Ellen Nordberg, Author

Need Motivation? Train With A Buddy!

LA Sports and Fitness


A lot of athletes believe that one of the best ways to stay motivated, improve speed and distance, and achieve new goals, is to train with a partner.

“It’s a lot easier to sleep through your 6am workout when you’re not going to face the guilt of knowing someone was waiting for you,” says Randi Rotwein, M.A., M.F.T, a licensed psychotherapist and personal trainer in Manhattan Beach who has been in the fitness industry for over 20 years.

“You have to be accountable,” she continues. “Even if you don’t want to be there, you said you would do it, and they’re counting on you.”

Training with a partner provides a social aspect as well. Many first time marathoners and AIDS riders find training partners help keep them focused and prevent them from giving up on their goals.

“My friend Ted kept raving about how the AIDS ride was a life-changing experience and how I had to do it with him,” says Andrew Paley of West L.A., who trained to do his first AIDS ride in 1999.

“It sounded like a great idea, but I wasn’t in shape,” he continues. “We joined the AIDS training rides, and they had kind of a party atmosphere that made the riding more social and fun.

“Cycling long distances is mental,” Paley says. “And being able to distract yourself for eight hours while your butt’s on a bike helps. Having a partner passes the time. We kept each other from wimping out.”

Training with someone often has an element of competition as well, with each partner pushing the other harder and further.

Anne Ferree of Pasadena met her marathon training partner Joanne Nielsen through the L.A. Leggers running club three years ago.

“The group was great, but it’s not the same as having a specific person to train with,” she says. “We started out with the 11.5 minute mile training group of the Leggers in the first year. Then last year we set the 10.5-minute mile group as a goal. We ran with them for this year’s L.A. Marathon, and we still keep that pace. Independently I would have probably stuck with the 11.5 group.”

Beth Brown, a cyclist for 20 years, and co-founder of the Shifting Gears cycling club in Santa Monica who has done six AIDS rides, agrees with Ferree.

“It makes an amazing difference in performance to ride with a partner, someone there who can motivate you,” Brown says. “I train with a friend who is always pushing me to go 3-4 miles an hour faster, for a few extra miles. It’s great to find someone you’re in synch with, and it’s incredible how much more you can do when you’ve got someone there with you.”

Yet training with someone else isn’t for everyone.

“Overall, I hate training with a partner,” says Jessa Aubin of San Jose, long distance runner. “I feel more restricted. You have to run at a specific time and place instead of running when you feel like it. I like the alone time to think and reflect.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to keep the same schedules and people begin to feel torn about the commitment,” adds Rotwein. “Or it can get too competitive. You need to have the right personality match.”

But with the right chemistry, incredible goals can be achieved. Ferree and Neilsen continue to train together for this year’s Minneapolis and St. Louis marathons, and hope to make Paris in 2003.

And according to Brown, sometimes other kinds of match-ups occur when training together.

“Shifting Gears has been a funnel for people to hook up,” she says. “For training partner connections, and love connections as well.”

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