I’ll be the first to admit that there are many days in any given training season where I will make any and every excuse to myself to avoid going outside to workout. Once I’m outside, I’m happy as a littleneck (if you’re not from New England, feel free to substitute “clam” instead), but just making the decision to get my butt out the door can be a trial. Having said that, I’ve found nothing more motivating than knowing other people are relying on you for their own workout (NOTE: this particular benefit is NOT incurred if you choose to ally yourself with a group of similarly unmotivated athletes).
In addition, workout groups can provide you with on-the-fly motivation during your workouts. I’m sure anyone else with group training experience can attest to the fact that a well-timed “Move your a**!!” can completely turn around a rapidly deteriorating interval.
Training groups, just like the people that comprise them, come in all flavors and varieties. Some are more laid back, while others are highly competitive. Depending on your personal style of training, one type of group may be better suited than another, but I am of the personal opinion that a little friendly competition (even if only in your own mind) can be very motivating from time to time.
Let’s face it – no matter how gorgeous the scenery is (Northern Californian mountain trails notwithstanding), no one looks forward to a 75-mile ride with nothing but irate drivers and an internal monologue of this song for company. Having others around, especially people who share your interests (at least as far as athletics go) can be lifesaving, or at the very least an anchor for your sanity.
Having been involved in multisport for the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve noticed something that is almost universally true – if you are a runner or biker by trade who later made the transition (pardon the intentional pun) to triathlon, you are guaranteed to suck at swimming. This can range anywhere from swimming simply being the slowest leg of the race to being terrified of even pouring a glass of water for fear of drowning, but it is nevertheless a truism. One thing I think that contributes to this is the fact that very few people without a background in competitive swimming ever get the chance to work with a proper instructor, and being that technique holds much more sway over swimming performance than it does for running or biking, this leaves many of us at a huge disadvantage.
One of the beautiful things about joining a training group is that there is bound to be someone with more experience than you in one or more disciplines who will, in all likelihood, be more than willing to divulge their hard-earned trade secrets. This is doubly true of more “official”-type groups, like the Cleveland Triathlon Club or any of the many local chapters of US Master’s Swimming, who may even have actual fully-qualified coaches available at some or all group training sessions. I STRONGLY suggest joining one of thes groups for swimming, but consider doing so for biking and/or running too, because a decent coach can often make the difference between a good race and a podium finish.
Fully-qualified coaches aside, other athletes can also serve as an absolute treasure trove of information. Whether you’re in the market for a new bike, thinking about trying barefoot running for the first time, or just looking for a new race in the area, you are guaranteed to find the answers if you just ask the right people. Having a group of fellow athletes whose advice you trust and who you can talk with in person can be extremely helpful in this regard.