What’s the Ideal Training Partner?
Me to someone in the running community I know: We should run sometime soon.
Running community person’s usual response: Oh, no! You’re too fast for me; I’d just slow you down.
I am always both amused and slightly irritated by this response, which I have received too many times to count over the years as a runner. Amused because this person thinks that by running with him he’d be holding me back. Slightly irritated, because this person thinks that I can only run at one particular pace and if I had to “lower” myself to running his pace that I would be annoyed.
I’m aware that I’m faster than most people I encounter day-to-day and know keenly well what people I can train with when I have a challenging workout for myself. But as we all should know, every workout isn’t (or shouldn’t be) an all-out effort. There are recovery runs and rides, moderate paced/speed runs and rides and then those runs/rides that are closer to a max effort.
While you could have one or two training partners for all of those workouts, I say expand your horizons, become more social and find different training partners to fit your training needs for that particular day’s training. If you choose wisely, you can very much have a beautiful symbiotic relationship with these training partners – I’ll explain.
Partner 1: Your Training Doppelganger
This is the one we mostly think about when we look for a good training partner. The person who is just as fast as us on the bike or on the roads. Your race times are extremely close. Sometimes he beats you in a race and sometimes you get the best of him. You could do every workout with this guy, but you mostly do the hard workouts together because you push each other just the right amount. You hold each other accountable for each interval, each mile and each recovery break. While you enjoy training with him, it’s nice to go for those easier and moderate workouts by yourself or with others, so you don’t get tempted to ratchet up the run or ride when you should be taking it down a notch or two.
Partner 2: Your Slower or Faster Friend
You know when you need to get in those repeat 800s @ 8 min/mile pace on the track or try to hold 19-mph on the bike for 40-50 miles, but know it would be much easier to hit these paces/speeds if your faster buddy were there with you – well, just ask him. If he is much faster than you, then he probably won’t mind helping out. If he’s a guy who can hold 800s @ 6 min/mile pace or averages 24-mph when cycling 40-50 miles, then this becomes a moderate to easy workout for him.
On the flip-side, if you’re the type of person who never knows how to slow down even on a supposed easy training run/ride, then you need to find your slower running or cycling buddies and go out for one of their runs/rides when they are going at a moderate to easy clip for them. This will force you to slow down and that’s a good thing, because part of great training is recovery.
Partner 3: The “Billy Goat”
You know this person. He’s the guy when you hit those hills has a different gear altogether. You kick his ass on the flats, but the moment you hit those hills, he’s like a damn billy goat! This is a good person to have when you want to push yourself in those hill repeats or steep climb rides you really don’t enjoy, but know are a huge benefit to your overall training.
Partner 4: The Speed Demon
This is me. Although I don’t mind running far, I’d always MUCH rather run fast and do intervals on the track. So, if one of my running friends needs help with some intervals – then I’m their go-to guy. To be clear, this person may not be faster than you when you do those long tempo runs, but sort of owns you on the track.
Partner 5: The Ultra God
Yep, this is the person who loves to go long. She doesn’t mind what pace you want to go as long as you’re running far. This person is great for those 2-3 hour long runs or 5-8 hour bike rides.
Partner 6: The Gym Rat
This person may not even be an endurance friend of yours, but that guy who loves the gym and knows his stuff when it comes to weight and strength training. You are not a big fan of lifting, but know with all you have read about strength training that it’s very good for endurance athletes. Let him show you the ropes and learn how to get stronger and be a better runner, cyclist or triathlete.
Partner 7: The Yoga Master
Like the gym rat above, this friend of yours may not even be an endurance athlete but knows her stuff inside a yoga studio – maybe even teaches some yoga classes herself. You have read so many articles about why yoga is good for endurance athletes and yet still have not found the time to make this part of your training routine. Call up your friend and let her show you why downward-facing dog should be in your repertoire moving forward.
So now that you know that there isn’t just one training partner out there for you but a plethora of possibilities, start asking different friends for their help with your various workouts – you may be pleasantly surprised with the positive responses you get.