by Dave Latourette
For the most part, people are inherently social. Because of that, it's not uncommon for many triathletes to stay in “social mode” and gravitate toward group training. I often have to say to my athletes, “When it comes to group training, you are going to have to compromise.”
This isn't always a bad thing, it's just a fact, and it can be a good thing if you "use" the group correctly. When I say compromise, it's a reference to possibly not doing the exact training you need to optimize performance. So what do most people compromise?
- Length - The workout is too long or too short.
- Intensity - Very rarely does anyone end up in a group and have it be too easy.
- Time frame - Group sessions always take longer than doing the workout solo. When I say longer it's usually longer because of group dynamics, not because of moving speed!
- Terrain - Group training can take you off the specific terrain you need to be training on for your key event(s).
So how can you use training groups to get your social connectivity and get proper training? Let’s start with generalities:
- Use groups for extra motivation. Whether it's just getting to a certain place to meet the group or that extra push on a scheduled hard day.
- Use the energy of the group/session as a challenge for you to do the right thing in your training (more on this below when we get into swim, bike or run specifically).
- Create your own training group of people who are "on the same page" or are training for the same event(s).
Looking specifically at each discipline, the following are some suggestions on how to use specific groups to aid your training.
Group or Masters Swimming
- Pick a program or group that fits your needs.
- Use the group sessions one to two times per week if your race demands include intensive swim effort.
- Swim up or down in a lane or in different lanes to manage the intensity you need on a given day.
- Put together your own group.
- Pick a cycling group that fits your needs or accommodates your needs.
- Use a group session that allows for long periods of steady state riding at effort levels that support the demands of your event(s).
- If you can’t find a group, cobble together your own group. Have a clear plan of routes, pacing and occasional re-grouping spots to fill bottles. Most importantly ride within your range of pacing, ride as “even” as possible and practice riding at “legal distances” back from the person in front of you.
- You may need to use group sessions sparingly during specific prep periods and more generously at other times.
The tips used to manage swimming and cycling can be applied to running as well, although I find many people run by themselves or in pairs. If I were to suggest something it would be to use a group session (for some it may be a track session) that allows you to run at a variety of ability/pace levels. Doing so allows you to pick and choose the pace groups much like swimming, It might even be best to "run down" a pacing group from where you would run if you didn't have swimming and cycling load in your system.
If you manage your group sessions well and plan them into your training accordingly. There’s no reason you can’t get the most out of your training and still keep some social aspect as well.
Dave Latourette is a full time triathlon coach living in Santa Rosa, California, who works with athletes from newcomer to elite. His top athletes have won USAT Age Group National Championships and raced in World Championship events that include the ITU World Championship and the Ironman World Championship. You can learn more about Dave and follow him at: TrainToEndure.com, his blog, or on twitter @dklatourette