Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Find a Group and Become a Better Athlete

As much as I love the solitude of solo workouts, there is just something about a group.

Picture taken in Thailand in 2006. There are 400 of these guys! {source}

My group cycling workouts are back in full force. I joined the ladies yesterday at 6:00 a.m. It’s amazing how the miles fly by whilst in the middle of an efficient little posse of estrogen cyclists (vagina peloton?).


Here we are. Me on the left in pink.

About half way out, we got in a pace line and hauled some ass. This is a newer concept for me – the pace line. If you don’t know what it is, in our case it involves a single file line of cyclists, close together, drafting off of another another. We change positions in the line by having the last person merge left and pull out. They cruise to the front and merge back in as the leader. And, so it goes.  You can really get going, and it requires quite a bit of concentration or at least it does for me.

This morning ride sets the tone for my whole day. We get in about 20-25 swift miles, I grab a cup of coffee on the way home and it is scarcely 7:30 a.m. I get to catch up with other mom athletes who are doing what I do – trying to fit in workouts and training goals around lives that include work schedules, parenting and all the other crap we fit into a day.  I get great training ideas and motivation from these girls. I learn about new races and challenges.

But, it takes guts to join a group. At least it does for me. I am always afraid of being the slowest (doesn’t matter if you are), or being left out (never happens). You put yourself out on a limb when you show up – it’s like being the new kid on the first day of school all over again. But, I find if you can get past the fear and just show up, you’re never sorry.

Next up for me is going to masters swimming on Friday. This has just started at our outdoor pool and I hear the coach is great. After having a less than stellar time with my last masters experience, I’m hoping for better results.

I don’t have a running group and I don’t want one right now. I am working on my form and this requires extreme concentration. Listening to music or talking is not an option. I am also (gulp) going to start heart rate training, which will slow me down considerably. Eventually, I’ll be ready to run with others, but not now.

My advice  is that if you have something you love to do be it running, cycling or swimming, try going with a group every now and again. Besides being a great and supportive community, you learn a lot. You become stronger by being with with people who might be a tad faster than you are and might know more than you do.  A group makes you feel more a part of your fitness community. We get in our own little bubbles with workouts and it’s good to branch out and connect. You don’t have to do it for every workout – even just once a week is good.

Here are some more reasons to get with a group:

  • Meeting with people holds you accountable to your workouts. You don't want to not show up and have them call you a pussy. Just kidding. They won’t.
  • You can learn how other people manage their time, their nutrition, and their training. Their poop issues.
  • It’s a great way to give and get advice. “Never wipe with a leaf. It hurts.”
  • You’ll be introduced to a new social circle.
  • If you are new to an area, it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests.

Here are some reasons to not get with a group:

  • If they don’t allow farting. How can your run and not let one (or seven) slip?

Are you part of a fitness or training group? Like it or not so much? I joined this cycling group last summer. After my Team in Training marathon training group, this was my first group. I don’t want to be with people for every workout, but I love the camaraderie, support and motivation the group offers.



PS: The winner of the Saucony shoe giveaway was #245 Carrie (Luminosity Mama). Contact me at and I’ll let you know where to go from here.


  1. I am a part of a running group and it has been one of the greatest things I've ever done for my running career. We do tempos, speed work, and long runs together. It makes everything fly by and pushes me to be my best!

  2. I keep going back and forth on the group thing. I think the company would be awesome but like you mentioned, I always stress that I'll be the slow kid and get dropped!

  3. I am really interested to learn more about "heart rate training". I have been wanting to start working on that myself but am still a little confused as to how to go about it. I have done the rough calculations landing me around 187 but I don't really know what I'm looking for mid run, after run, what it all means, etc. One of my Daily Mile friends spent the $$ to have a complete analysis done, but again, still not sure what all this means. Looking forward to your updates on this! (Are you going to use your Garmin, what device, etc?)

    1. I am in the same boat. I have had the scientific stuff done for my cycling HR, but not running. For running, I used this site to get an idea of where I should be for different types of runs.

