Are your top training partners me, myself and I? Here’s how to put your best foot forward when you’re alone
When you’re always on your own, it’s easy to fall into a comfortable pace, week after week. And that can keep you from seeing improvements in fitness and performance. Cindra Kamphoff, director of the Center for Sport and Performance Psychology at Minnesota State University, US, and a 3:05 marathoner, says it’s essential to set goals and have a plan to reach them. If you want to get faster and lose weight, make Tuesdays your speedwork day to help you pick up the pace and burn extra calories. Try an app such as Garmin Connect to track your runs and see your progress. Competitive? Strava lets you race against runners from around the world or just two streets away.
It’s tempting to sleep in when no one is relying on you to show up. But Jeff Brown, psychology professor at Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Winner’s
Brain (Rodale), says a training partner doesn’t have to be physically waiting for you to provide motivation. ‘You and a friend in a different place could sign up for a race and train “together”, checking in with texts after each run.’ Social media can also provide positive reinforcement. ‘Having an audience for your successes is a great way to reinforce that behaviour,’ says Kamphoff. There are also virtual running groups. The Sub-30 Club, founded by RW US columnist Ted Spiker, is one example of runners connecting online to keep each other moving.
Running isn’t all excitement and euphoria, even for coach Heather Burroughs, who works with elites Kara Goucher and Jenny Simpson. ‘There are days when I’m counting down the minutes as soon as I step out the door,’ she says. Burroughs recommends mixing up your runs and your routes to help time pass faster. A little imagination helps, too, says Kamphoff, who recommends playing mind games – visualise yourself finishing the race you’re training for or plan your next holiday.
Solo runs are selfish runs – they’re all about your pace, your schedule, your body. And some days that’s just what you need; for example, if you’re nursing an injury or an ill child kept you up half the night. In these cases, going it alone rather than running with a buddy, so you can set your own pace and distance, will prevent you from going too hard.
Checking in with a virtual running buddy or group can help keep you motivated.