Training dynamics; solo or in a group?
Is solo or group training right for you?
Triathlon training requires many hours of hard work on the road and in the pool. The best pros will train anywhere between 30-40 hours a week. That level of commitment definitely takes its toll on your motivation if you're doing it week in week out and it can be quite a lonely experience at times.
Will is a British triathlete. He's a former U23 World and European Champion, competed at Beijing 2008 and has twice been British national champion. He now competes on the World Ironman 70:3 circuit.
When you’re trying to work out whether it's better to train in a group or go at it solo it completely depends on the type of personality you have and what options you have available to you for groups and fellow athletes around your area. There are positives and negatives for training solo or working with a group and which option you ultimately choose depends on your personality and training requirements.
Training by yourself has many benefits because you are able to be completely selfish. You have the flexibility to do what you need to reach your goal and don't have to compromise for anyone. You can leave the house when it suits you, work out as long as you want and the time on your own is good to clear the head and contemplate life! It's also easier to stick to your plan and you can avoid going too hard in a session where you might have been tempted to overdo it, because you’d allowed yourself to be pushed on by other athletes. In that sense it's certainly easier to keep control of your training.
On the other hand training in a group can prove much easier to motivate yourself. It's a lot easier to stick to your schedule and get out the door if you have other people waiting for you. When you're on your own you have little else to think about other than 'my legs are tired', or 'how much longer do I have to ride?' The group dynamic distracts you from those thoughts and it takes your mind off the tiredness and time. It also allows you to put in the work while having fun and catching up with friends.
In a sport that is all about consistent hard work the group dynamic works wonders. Sometimes there will be days where you feel fantastic and then other days when you're struggling and getting pulled apart by the other athletes. A good group will keep you motivated and moving on the hard days and but will also give you the power to push to a new level on the good days and this is the best way to improve your level.
The downside is that often you have to fit in with the group and it might be hard to do exactly what you need. If you ride in a group bigger than six then your work rate will be massively reduced as you share the load on the front. Key sessions should be done to the letter and if you can't do that in a group then it's best to go solo.
Part of the problem is the logistics of getting a good group together. We have three sports to train for and often it's very hard to find someone to train with for every session. The best option is to meet with friends and commit to a handful of sessions a week where you can all complete together and then do the rest of your training in your own time.
In Loughborough we're very lucky to have an Athletics Club with tons of great runners. We also have two good swim squads to fit in with and numerous groups and individual bike riders to team up with. If I worked it out I could train with people every session I do, but I prefer not to. I try to work it so for my easy aerobic sessions I always train with a handful of people. For me this is the bulk of the volume so it helps to have people around to keep my motivation high, although not too many people because I like to keep the pace high. For my key sessions I work with the best athletes around so I get pushed on to a faster pace than I would if I ran on my own, but if it's something really specific I'll do it on my own so I can really nail it!