    2. Thanks for the tip - I will start my research. So important for training "smarter"!

  4. I love running with my group of ladies! But, sometimes I just need to run alone so I can work on form or run my own pace or whatever. It is kind of like life where sometimes I just want alone time and other times I want to be with people. Both has its good and bad points! I'm just picking cycling back up after MANY years and this has inspired me to try and find a cycling group in my area. The thought is terrifying...but if I don't ask, I'll never know. :) Thanks!

  5. My track group has sort of helped. Honestly I'm kind of in-between speeds here - there are some faster runners I could never keep up with, and some who are significantly slower than I, but not many doing speedwork at my pace. I usually do the workouts alone or trailing after the faster group, but I think having the set meeting time and the assigned workouts helps me be more consistent. And I enjoy the social aspect as well!

  6. A group is the reason I am starting to run. Thanks to team in training

  7. I've just joined a running group recently, after months of, "I prefer running alone!" And I LOVE it. Everyone has been welcoming. I'm a 2-miles-a-day runner, with an average 10-min mile, and I'm out on the track with marathoners. No one judges. They think it's awesome that I've joined and want to improve my running. They go racing by me while I plug along in lane 7 with my iPod and I feel inspired. Maybe I inspire them on bad days with my don't-quit attitude.

    Six days a week, I'm on my own, but Saturdays are suddenly really, really fun.

    I haven't inquired about farts yet, but I know I've probably let a few slip and no one has had any issues.

  8. When i started the ADA tour de cure the other day I thought I was part of team red-- when I got there no one from my team was there. Apparently I was the only newbie and they were all apparently riding in the longer rides. I signed up late in the ride and didn't get to any training rides. Still I thought that maybe someone would be doing the 15. I got half way through it and wanted to quit. I almost called my Fiance to come pick me up. I got to the half way rest area and met up with an awesome team of guys that picked me up and stayed with me until we finished.

    It totally makes a difference.

  9. I have a running group, Running Grrrl, and we get together for group runs once a week. I love the social aspect and the accountability, plus they open me up to new things. During the week I do my own thing. It's a nice balance. I've met several of my best friends from groups like this.

  10. Thank you for this post. There is a distance training group that begins in a week and I want to join to help me prep for my fall half marathon but I am SCARED! I am soo used to running alone and actually prefer to be alone but I like the accountability aspect. I just can't make up my mind!

    1. Go go go then email and tell me how great it was! Do NOT let fear be the reason you don't do it.

  11. I'm a certified RUnning Coach through RRCA and in the process of establishing a running group in my area. Definite benefits to group training, even if it's just with one or two other people.

  12. I've always had training partners for all three sports. My running girls are my favorite, though!

    I really hope your master's experience is better this year!

  13. I have a running partner. Just the 2 of us and it seems like the perfect fit!

  14. Joining and consistently going to my running group was one of the best things I've ever done. If only I could find the same support for swimming and cycling....

  15. I'm still on the fence about joining the "local" running group. There's nothing in my immediate area and it'd be 30-40 min drive to run with the group. My schedule is already tight so that presents a problem (excuse!.... I have other excuses too...I'm slow, they might not like me, etc). But, I long for the support and motivation of peers. Maybe I should start something in my area.

  16. I run with Portland Fit in Oregon, which is a branch of USA Fit. Portland fit has motivated me in my running that I know I wouldn't do on my own. Every Saturday or Sunday is our scheduled long run and I love knowing my route is already planned and I'll be running with a fantastic group of people. I highly recommend a running group for new runners like me, the motivation and all of the information you learn is invaluable! We also might be moving so I know I'll be looking into a new running group once we get settled, what better way to meet like minded people?!

