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RRCA Director of Coaching Education Randy Accetta on the Benefits of Training Partners
Almost everyone loves running with other people, but when it comes to training there’s a saying that workouts can be social, convenient, or good for racing – but not all three.
Multiple studies have demonstrated that runners experience an increase in motivation when training with another person or people, but that increase in motivation – often accompanied by an increase in speed – can depend on who the other person is, how fast they are, and even what they’re wearing.
“People unconsciously gravitate towards the behavior of those around them, even if you’re not aware of that,” said Thomas Plante, a PhD and professor in psychology at Santa Clara University.
The only problem is that sometimes you don’t want to be imitating the behavior of those around you.
Plante has conducted a number of studies showing that when test subjects run or bike next to someone slightly faster they’re motivated to bike or run faster themselves. He also conducted a test where subjects ran next to a girl, who was wearing make-up, jewelry and fancy clothes, then had other subjects run next to the same girl, who was running the same speed, but looked far less pulled-together and wore a baggy sweatshirt. People were much more motivated running next to the un-made-up girl, because they didn’t feel intimidated.
“Who you exercise with matters,” said Plante.
That’s why many top women will recruit husbands or male friends to do their workouts and runners will often convince a faster friend to commit to ushering them towards an important goal.
“Find a wingman,” said Randy Accetta, who coaches a long-time running group in Arizona and is the Director of Coaching Education for the Road Runners Club of America. “The loneliness of the distance runner is great and solitude is important, but having someone there counting on you to show up helps.”