With the growing popularity of distance running, group training has become a popular option both for those looking to test out the sport and continue their participation. Whether an individual signs up for a beginner’s 5K program or their 25th marathon, group training in endurance sports gives runners a fun, simple and healthy way to increase motivation for the task at hand.
“The benefits for group training seem almost infinite,” Ryan Caturan says.
Caturan, a training program coordinator for Fleet Feet Sports and Chicago Endurance Athlete, cites accountability, friendship and encouragement as three of the most positive benefits.
“When you train with a group or team, you don’t want to miss days because you’ll want to be out there with them,” he says. “There have been a number of people that we see through CES that met through training and are now the closest of friends.”
Group training also can help a runner know when to put forth a little more effort and when to hold back.
“A group can help push you to perform at a higher level and motivate you to train harder,” Megan Sullivan, training program manager at the Chicago Area Runners Association, says. “On the other hand, a group run may also keep you disciplined to run at an easier pace.
“Overall, it gets you out of your own head, connects you to others and teaches you teamwork and patience, which are both great life lessons.”
Seth Kopf, founder and coach at Kopf Running, says that every runner can benefit from giving group training a try.
“I recommend group or partner training, especially for beginners to help with accountability, and to stay on track with training,” Kopf says. “Even though veteran athletes may be more likely to train on their own, they can still benefit from group running from time to time.
Training with a similar group of people ensures your workouts are on target. Certain people may be peaking on a day that you’re dragging, making your competitive juices kick in to push yourself through a tough workout.”
Caturan says beginner’s 5K programs can yield the most benefits, easing new individuals into group training.
“Getting into a sport can be scary and intimidating,” he says. “’All these athletes are really fit people,’ someone might say. It’s good to have someone who has the same mindset as you.”
Carolyn Gardner of CREW Runs the World agrees, encouraging all runners to experiment to find a group that fits them.
“Once most beginners see the camaraderie, they’re encouraged to return,” she said
Local runners have many options if they want to try group training. Beyond CARA and CES, many different running clubs operate in the city and suburbs. Social media can also help someone learn more about a club’s dynamic.
Caturan liked group running to sitting at a bar, rather than a table.
Check out a group’s Facebook page and ask questions,” Caturan says. “What do you want to get out of group training?”
Sullivan says word-of-mouth can be a great resource, and Kopf listed the Road Runners Club of America website as another place to find groups. Regardless of which club you join, group running benefits each individual no matter how much experience a runner may or may not have.
“Knowing that your friends will be there and will push you harder than you could have pushed yourself is incredibly advantageous to training success,” Kopf says.
“Why journey alone when you can go with your friends?” Caturan says. “You don’t have to, and group training is absolutely the way to go.”