Training with others is something you must do on a regular basis as an elite athlete. If you are not elite and only spend a little time practicing then this time alone practicing may be your only chance for peace and quiet in an otherwise busy lifestyle – a chance to immerse yourself in focus and concentration.
The time required to maintain or improve performance at an elite level is significant. Having a training partner (or training group) can help you achieve better performance and have more fun along the way. Dedicated athletes – those that have made no compromise on attempting to reach the top make many sacrifices in social time.
Trips to the cinema, a regular night out or other sports are all sacrificed to avoid injury, stress or tiredness. Complete isolation may work for some in the run up to major events but an argument could be made for a more social or happy athlete performing better under pressure. Trying too hard and over training are common problems. Your training partner can provide the socialisation that all humans need while allowing you to avoid the distractions or pitfalls that happen inevitably happen if you spend significant time socialising with non-athletes.
ONLINE TRAINING PARTNERS
The internet has revolutionised training for a lot of sports – it provides a competitve element to a solo session. Your performance is recorded in detail and published worldwide so although you may be running or cycling yourself you do feel like you are competing with many others. For those who enjoy running or cycling I heavily recommend the STRAVA app which like most fitness apps, records your average speed, elevation gain and estimated calorie use.
The difference with STRAVA is that it features thousands of segments that have individual leaderboards. Its popularity makes achievements significant so it turns a three mile jog into a series of big efforts to improve your best time.
As a golfer this recording of performance is a little more difficult but the Nike Golf app does a good job of replicating this interface for golf. What might be more effective is a private Facebook group where you record your training volume or score from the course. Amongst friends you add an element of pressure and motivation to a practice round by knowing that the result will be published to the group.
ARE YOU AN INTROVERT OR AN EXTROVERT?
Studies show that whatever category you would place yourself in, the benefit of socialisation is felt equally. Within everyone is the inner turmoil of doubt, doubt, stress and identity. No matter your personality it is natural to judge yourself against others in all walks of life, the result of which affects some more than others.
Depression is often linked with loneliness or ‘perceived loneliness’ and isolation. As an example people commonly feel very isolated or alone in a city of millions of people – they lack a personal relationship. Research shows that even just one genuine friendship can prevent any feelings of isolation or loneliness.
BENEFITS OF A TRAINING PARTNER (OR GROUP)
So what does a friendship entail in the athletic training partner sense? The number one aspect of a great friendship is a mutual understanding. It removes the need to explain yourself all the time. In golf, a fellow professional may congratulate you on your good play and mutually you both understand how much effort it took to achieve. Athletic accomplishments require a dedication and perseverance the average person may struggle to associate with sport. The sacrifices, whether social, time based or physical are understood easily by a training partner.
Having a training partner or training group is also a form of self-validation or justification as practicing in the pouring rain feels a little more bearable with others alongside you. It helps to remove the self- doubt that might occur if you were out there by yourself – is this worth it? When people train with others they shift their focus onto the groups emotions and reactions and lose some of the self-consciousness that can hold people back.
A training partnership can be inspirational. Perhaps you have the good fortune to practice with someone who is far superior to you in terms of achievement. It provides a great opportunity to measure yourself, to force you to raise your game. It is very difficult to improve your skill level without leaving your comfort zone, you must find your limits and a more experienced training partner will do this for you automatically.
The resultant creativity or diversity that evolves from a training partner or group is highly beneficial to your performance. No two athletes are the same – your strength and weaknesses will always differ. In this way a partnership can be mutually beneficial with the exchange of information (or insight) helping to achieve certain aspects of the performance. Sometimes the creativity may come without explanation, the simple visual cue of outstanding performance enough to create change.
Unless you are in the fortunate position of having already reached the peak of your sport it is unlikely you can afford a coach to mentor and evaluate you at every training session. It may be your practice partner who notices that slight difference in form or concentration in the lead up to a big tournament that can make the difference. The feedback your partner can provide is invaluable in helping you grade your ability and performance, don’t be afraid to ask but at the same time always have them provide sound reasoning for their opinion!
We have all been there – the rain is hammering against the window, your last practice went badly and you can feel a slight twinge in a muscle? Well the motivation a partner creates can really help you get through any negativity – the obligation to help them progress also is a factor. It stops procrastination and forces you to stick to your training plans or schedules.
Finally, and perhaps most surprising is the fact that having a training partner creates the same psychological effect as music! The interaction between you and your training partner and/or partners provides a positive distraction from the task. It can help to shield the athlete from the stress or size of the training ahead – it activates the creative thought patterns that help athletes find the ‘zone’ of peak performance.
A BAD TRAINING PARTNER!
Of course, we know what your thinking! A bad training partner – someone of a completely different ability or someone who you don’t share a friendship or understanding with, will have the reverse effect on your training. So choose carefully, they must be able to challenge you and take you out of your comfort zone and you must have a general friendship and understanding. A good training partner is worth searching for!
Training camps are commonplace in most sports nowadays. Previously the domain for team games only, national institutes of sport and ambitious coaches seek to implement training camps for individual sports. It provides an atmosphere where athletes prosper and identify with one another rather than feeling isolated by taxing training regimes.