Clubs are a vital part of sports such as Football and Hockey where a team is vital in order to train and compete, but training for individual sports, such as Running or Golf can be a lonely task. The obvious answer is to join a club, but for some a club is not available or the clubs that are available may not cater for certain ages or ability. In these instances a training partner is the answer!
John Donne said that, “No man is an Island” and socialisation is a basic human need that having a training partner (or partners) would satisfy. This is especially true at elite level sport when socialising is often sacrificed to allow for the number of hours training at top level sport. In these circumstances training partners are crucial, and often end up becoming best friends due to the amount of time spent training with each other.
Training partners are not only useful for satisfying social needs, they can be vital in helping motivate you to train! We all have good and bad days, and on your low days training partners can give you the vital encouragement to complete the session. As we all have variable moods, you can easily repay the favour and help your training partners when they feel low. Getting along well with your training partner can increase the enjoyment levels of training, entertaining sessions mean increased motivation to train. Knowing that when you train you can catch up on gossip, have a laugh, as well as increasing fitness is likely to keep enthusiasm levels for training high. Training partners are also useful for helping you push out of your comfort zone. As athletes we are all competitive, training with someone can give you the friendly rivalry you need to push yourself to the limits.
If you are having problems with motivation or you are having a bad day where training is not the first thing on your mind, a moral obligation to your friend may be the persuasion you need to train that day. Knowing that if you do not train your partner may miss out on that session too and would certainly be disappointed, would almost force you to train so to not let your friend down.
Although getting along with training partners is crucial for them to be effective, there is a close line between effective encouragement and reduced concentration on the training because you may be getting along with your training partner too well! Although in some instances, distraction from the training is a positive, as it can help you forget the pain and exhaustion, in a similar way that music can.
Not only can training partners help you mentally and emotionally, but physically. For example, spotting in weightlifting or timing splits in interval training sets. They can also provide the vital component to improving – feedback! If they frequently train with you and watch you, they are fantastic people to go to and ask if they have any advice about what you need to work on. For example, you may bob your head while you run wasting energy, and you have not realised yourself but your training partner could inform you, allowing you to correct it and improve your overall performance. You can also learn directly from your training partners. If your partner’s golf swing hits the ball further than you can, watch them do the action and try to replicate their technique, use them as role models!
One training partner might not be enough! Especially for a sport like Triathlon, you may have a swimming training partner, a bike training partner and a running training partner. It is not only multisport events that can require multi training partners, for example a Hammer thrower may do speed drills with Sprinters, plyometric training with a Triple Jumper and throwing training with other Hammer throwers. This gives the Hammer thrower the opportunity to train with the best people for each component of his training.
If you have the ability to pick or chose your training partner, the most important factor to consider is that you must get along with them! A good friend would be a fantastic training partner. Other appropriate characteristics for a training partner include being a similar age and having similar characteristics (especially if you are going to use them as a role model to help you improve your performance), good listening ability and living nearby (for ease of training etc). If you admire them for their dedication to training and know they are encouraging, clearly these are also highly sought after characteristics for a training partner. However, finding the right training partner for you often requires a fair amount of time and patience.