Running alone has many benefits — namely that you can go at your own pace and use it as an active meditation. On the flip side, running in a group can offer several more benefits, too. If you fall into one of the five categories of solo runners we share below, you may want to consider spicing up your workouts with the occasional group run.
1. YOUR SPEED ISN’T IMPROVING
The phenomenon known as “social facilitation,” or the tendency for people to perform differently around others, is prevalent in sports. In well-rehearsed activities like running, athletes tend to perform better in the presence of company. For this reason, the majority of elite runners do a sizeable chunk of their training in groups.
“Look no further than your local college team as to why running with a group is so important,” says Justin Horneker, head running coach with Anthrophysique, an online training company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Cross-country teams spend the majority of their time running together, which not only pushes them in speed, but it also keeps anxiety under control. This prepares them for races so they can run at optimal speed and remain calm.
2. YOU’VE LOST THE RUNNER’S HIGH
Research shows that working out with others causes an uptick in happiness levels. In a study published in Biology Letters, researchers from Oxford’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology studied the university’s rowing team. The team was divided into groups, and each group performed identical workouts on rowing machines. In some workouts, rowers performed alone; other workouts took place in teams. After each workout, each athlete had a blood-pressure cuff tightened around their arm until they felt pain — this is an indirect method of measuring endorphin levels in the brain, also known as the “runner’s high.” The endorphin levels of athletes were higher after team workouts.
3. YOUR TRAINING FEELS MONOTONOUS
If running feels like the movie “Groundhog Day,” try doing it on behalf of someone who can’t run. “If you know that running is helping to raise hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for a worthy cause, it will only reinforce the importance to stay on track with training,” says Christopher Bowles, senior manager of community events-endurance with the American Cancer Society. Nonprofits around the world offer training programs for races. You raise a certain amount funds for their cause, and you get to meet like-minded running enthusiasts/do-gooders.
Bowles manages the DetermiNation running program and notes how running for charity helps keep you accountable. “Plenty of times I wake up at 5 a.m. and don’t feel like doing my workout,” he says. “But then I stop and think about all the money I’ve raised for the American Cancer Society and all of my loved ones who are currently battling cancer, and that’s plenty [of] motivation to make sure I take care of my workout.”
4. YOUR TRAINING OR NUTRITION KNOWLEDGE IS LIMITED
Running groups provide access to “training plans, advice from seasoned runners, supported runs and certified coaching advice,” says John Bips, club president of the Metro Area Running Club outside Atlanta. Bowles also mentions it “can help you with other tips like nutrition, injury prevention, stretching and strength training.” Many running clubs offer complimentary seminars with guest speakers on topics ranging from hydration to massage therapy.
5. YOU’VE LOST FOCUS
A running club can help you aim higher and train for longer-distance events. Clyde Shank, a runner out of Plano, Texas, and his wife, Kelly, founded the running group Einstein’s Runners. They’ve seen that group running has inspired their members to achieve goals they never believed possible. “A very large percentage of our regulars are now Marathon Maniacs,” says Clyde Shank, and many aspire to run a marathon in all 50 states.