Are you that runner who needs me-time, enjoying the peacefulness of hearing your footfalls and breaths? Or are you that runner energized by the positive vibes that can only be generated by like-minded people doing the thing that they love?
If you’re like me, you’re probably somewhere in between, sliding back and forth along the solo-group-runner spectrum depending on your mood, training, and life’s many obligations.
This piece is for you if you’re new to running and trying to stay consistent with your training. I hope some of my personal experiences and tips are helpful.
I do an estimated 90% of my runs alone. It fits my personality and is the easiest way to structure the rest of the day.
Pros of training alone
- Many years ago, I made the rule that a daily run (or other forms of exercise) is my non-negotiable. It’s at the top of my priority list. Getting it done on my own is the most convenient way to fit in a run without affecting everyday responsibilities such as work and family time. I’m not limited by another person’s schedule. I wake up early? I head out the door. I have an hour of free time in the afternoon? Let’s quickly get in a few miles.
- Many of you have jobs requiring talking all day or constantly connected to electronic devices. Everyone needs me-time – a quiet moment to work through personal problems, to daydream, or simply let your minds wander. For relaxing times, make it solo run time.
- Running your pace and not having to accommodate others that are faster or slower than you has many benefits. Running easy runs at your leisurely pace benefits recovery and aerobics system development. Running threshold runs at the correct threshold pace optimizes your ability to process lactate acid. Running VO2max workouts at your all-out effort builds a higher athletic ceiling.
- Running is an individual sport. You can have coaches and training partners to give you advice and take turns leading workouts. However, you’re on your own when it comes to race day. No one can run the race for you. Running alone simulates that self-reliant toughness necessary for personal bests.
Cons of training alone
- Life throws knee-buckling 12-6 curveballs. Yes, running alone and fully in control of when training should occur is great for consistency. However, just like life, running can be unpredictable – the weather turns for the worse on race day, a chaotic start that causes you to stumble and fall, or unclear course markings on the trail. The solo runner who evolves into a bit of a control freak may be less able to handle the unexpected.
- It’s easy to get lazy when you’re a solo runner because there’s no one to keep you accountable. You might cut a run short or go slower than your training plan intended because sometimes, you might not be in the mood to embrace the discomfort.
I might be more of a loner by nature. Still, there’s an energy and sense of satisfaction that come with completing something challenging with a group of like-minded people.
Pros of training with a group
- The previous sentence pretty much summed up the pros of training with a group. Sharing pacing duties and interval session workload with others often leads to breakthrough performances unattainable by an individual.
- Schedule flexibility is key to staying consistent, but so is accountability. Making plans to train with others is a great way to ensure you show up. It turns a run from something you may or may not do into an obligation.
- You might consider yourself an introvert, but you’re human. And humans are social animals, after all. Hanging out with people that share your love for putting one foot in front of the other should be fun. Some of the best times I’ve had were shooting the shits with my running buddies after a long run or a tough session.
- We all have our least favorite workouts. For me, it’s LSD on flat asphalt or any runs on the dreadmill. These are the occasions when it’s helpful to have someone to chat with and pass the time.
Cons of training with a group
- If you’re the competitive type, it’s easy to turn training into racing. Always attempting to one-up your running partners is the recipe for overtraining and injuries.
- Getting a group together can be stressful. We all live different lives. Scheduling a suitable time for everyone is sometimes more complicated than rocket science.
- Hopefully, you run with good people. In bigger training groups, a few bad apples could bring a level of selfishness and politics. You run because you enjoy it, so surround yourself running with people who bring you joy.