The Power of a Training Buddy

Nov 4, 2009 | fitness

Do you sometimes feel uninspired to train? Even with a goal or event in mind, you still find yourself training without gusto or skipping sessions. One way to snap you out of this very vanilla phase is to land yourself a training buddy. Like any healthy relationship there can be ups and downs, but the journey is always much more fulfilling when you are sharing it with someone.

Recently I ran the Melbourne Marathon. I had the most incredible weekend, not just because I scored a PB of 3hr 16min but because I shared the experience with my new training buddy Michelle Bridges. Although we’ve been friends for many years, becoming training buddies was quite left field.

Mish and I had a long lunch one day, and after a few cheeky wines, she started heckling me about running marathons. “Put your money where your mouth is girlfriend!” I said. “You think you’re pretty fit? Lets see you run 42km..! In fact come and run 22km on Sunday with me and the STaRs. That’ll sort you out!” The conversation continued along that path for quite some time until other patrons were clearly disturbed by our rowdy behavior.  I got a sheepish phone call the next day asking if she really had to come running at 6am on Sunday? I insisted that she join us and thank God she did!

What is a training buddy?

Most people think of a training buddy as someone that you actually train with, but this isn’t always the case. A true training buddy is anyone who is committed to your journey to the same degree (sometimes even greater) than you are. This could be a running partner but it could also be a family member, a trainer, your twitter followers, or a website forum buddy. Many people think their training buddy should be fitter or more experienced than them, but I argue that it can be even more fulfilling to mentor a newbie who will gain so much from your experience.

The best training buddies:

  • Need you just as much as you need them
  • Are reliable
  • Always encouraging
  • There for support when you need it
  • Tell you to harden up when you are wimping out (in a caring way of course!)
  • Assist you with programming and advice
  • Competitive but in a healthy, sportsman-like way
  • Hold you accountable for your sessions
  • Make workouts much more enjoyable

How to get the most out of each other:

Woody Allen once summed it up saying “eighty percent of success is showing up.” For exercise this is also true. One of the biggest benefits of your training buddy is committing to your training sessions. If you tell someone you are going to do it, then you really have to do it. Whether they are physically with you or not, if you’ve committed to your sessions that week, you don’t want to let them down. Besides commitment training buddies should also;

  • Hold each other accountable for training sessions
  • Phone/email/text after each training session. Not only will you try harder knowing you are relaying your workout, but it will inspire them to get up and do the same.
  • Send motivating/educational material over when you stumble across it.
  • Don’t let injuries/illnesses affect the relationship, you can still assist each other, even on the bench
  • Be training for the same or a similar event.

How to find your training buddy

If you belong to a gym or a running group you are already halfway there. I am sure many of the people you chat to at the various events would make perfect training buddies. Start by swapping email addresses or phone numbers, drop them a line a few days before a session to see if they are coming, send them some interesting running info such as websites or articles. If you both sign up for a similar event, get busy getting involved in each other’s training. Before you know it, you have ‘buddied-up’ and are well on the way to receiving the benefits that follow. Fitness level, age, gender, all that jazz can be thrown out the window. Are you both keen? Do you get on well? Who cares if you aren’t actually running together, you can still support each other! Twitter is a great medium for this. When I ran Boston Marathon on my own last April, I searched “Boston Marathon” in twitter and started following lots of people who were tweeting about it. I got so much support and help that way.

Michelle and I buddy up for Melbourne Marathon

After two Sunday’s with my running group the Sydney Striders, one 22km (13.7mi) and one 30km (18.6mi), Mish had been bitten by the striders bug. I double checked she wanted to run the marathon. Yes. We shook on it. Melbourne here we come. With only 6 weeks to prepare, it was straight into the heavy stuff. I set Mish a training program of 80kms (50mi) per week broken up into one sprint session at the oval, one 30km run, and various other tempo sessions. Usually my marathon programs start 16 weeks out so it was pretty heavy going on both of us at first.

The only time we trained together was the Sunday runs, the rest of the time we trained alone but would be calling or texting most days. I remember one morning when I was seriously thinking of ditching my sprint session, then I received a funny text from Mish, something along the lines of “Faaarrrrk those sprints. I’ve coughed up a lung! I can’t believe you’ve made me do this – but I love it!” How could I have slept in? So off I went to cough up the other lung and hold up my end of the bargain!

We had our moments, never with each other but certainly with training. Mish missed an all important ½ marathon one day, miscalculating the traffic. I completely forgot about daylight saving and left her high and dry (actually wet) on our last (rainy) 30ks before Melbourne. We had dust storms and bad weather, Celebrity Masterchef and all sorts of distractions but with the support of each other, we remained focused on the race. The beauty of the Sydney Striders is that when one buddy can’t be around, there are others to lean on.

When it came to marathon weekend that’s when a buddy really comes in handy. From carb loading to laying out our clothes. From bib collection to bag drop off, having a buddy to help navigate the complexities of race day is very comforting. The only thing we weren’t able to help each other with was attempting to walk down stairs after the race. There were no pillars of strength when it came to tackling those stairs! Before the race, Mish said she only ever wanted to do one marathon, but since then she tells me she has actually been missing her Sunday runs and all the great (she may have said insane) people who make up the Sydney Striders.

So for anyone out there who suffers from the dreaded de-motivation virus, inject some fun back into your workouts by finding yourself a training buddy. Who knows what they’ll inspire you to do or could it be the other way around!

Do you have any good training buddy stories? Have you ever mentored anyone?

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