Group Training, Is It Right For You ?
A couple of posts ago I wrote about the benefits of training with a running partner. (“Do You Need A License To Run”). I still believe that running with a partner or a running buddy is very beneficial but not for all of your runs. I enjoy running with a friend on my long runs as they keep me running when my brain starts to ask what and why am I doing this running thing! But I also enjoy my solo runs where I can stop to take in a beautiful sunrise, cleanse my brain, and simply enjoy.
Today’s post is about the increasing opportunities to “train” with a group. There are various types of groups. Some are organized around a charity and the running focus is on participation and reaching a goal. Some training groups require a payment and others (typically running store sponsored) offer “Free” training. Like going on a long training run with a running bud, these groups can benefit a runner, but is it right for you, and is it appropriate for your racing goals?
First, recognize that by the very nature of their name they train in “Groups” meaning a whole bunch of people at a time! Again, this can be very beneficial, particularly to those who are new to running and have very little idea of how to go about training for any event especially a marathon!
Group training usually consists of the organizers issuing some form of a master template schedule that tells the runner how far to run or not to run every day of every week for the next 16 weeks of the runners life. The group leader may even offer some tips or ideas on how the runner can get back on track after missing a scheduled run only 2 or 3 weeks into the schedule and may even provide some level of motivation.
Rarely have I observed day to day or week to week monitoring of the runners progress from the group’s leader. It typically does not take long for a runner to “miss” a session or fail to complete a scheduled run. The runner typically figures they can simply “make it up” next week. Thus begins the cycle of uncertainty, lack of confidence, or even worse, a greater risk of injury to the runner!
Then there is the “Group Speed Session”, typically one day of each training week will be devoted to speed work. Great! Most every training plan should have some element of speed work. But is it right for you? Should you even be doing speed work at every stage of training? Are the reps appropriate to your current fitness level and race goal? What pace and distance should your tempo run be? Does your group session include a good warm-up? Is everyone in your group training for the same destination event or are some of your group members training for events that are a month or more apart? Even a week apart can be critical in determining what type of speed work (if any) you should be doing.
Next, staying with the speed topic, is how you need to run each speed session. What should be your target pace? (hint, most distance runners run speed sessions too fast), what is your recovery target? (hint, do you know what a recovery target is and why it is important?) and what is the distance of your reps? (hint, the distance of rep each week often varies, is linked with recovery target, and is highly dependent on the date of your destination race). So, even if everyone in your training group shares a common destination race, you each have the same ability to run, train, and race alike.
This is where a running coach enters your picture. A coach will get to know your running background, help you determine a realistic yet challenging goal, then work with you throughout your training to help assure you reach your goal. This is where The Running Architect enters your picture!
To be clear, I am very supportive of running and training groups. You can “run into” many new people who often become lifelong friends. But you the runner, should know what and how to execute each training run or session to assure you are effectively training in a manner to hit your targeted goal. This is where the value of working with an experienced running coach can make a huge difference in your running and racing experience.
Good luck and continue to Run Happy !