Find Your Perfect Training Partner

This post by Jennifer Schaffner originally appeared in IRONMAN on April 22, 2015.

Tired of going it alone? Here’s how to find your best mate when it’s time to get your heart rate up.

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Many of us enjoy the solitude, quiet, and personal time that IRONMAN training brings. But after many months of going it alone, or a majority of training done solo, athletes often find themselves ready for some camaraderie in the pool and on the roads.

Olympic medalist and coach Susan Williams discovered the value of a consistent training partner when she decided to try to make the Olympic team in triathlon in 2004. “I reached the limit of what I felt I could do on my own,” Williams said. “I decided I needed other people to push me and keep me motivated and that’s part of the reason I joined up with a group.” Williams found a teammate who was willing to do all of her training with her and who had the run and bike skills to push her in her workouts. “He’s one of the reasons I made it to the Olympics,” Williams says of that training partner.

Whether we are trying to make an Olympic team, qualify for Kona, or PR in our next event, all of us can benefit from a strong team of training partners to help us achieve our goals and achieve more than we can on our own. Read on for five tips for finding your perfect training partner.

You are: New to the sport

Try this: Join your local tri club

Longtime professional IRONMAN triathlete Hillary Biscay always tells athletes to join their local tri club to find training partners. “Club events can help you find people of varying abilities to train with. The faster people will push you, and you will have a chance to help the people who aren’t as fast as you,” she says. “Joining your local club can be especially helpful if you are new to the sport or new to your area,” she adds.

You are: A weak swimmer 

Try this: Masters workouts

Triathletes without a swim background are often intimidated to join a Masters group, but with a little searching, you can usually find a group to suit you. Coach Susan Williams has seen many athletes improve just by having someone to push them. “Swimming with other people challenges you and makes it easier to push yourself. It makes the workout more fun,” she says.

I started swimming with Susan’s group in January. The first few workouts were very humbling, but I have already seen impressive results and am hooked. Don’t wait five years to take the plunge.

You are: Time crunched but looking for camaraderie   

Try this: Tap into social media

If you have a schedule that prevents you from attending group activities, your best training partner might be virtual. Most IRONMAN events have their own Facebook groups and getting to know some of the people in the group for your upcoming IRONMAN can be an easy way to find partners for your group rides or share information about the race.

Several years ago, I was training for IRONMAN Cozumel, a race that takes place in late November when many triathletes have already ended their seasons. I mentioned the race on a triathlon message board and ended up doing several long rides with a group of local athletes who were also preparing for that race. As an added benefit, I knew a few more faces on the course on race day.

You are: Making a leap

Try this: Seek out a tri mentor

A tri mentor is more than just a training partner. He or she is the person who lends you a wetsuit or race belt for your first race, tells you what to pack in your transition and special needs bags and guides you through your first few times as an age grouper, Kona qualifier or even professional, depending one where you are in the sport.

At all levels of the sport, most of us have turned to someone else to help guide us to the next level. My first tri mentor was my husband, who had been a triathlete for almost 10 years before I got the courage to do my first race.

If you don’t have a tri mentor in your life,  try looking to the people who are where you want to be. Want to qualify for Kona? Introduce yourself to the woman in your Masters group or tri club who has already done it. Thinking of racing pro? Seek out new pros to get their take on what your next steps might be.

You are: A competitive age grouper

Try this: Get to know your competition

The person who finished just ahead of you at your most recent race? She might be your most valuable training partner. Why? Because she’s just a fraction better than you and may be able to push you to reach a new level in training.

This strategy worked well for Amanda Wendorff, the first female amateur at last year’s IRONMAN Arizona. She met one of her competitors through social media. “We made a workout date to swim and ride and it turned out we worked very well together, despite being competitors,” Wendorff said. “We have managed to train effectively without competing in such a way that every workout would become a race,” she added.

Regardless of how you find them, being supportive and celebrating your training partners’ successes is the key to a fulfilling training partner relationship. As Wendorff puts it, “the perfect training partners are those who are evenly matched yet have slightly different strengths and weaknesses, and most of all, are legitimately happy for the other one’s successes.”

If you have been training solo but have plateaued or are bored with your training, it might be the perfect time to seek out some training partners. Having others to share the work will keep things interesting and help you push yourself to the next level.

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