I had an annoying experience this morning, one that I recall from when I was training properly for Triathlon. I trained with other people. Dun, dun, duuuunnnnn....
Okay, I hear you ask, just what is so bad about training with other people? Are you so unsociable that the very idea of spending time with others is repugnant? Well, perhaps, but that wasn't the problem this morning.
The issue I had this morning and have regularly had in the past is that when you are training with others you are often following their agenda. As I have said numerous times before, every session has a point. When I was training properly the session I would be doing would have a specific focus, structure and goal. As soon as I added other people to the mix it always became hard to execute that session in the way it was supposed to be done. They would be too slow, or too fast, or not interested, or get a puncture etc. Often training with other people would result in a frustrating session. It is a reason that I spent so much of my time training solo or with small select groups. Training solo allowed me to do what I needed, when I needed, how I needed.
That was the source of my frustration this morning. This morning I went to a group session because somebody asked me and I thought 'what's the harm'. However, once I was there all my usual frustrations came to the surface. The session wasn't what I wanted to be doing, nor was it in the way that I wanted to be doing it. The session had its use to be sure, but I finished feeling like the morning had been a bit of a waste, or at least could have been better spent.
Of course that isn't always my attitude to group training, I am not that entirely anti-social. Sometimes I really like training with people. For swimming I could only ever swim once or twice a week by myself, any more and I usually needed other people to help me keep motivated. I often find it good to do high intensity sessions like Threshold work with others as it provided a little extra motivation for the session. Sometimes a group is good. however, for myself it isn't all the time.
Of the athletes I coach, several of them want to do all their sessions as a group. For these guys it is a question of motivation. Having the group to be answerable to helps them get out the door and keeps them pushing. I understand that and for these guys I try and write their program such that they can train with others. In the end training with others is better than not training.
However, I also encourage athletes to spend at least some of their sessions training solo if they are happy too. Triathlon is a solo sport and I feel it is important for athletes to spend a bit of time in training inside their own heads getting to terms with their own motivations. At some point in a race every single person in the field is going to have to look within themselves and find the internal motivation to keep going to the finish line. Nobody else in the race, or the crowd is going to be able to help them, they have to find it themselves. I find that if people have been asking themselves the tough questions in training then the motivation to push on to the finish line is just a bit easier to come by. The guys who spend a bit of time driving themselves through tough sessions know that when the going gets tough they have the mental resolve to push through because they have already done it in training. The solo training builds the mental resilience necessary for race day.
In my view it is always worth spending a bit of time flying solo.