For most runners—especially beginners–the advantages of training with a group are almost too numerous to mention. But for many runners, group running is simply not an option. Whether it’s lack of time, schedule conflicts or even a preference, many runners go solo on at least some—if not most–of their runs during a given week.
Because of the quantifiable benefits of group running, you might think that solo runners are social pariahs. Not necessarily so. But solo running is different than running with others and yet also has some unique benefits.
The most important one is when running by yourself, you always run your own pace, distance and workout. You never have to compromise on your workout to accommodate the group or a friend and never have to run longer or shorter, faster or slower. You run where you want and when you want. You’re never late or too early.
Your run is all about you. And since it is, solo runners learn very quickly how to tune in and listen to their own body. Instead of listening to others complain about the pace, traffic or Austin’s hills, you are your own coach and captain. You control your run, by listening to your own breathing, muscle soreness and fitness and make your own adjustments along the way, rather than adjusting to others.
Running by yourself also allows for complete stress reduction. You don’t have to worry about the pace being too fast (or too slow). This run is just for you and nobody else. You are free to turn your thoughts inward and just relax and run as fast or slow as you want.
There’s nobody to talk with—other than yourself. This is your time for problem-solving or contemplation. Or not.
One of the main advantages of group training are the social aspects. You always have someone to talk with and the time seems to pass quicker than while going solo (especially on long runs). Getting motivated to meet a group is easy because other people are counting on you to be there on time.
You’ll need a different type of motivation for your solo run.
Here are some tips for making a solo run just as enjoyable as a group run:
1. Make an appointment with yourself. Just as you schedule a certain time to meet someone (or group) for a run, book a specific time for your solo run. If you do, you’ll be less likely to blow it off.
2. Decide beforehand what you are going to do. Don’t leave your run to chance. Determine how far, how fast and which course you’re going to use. Don’t compromise or give yourself an out. Pick a workout—hard or easy—and stick with it.
3. Sore or tired? Tell yourself you’ll just run for 10 minutes. If you aren’t motivated to run (but need to), tell yourself you’ll just go for a few minutes. It’s amazing once you’ve run a mile or so, how much easier it gets and usually you can keep going for the duration of the workout.
3. Get pumped with music. Just before your run, rock out. Blast it for five minutes while you get ready to roll. But leave the music at home.
4. Pick a topic and have a debate with yourself. Look at both sides of a particular hot-button issue. It will carry you for several miles. Can’t decide who to vote for tomorrow? I guarantee you’ll always win every debate with yourself.
5. Select a year of your life and closely examine it. This is a great running conversation you can have with yourself. Pick any important year and try to remember everything that happened to you during that year. Second-guess yourself and ask plenty of ‘what-if’s’.
6. Greet every runner you see on the run. Ordinarily you might not, but on a solo run you want to be as gregarious as possible—if for no other reason, to demonstrate that you aren’t a social ingrate.
7. Fantasize. Let your imagination run wild and take you wherever it wants to go. If your fantasies happens to be about running, imagine how you’ll be feeling at various points of your next marathon. Or dream about being a top runner and being in the lead pack. Or…well, it’s your fantasy.
8. Count. How many animals can you see on your run? Count the number of deer, squirrels, armadillos or raccoons you can spot on the run.
9. Trouble shoot. Running by yourself, is a great time to solve whatever problems you might be having. Your mind is clear and you’re free of any distractions.
10. Push yourself. If you’re feeling great, inch up your effort. Run a set of hills hard or push the downhills. Or try and run the flat sections at MGP.
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