  17. I was invited to join a running group by a friend/neighbor last year. She is a significantly better runner than I am but I figured "what better way to get faster than to run with those faster than me?" so I went to the first speed work session. Holy s***, they are so fast!!!!! But you what, who cares? They are so encouraging and supportive that it doesn't matter that I am looking at their backs for every repeat. I'm faster than I was and that was the goal. And I've met some great gals along the way that build me up at every opportunity. Joining that running group was the best thing I've ever done.

  18. I love my running group, we have some fast one and I'm one of the slow ones which is what it is! At least I'm out there and staying fit!

  19. Pace lines take great concentration no matter how seasoned you are. They can be dangerous if you aren't paying attention.

    I am going to an OWS with a Tri Club tonight. I'm fired up. I love it because one of two things will happen: I will be the best and that is great for the ego. I will not be the best but will work my ass off to keep up with the best thus allowing me to get faster in the water.

  20. I run with a group of women and on any good day there are 8 of us. Sometimes there's 2. I wouldn't be running at 5am in the dark by myself, that's for sure. I get out of bed knowing someone is counting on me.

  21. YES! I miss being on a team, so the group environment totally suits me and many others as well. I didn't know you did TNT?!

  22. I spent the better part of monday looking up running and cycling groups in my neck of woods. The problem is, I'm in the midst of a training cycle, and planning on starting a master swim class next month.

    As much as I want to join a group, it doesn't fit in to my schedule right now.

  23. This is funny that you post this today...I used to be the girl that liked to run alone. But just last night at the 'track session' from our running club we had a bunch of newbies show up (which was fabulous) but we were trying to be encouraging, telling them how much everyone improves and stuff...So I went to look at my running log and the first night I showed up I was running 5 min 1/2 mile repeats and now I'm at a 3:30 repeat...So obviously the running club has done fabulous things for me. I still run alone a few times per week, but when someone is expecting you to be better have a really good excuse as to why you don't show up.

    By the way, also at the track, on my last repeat I was really debating stepping out at 400 m instead of doing the full 800...but then I remembered your no excuses slogan and finished it thank you!

  24. I LOVE groups, except for cycling they're dangerous!

  25. I joined the Mullica Hill Women's Triathlon Club this year and it has literally changed my life. For the better. The support, camcorder, and sheer awesomeness is just amazing!!!

  26. I am part of Rockwall Running Club in Rockwall, TX. I never was an athlete. When I joine the group I had just lost 70 pounds and was running on a treadmill to keep it off and bored out of my mind. The group saved me. I know other people my pace are counting on me to be there at 5 am so I get my butt out of bed!

  27. I run with a squad and it's the best thing I've ever done. They are amazing, inspiring, supportive and real and on those tough days when you just don't want to run, just knowing that the group is there makes you get out of bed.

  28. I do Masters swimming, Run at the LifeTime Fitness run club, and bike with a large group each weekend. I am also in a TriClub and training with them. So, yeah, I seem to barely train alone anymore (-:

  29. I am really interested to see what you do for heart rate training. I have been doing it wtth my Polar FT60 for about a 18 months (minus the 9 months I was pregnant). It has completely changed the way I work out and my fitness level. Get ready to slow down.....and then push hard. It takes time, but your body really does respond. The big trick is to figure out your max heart rate and go from there - the general calculations don't work.

    I need to find some groups, but my schedule is out of control most days.

  30. I am part of a triathlon training group at my local YMCA. I love it. I have made new friends and have people to go with on bike rides and lake swims. It has really made a difference to my training.
    I am interested to hear more about the heart rate thing; I know nothing about it.

  31. I meet up with a few ladies every Thursday for a 3-4 mile run. Had it not been for them, I would not have kept up on the running over the winter. After we run, we eat Mexican food and drink beer. Perfect evening!

    The only downside is that I enjoy running with them so much that I no longer like running alone.

  32. I get the part about running with a group now and then. For awhile I ran all on my own, then some with a group, then lots with others and now back to some with a group. Finding that sort of works for me. Looking forward to hearing about your heart rate training.

  33. I have always worked out with groups....GUY groups. Makes you faster.

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