It is a well-known fact in the fitness industry that having a training partner can make sticking to a doubles training plan or exercise program a lot easier for most people. Just signing up with a friend at IF does not guarantee that you’ll be “successful” though. Each member of the partnership can enhance or detract from the session in a wide variety of ways.
I have a long standing training and racing partnership with a visually impaired 3x Paralympian – I am his “guide”, but we compete as a team. Being a ‘disabled’ guide (I am a below knee amputee) has meant that Brian and I have had to become masters of teamwork in our disciplines – swimming, cycling, running, triathlon. With years of successes and failures under our belts – through 3 Ironman races, many shorter triathlons and many cycling and running events – we can point to 5 keys to success in any training partnership (and none of them have to do with eyesight or having all your limbs!)
1. Commit to a joint goal or set of goals.
Brian and I love to challenge ourselves. We love racing and we love the buzz around events. We are endlessly talking about and debating the merits of various events around the world – which ones would be fun to do, which ones are “bucket list” races etc. I think without the “next event” we’d find it a lot harder to keep motivated to train.
Doubles Training Lesson: Sit down together and pick a challenge to focus on and train for. It’ll keep you focused in the near term but, more importantly, years later you’ll look back and remember these highlights, and the work you put in preparing for amazing experiences in the real world beyond the gym walls. These days many events offer team or relay options allowing you and your training partner to actually compete together, but even if the event is an individual event (like a half marathon or marathon for example) you’ll experience almost all of the same benefits by training together and heading out to test yourselves on the same course / day.
2. Doubles Training : Hold each other accountable.
Given that we race side by side as a team, Brian would know very quickly if I took short-cuts with my training plan and vice-versa. It’s built in accountability. Even though much of our training happens individually, we communicate all the time about what we are doing – and that also helps create drive. In the end, we are competitive, and don’t want to let each other down, which is great for accountability.
Doubles Training Lesson: Your training partner is an important foundation of your support network. The “contract” is reciprocal – “I am here to support you and not let you fail, you are here to support me, and not let me fail.” Success and failure are defined differently for everyone – your partner should understand your definitions, and feel empowered with the knowledge about how best to support you in the search for success, and the permission to provide that push when required.
3. Make it fun while keeping focused.
When it’s time to race we can be pretty serious, but the rest of the time Brian and I are laughing and enjoying the process – especially on the bike, we have a lot of fun, tons of laughs and plenty of funny stories: The Water Bottle of Death, The Two Man Skinsuit and many more. We would have quit racing together years ago if we weren’t enjoying every minute of it.
Doubles Training Lesson: Pick a training partner that makes the hard work enjoyable and you’ll be more likely to do it! Concentrate on making each workout fun by bringing your best attitude and work ethic. A good doubles partner has an uncanny way of successfully reading the situation – knowing when (and how) to fuel the energy in the session, and when to feed off a partner or coach’s energy.
4. Be a great team.
With travel, logistically complicated events like Ironman, sponsorships, media, corporate relations and other tasks to manage, Brian and I eventually had to divide up the workload – because it made sense. Brian is our banker, travel agent and event logistics planner. I tend to handle sponsorship proposals, written tasks and media. We team up on season planning and equipment decisions. Dividing the work and trusting a teammate makes it possible to get a lot more done.
Doubles Training Lesson: There is a tendency at first to be ‘individuals working together’ rather than a team. To make your partnership great capitalize on each partner’s specific skill set and assign roles based on who can accomplish them at the highest level. If your training partner is the hyper-organized one who always brings the recovery drink and snack to every workout then it makes sense to have them make two. Maybe you can reciprocate by planning the Sunday run routes, loading a great playlist on the iPods or doing the web research for the next event, flight, hotel, etc.
5. Take individual pride.
Though we are a team, Brian and I feel a great responsibility as individuals to lead ourselves without being needy. We each have our own way of preparing for races, our own training programs, and our own habits – but we take great pride in being professional in the way we approach the sports we compete in. When someone else’s safety and enjoyment relies on you, it is critical to take pride in the way you do things.
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Doubles Training Lesson: Your partner is relying on you to hold up your end of the deal. This means that you prioritize your training sessions, show up on time, show up focused, put forth a solid effort every time and don’t get in the way of their enjoyment of training. In the end each partner is responsible for making sure their presence is adding to, not detracting from, the overall experience.