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Team Member or Solo

Team Member or Solo JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Contributor

Team Member or Solo? Is One Better Than the Other?

Every athlete has a unique reason behind why they train. For some, it might be to achieve specific performance goals. For others, it might be to embrace the challenge and see what their body can truthfully endure. No matter the reason, it is the driving force behind the athlete’s decision to register for a specific event. This also means their reason to commit to training.

Each athlete possesses intrinsic motivation and willpower to train independently. Still, some strive to belong to a team and train alongside other athletes competing in the same or similar event. This poses the question, is the style in which an athlete trains a predictor for better performance outcomes? What is the difference between training solo and training as a team member, or is there no difference?

Understanding the Social Desire of the Athlete

Numerous dimensions can impact not only an athlete’s well-being but also how they train. These dimensions include their ability to balance athletic responsibilities with:

  • Life responsibilities
  • Emotional wellness
  • Personal development
  • Health
  • Social connections to other individuals.

Therefore, the primary component for any endurance athletes training should be an element of fun!

Each athlete is hardwired for different levels of socialization. This social desire influences how they approach training in groups or training alone. For example, some athletes might find that they are energized when training with others compared to training alone, and others might feel the opposite! Whatever option the athlete chooses, it truly is an individual choice as to what they think will assist in helping to enhance their self-confidence, motivation, and commitment.

Let’s dive in to learn more about the differences between both options!

Potential Benefits of Training with a Team

There are various reasons why an athlete might prefer training with a team. These reasons could include enhancing commitment, staying motivated, and helping with focus. 

Some potential benefits of training with a team include:

  1. Building relationships with individuals experiencing the same elements, having similar training goals, and also receiving emotional support
  2. Enhancing education from experienced team members training or specific race elements, such as nutrition, injury prevention, race conditions, etc. 
  3. Having a system of support built in and camaraderie among team members 
  4. Assists in improving consistency with training, learning to pace appropriately, and potentially receiving race coaching
  5. It’s a great social outlet to make friends and connect with like-minded individuals!

Potential Benefits of Training Solo

Even though there are numerous potential benefits to training with a team, there are also numerous benefits to training alone. 

Some of these potential benefits include:

  1. The athlete does not need to commit to specific team runs, meet-up times, etc. They can structure their training based on their schedule
  2. Training with others takes away the element of having alone time that some athletes strive for and appreciate. This might be when they self-reflect and focus on themselves
  3. Reduces distractions and allows the athlete to truly focus on their training schedule and goals without adjusting pace/training components to meet the needs of the group
  4. Allows the athlete to feel more sense of connection to their training goals through experiencing a sense of high achievement motivation, which is usually connected to intrinsic motivation
  5. An athlete might experience enhanced self-discovery where they learn their limits, recognize the “tough” parts of training, and develop strategies for success on race day

Overall, it is clear that there are benefits to training with a team and training alone. The essential components of training include having well-established goals and a strong training program that can be incorporated in both ways. It truly comes down to the athlete’s preference and social desire in connection with their training goals to determine the appropriate way for them to train so that they can experience self-mastery and overall enhanced performance.

Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology

JoAnne Bullard is a Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

She serves as a tenured Associate Professor at Rowan University and is the owner of Absolute Fitness, LLC.  Her goal is to provide a holistically applied approach for clients through performance psychology consulting. She has experience working with athletes of all ages, including endurance athletes, in individual and group sessions.  Her research areas include mindfulness, performance anxiety, goal setting, coping strategies, and mental well-being of athletes.

She has completed five marathons, numerous half-marathons, and is always looking for her next race.