Friday, February 02, 2007
Why I (Usually) Train Alone
I wrote a while back about Ginger, my 6-year old Labrador retriever and running buddy. But aside from my time on the road with Ginger, I usually find myself alone when training. Why is that?
It's not that I'm completely anti-social, nor do I have a problem with group training sessions -- I know they're a big motivator for many people. And on occasion I'll get together with a buddy or two for a bike ride, or do a group ride with some other triathletes -- and I swim with my Masters swim group once a week. But for the most part, it's just me, myself, and I.
There are several reasons why I usually train alone -- some practical, some philosophical. Let's look at the practical first:
1. Scheduling -- There's very little margin for error in scheduling. Working full-time, 13-year old son, wife, dog, social life, house upkeep -- they're all constraints on when and where I can train. My first priority in scheduling is to figure out when to do it without interfering with my obligations and commitment to the aforementioned.
2. Opportunity -- Charlottesville is a pretty active town, and there is a local tri club that schedules some group workouts at different times of the week. Try as I like though, it's a rare opportunity that I can fit in my training with them (see #1).
3. Appropriateness -- Since I'm working with a coach, my training is mapped out for me, and the group's workout often isn't a good match. And as an improving athlete, I find myself "stuck in the middle" very often. The easy Sunday 1-hour "beginner's ride" is too easy, while the "hammer down" Saturday 70 miler is too much. And for me, it's all too easy to let the competitive juices start flowing. Suddenly that easy run becomes a lung-busting anaerobic workout.
Now for the "philosophical:"
1. Mental Training -- When you're racing, you're alone. You won't have anybody else to rely on during the race -- might as well get used to it. And when you're racing well, you need to concentrate on many things: your effort level, your nutrition, etc. What better time to practice this than when you're training? I like to look at my training sessions as "dress rehearsals." Got a long bike ride? Practice how you're going to eat and drink, like it's the race you're training for. Concentrate on monitoring your effort, working through the bad patches, staying smooth -- all things you want to make second nature for the race. There's a reason it's called "training."
2. Solitude -- It's a busy, noisy world out there, and solitude is a good thing. How often do we get a chance to be by ourselves, alone with our thoughts and undisturbed. Despite what I said in #1, sometimes it's nice to let the mind drift and explore your environment and your inner self. No yoga mat or meditation class required, and I'll often find myself refreshed mentally at the end of a long solo training session.
I may change -- maybe in a few months I'll be writing about how much fun my weekly group run is. But for now I'm a happy camper when I'm on my own.
My training log.