One of the things I love most about Triathlon is the people I meet, the friends I’ve made and the fun I have training with other people. I’m a better athlete because I train in groups and without them I would often have struggled to get all my training done. But there are times when training with a group isn’t helpful and it’s useful to know the reasons for and against.
Ten Reasons to Train in a Group
- It’s motivating: Most people work harder in a group with other people around, a coach telling you what to do, or people to race.
- Its sociable and a great way to meet other people
- It can be inspiring to train with other people and see what the possibilities for improvement are
- It gives you a set time and place to train which acts like an anchor in the diary and slot in the training week often making it easier to prioritise.
- It gives you a suitable place to train – e.g. the track is booked, there’s lane space in the pool with people swimming at the right space, or the watt bike/spin studio is available
- You can gain skills and knowledge from being around other more experienced athletes and a qualified coach.
- Seeing other athletes and training with them often helps to highlight your strengths and weaknesses and your opportunities for improvement. Riding with a cycling group helped to show me that I could gain speed from learning how to corner properly.
- It adds variety by exposing you to new sets or different bike routes, or roads to run on.
- It’s a great way to get support. If you’re having a bad day then training in a group can really help to give you support and encouragement to get the workout done.
- It can be safer in a group because you’re often more visible. It also means there’s someone around to help if you get injured, sick, trip over or have a mechanical on the bike.
Reasons not to Train in a Group
- Group sessions can be too long, too short, too hard or too easy for what you need
- It’s often hard to know what the group session will be in advance so you never know if it’s the session that you need.
- Group sessions can often be unpredictable depending on who turns up.
- If you’re constantly the fastest in the group it won’t push you but can also give you a false sense of confidence so you don’t realise what you need to do to improve.
- It can knock your confidence if the group is too advanced. After coming back from an injury I found that for a time running in a group did nothing for my confidence other than remind me how much fitness I had lost, so for a short period I ran on my own until I felt better.
- It’s not safe. The group is too big, the group discipline is bad or their skills are poor. Be especially careful with cycling groups.
- It’s the same session every week with no variety so it gets boring but it’s also not progressing your fitness and skills.
- You spend so much time talking that you get distracted from the session and don’t concentrate on what needs to get done.
- It’s always a race!
- You get carried away with the group culture. Everyone else is doing it so it must be right for you too.
- You get obsessed with Thursday night club night and find it hard to miss a session even though you’re on a rest week, or would benefit from trying a different session to develop your limiters elsewhere.
Training in group is great fun and a really useful part of any training program, and I encourage athletes to do this wherever it fits in with their goals. Before going to a group session it’s useful to review your own training and fitness goals, and find out what the group sessions will do so you can find out how they will help. Also don’t be afraid to mix it up sometimes and try a different session rather than getting obsessed with your Wednesday night club night.
I have a coached swim session every Thursday night but do get in touch to let me know what groups you train with (especially in Coventry) and how they’ve helped.