The question: I have just started running. What's better: running alone or in a group?
The answer: That is a hotly debated question among runners, almost as controversial as, "should runners train with music?" (I do.)
Ten different runners will give 10 different answers. My opinion is that you shouldn't worry about what other runners think is better. Do what works for you! If music fills you with energy, listen to music. If running is your "you" time, run solo.
If you need a little extra motivation, by all means, get a running buddy or join a group. Most of us are less likely to hit snooze on the alarm or stay late at work if someone is waiting. Plus, it is always nice to have someone to commiserate with regarding running goals, frustrations and aches and pains.
Just don't fall into the trap of justifying missing your run when your buddy can't make it. Ultimately, the buck has to stop at you. It is your responsibility – not your partner's – to make yourself run.
I mostly run alone. I like the time to myself, and I don't love the stress of co-ordinating schedules with someone else. That said, I will run with a friend if I am craving some social time, or when I need help getting through a speed workout. I hate the cold, so I am more likely to run with friends in the winter. I need the extra push to get myself off of the treadmill and out the door.
My favourite reason to run with a buddy is when I am pacing someone through their first race. I get to share in their excitement and live vicariously. I remember the feeling of crossing the finish line for the very first time and there is nothing like it!
My final words of advice: If you decide to run with someone, avoid future heartache by communicating your expectations. Agree in advance if the run will be easy or hard, and if you will chat or listen to music.
Trainer's tip: Try Fartlek interval training. Fartlek training is basically unstructured interval training. I love doing this type of workout with a friend because it is competitive yet fun. Here's how to do it: Partner A sprints toward a random landmark. Partner B has to keep up. Both partners jog for a block, then partner B picks a mailbox or another landmark to sprint toward. Keep alternating sprints for 20 to 30 minutes.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for over 10 years. Her website is kathleentrotter.com.