Monday, 27 February 2012
From the March 2012 issue of Runner’s World
Pick the best running partner to help you go faster, further and more often
By Louise Jarvis
Sports psychologists have known that athletes perform better in groups than alone since possibly the first study of social facilitation among cyclists was published in 1898. Simply put, this study shows that athletes will exceed their expectations or personal bests when performing with a group or in front of a group, says Steve Portenga, Ph.D., the University of Denver’s director of sports psychology.
“You’re more focused, and less distracted by pain when others are watching or running with you,” says Portenga. “The key is to find someone who keeps you focused on your goal.”
All runners can benefit from group training. Less experienced runners may find that the accountability a partner provides is what they need to commit to a 5am run. More motivated runners prize buddies for helping them add kilometres and shave minutes. To maximise the advantages of this crucial alliance, keep a few principles in mind.
Finding others who run isn’t hard – strike up a conversation with a runner you frequently see at the park or ask a colleague if you can tag along on his lunchtime workout. Finding someone you want to run with again and again is a little trickier. Be prepared to ask – and answer – direct questions about training schedules, as well as short- and long-term goals, says Portenga. You want to know up front if you have common expectations and a similar workout ethic. Do at least two trial runs before you commit to more. You’ll know pretty quickly if the other person is positive and reliable.
AVOID “FRIENDLY” COMPETITIONS
“When you get too competitive, you lose sight of your training program and you deviate from what’s ideal for you,” says Portenga. “In the end, it can sabotage your performance. If you’re going to make a competition out of practice, then you should compete with only yourself.” A better use of that time together, he says, may be to help each other through plateaus and work on checking off incremental goals. This is one area where veterans pair well with newbies: Running with a beginner can counter the culture of toughness that can take over between two experienced runners of equal ability. And practiced runners can help newbies stick with it.
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