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Strength in Numbers


A few weeks ago an old friend came over for dinner, and on the way out the door he asked if I wanted to join him for an epic cycling event he was doing the first weekend in June.  Loving the idea of something epic…and totally ignoring the fact that my training schedule has been far from epic…I paid my $60, signed up, and entirely put it out of my mind until Saturday night when panic set in and I wanted with all my might to bail on the 5am wake up call and sleep in, eat bacon and eggs with my family, and read the Sunday Styles section.

I’m quite sure that the only reason I got to the starting line was because I knew my friend was going to be there.  And I’m even more sure that the only  reason I finished the 200km ride was because he and a bunch of his friends from SF2G (the “San Francico to Google” cycling group) encouraged me to stick with them, ever-so-patiently waiting at the bottom while I slowly white-knuckled the harrowing descents, and re-grouping at the top of each of the massive climbs.  Yes, the scenery was beautiful and the challenge was invigorating, but the camaraderie made the ride.  These people (literally) pulled me through a windy patch, told me what to expect as we climbed, and had a can of Coke waiting at the top of the last climb.  They were optimistic and welcoming and fun…inseparable in my mind from the ride itself.

This is just one example of impact training/racing partners and groups can have.  There’s tons of research supporting this idea that exercising in a group pays off.  A few years ago, The Economist covered a study finding that training in a synchronized group may heighten tolerance for pain due to the simultaneous endorphin release caused by exercise and collaboration.  A 2009 University of Pennsylvania study found that exercising with a partner boosts weight loss.  And for people who can’t find real-life training partners, the fitness industry is going very social very quickly (I covered this a few months ago in my post “To Track or Not to Track“).

Without a doubt, training partners and groups make workouts better.  They make them more fun.  They make us work harder.  And as was the case with me yesterday, they can even help us do things we likely couldn’t/wouldn’t do on our own.  So how do we find these magical people?  Here are a few simple ideas:

  1. Find a formal group.  Pick your sport and then visit a local store related to that sport (i.e., local running store or bike shop) and ask them if they lead or know of any good training groups
  2. Create your own group.  Link up with a partner or group through your gym (people who run on treadmills probably also like to run outside)
  3. Be friendly at the finish line.  Talk to the people who finish around the same time as you in races/events; if geography is in your favor, you already know you have a partner who is the same pace
  4. Post an ad.  I know this sounds like a total stalker move, but I met my favorite training partner of all time and still one of my dearest friends (see former post “Curtis Camp“) when I posted in a mother’s group in search of an early morning running partner
  5. Just say yes.  Even if you feel nervous about joining a group for a run/ride/swim/row/whatever, if someone invites you, say YES.  Ignore the self-judgement (“I’m too slow for them”), and just go.  Almost without a doubt, it will beat working out solo

So if you’re needing motivation, a challenge, or simple a bit more fun in your workout, the answer might be calling a friend…or a even a stranger.

Have you ever trained/raced with a friend or group who pushed you harder than you would have ever pushed yourself?   How did you find that person/group, and what made it such a great fit? 

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve never done anything this epic(!), but I’ve definitely gone along with a running group when I thought I’d for sure be huffing and puffing behind them… and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could totally keep up! That’s really interesting about the higher pain tolerance. I love the idea of communal exercise but most of my exercise is solo these days, except for my Pilates classes. Maybe those count?! xox

    June 3, 2013
  2. competitive pilates — i love it!

    June 3, 2013

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