Triathletes Need Community Too
Coach Sarah Portella
It’s 5:59 a.m. and it’s dark and chilly. Several cars are parked in the parking lot with the engines still running, the inhabitants waiting until the very last seconds to leave the warmth their car heaters are providing. Their clocks flip to 6 a.m. and car doors start to open. Everyone takes in an initial cold blast of air and then the comments start flying around…why are we here?!
But then, as GPS watches find their signals, the group takes off on a run and the cold is kind of forgotten as chatter starts, muscles loosen, and the pace slowly picks up. Forgotten also is the question “why are we here?”.
As triathletes, it is easy to get sucked into a training cycle of isolation. We have specific races. We have different coaches. We have our own set of goals. So, we resign ourselves to thinking that we must train alone for our race, to appease our coaches, and to meet our goals.
I too have struggled with this over the years. I have gone through cycles where I almost always trained with a group, to the exact opposite. And I want to tell you why I believe finding a community to do some training with is so important.
When I began my solo training, I was in pursuit of qualifying for 70.3 World Championships. I had it in my head that I could not train with a group because I was not willing to compromise my exact training times. And there was absolutely no compromising of my structured workouts. It was my way or no way. That bled into every aspect of training, even if it was an easy run with no real structure to the workout. That lead to a very lonely year. I lost touch with what was going on in my local tri club. Friends stopped asking if I was coming to the Saturday long rides. I missed out on social activities because the training trumped it all. And in the end, while I did qualify for 70.3 Worlds, it left me feeling empty because I missed my group and the people that normally shared these types of experiences with me. And you know what happened? It was hard to re-engage with the club. There were new members, people I didn’t know, and different groups that had started to form. I felt like an outsider.
That whole experience reaffirmed the importance that triathletes need a community and need to make it a point to engage in that community. Yes, we all have different paces, coaches, goals, and races, but there are ways to meet your personal goals and structured workouts while still enjoying the benefits of training with a community of triathletes.
Why you should get involved in your local tri club/community group:
- Training solo all the time can lead to a lack of motivation, and worse case, an apathy to the training which could make you quit the sport. To some extent we are all social creatures and need interaction with others. Finding other people to train with can inspire your own training.
- It’s easy to hit the snooze button if aren’t meeting anyone for a swim, bike or run. Chances are you’ll think twice before sleeping in if you have a group of people standing in the chilly morning air waiting for you to arrive.
- It’s okay to be a triathlete and be social! Friends can make the long training miles go by faster. And honestly, the bonds between training partners can get pretty tight. Some of my best friends are other triathletes because they understand my need to train too.
- Encouragement/Satisfaction. Group environments can foster encouragement and success. Chances are everyone there is looking for something a little bit different. Whether it be a time goal or a distance goal, you have the opportunity to help them achieve those goals and share in their successes. And who knows, maybe you are the one that needs the encouragement. Get to know your group…you’ll find encouragement and success!
How You Can Get Involved and Balance Your Training:
- Talk to your coach. Most coaches, myself included, want their athletes to be happy and enjoy the sport. Let your coach know if there are specific days that groups meet. Chances are your coach will be willing to incorporate that into your training program.
- Choose your group workouts. Most group workouts are tailored for…the group! Meaning most workouts will be adaptable to your specific pace. Not really into compromising your hard workout days? Meet with your crew on aerobic run, or recovery bike days. Rejuvenate your body and spirit with some friendly banter and fun.
- Join a Masters swim club. Yes, there isn’t a ton of talking at the pool. But, for those triathletes that didn’t grow up swimming…isn’t it better to “suffer” together?! And bonus, you will get faster.
- Recruit partners*. If you know of some other athletes training for the same event as you, or are about the same pace as you, invite them to some of your tough sessions. Chances are you’ll be more motivated to hit each interval. *If you have a coach, I would first ask if it is okay to invite others to specific sessions. A lot of coaches create their own workouts tailored specifically for their athletes. Remember you are paying for those services and having others jump in may not be cool. Always check!
If you haven’t been involved in a club, get going! After a year of pandemic and being forced to train alone, many people are craving the interactions of other like-minded athletes! If you’re nervous about joining your local tri club, but want to give a club a chance, join the Bolton Endurance Virtual Triathlon Club and see what it’s like to be a part of a group that shares your same interests!