to beginners and seasoned runners alike.
If you’re running by yourself, you may convince yourself that the dehydration or fatigue symptoms you are experiencing are not that serious; you might push through to be tough. If you do end up in critical health trouble, there may be no one around to help you.
Running in a group will solve all of these problems. Your running buddies can hold you accountable and tell you when it’s best for you to slow down or pull back if they can see you are overheating too much. If it gets to the point where you do need to stop running or medical attention, they can help you find shade and water and stay with you while you recover. They can also call for help if the situation is serious.
A great addition to your summer run is our collection of running hats and visors. Our headwear will help keep you cool, minimizing the chances of experiencing dehydration or overheating, while functioning to hold your hair back and keep the sunlight out of your eyes. They make the perfect finishing touch to your summer run outfit, ensuring you show up to your training group in style.
Extreme Weather - Winter
The same goes for cold-weather running. Your fellow runners can make sure you’re dressed properly and ready to take on the cold; they can help judge if you’ve become too frozen to continue and can help ensure that the whole group of friends stays safe when traversing over potentially slippery or slick surfaces. This is especially helpful after a snowfall when black ice may be present on sidewalks or roads.
Low Light Conditions
You and your running friends may also encounter low light conditions. Running either in the early morning or late at night can be a great way to beat the summer heat. In the wintertime, running in low light may be the only way you can train, as the days are shorter.
There are many ways to safely prepare for a low light run. Some of these ways include wearing bright-colored and reflective athletic attire, carrying a phone with you, and training with a group of runners. There is safety in numbers, as a bigger group is easier for oncoming traffic to see and offers protection against any potential threats.