How to Communicate With Your Running Partner

Having support when you train is such an important part of running. Sometimes that support comes in the form of encouraging texts or attending your races, and sometimes that support is right next to you, in a running partner.

The best running partnerships are those where you and your partner have similar goals, strengths, and preferences for training. But let’s be honest, nothing is perfect, and even when you think you’ve found an ideal running buddy, there are times where the relationship can get a little tense.

Have you ever been in one of these situations with someone you run with?

• Your ideal pace becomes different. Maybe you want to run faster as part of your training, or suddenly, they’re upping the pace and you’re not ready (or interested).
• Your training partner is filled with negativity- about the run location, their day, their family…seemingly everything! It’s hard to get through a run when the person next to you can’t seem to find anything positive to say.
• Your running partner is constantly changing training plans and/or is running late, which gets in the way of your training.

What can you do?

When you find yourself in these types of situations, positive and proactive communication is usually the best way to handle what’s going on. But, that can feel hard. After all, you probably don’t want to offend your partner and you may want to continue to train with them.

Try these tips for communicating with your running partner:

1) Plan for what you want to say. Though we communicate often, bringing up something that feels confrontational isn’t usually as comfortable. You may want to avoid thinking about it, or plan to just “wing it” when the time comes, but it’s important to be thoughtful about what you say. If you’re someone who doesn’t like this type of conversation, practice your thoughts out loud. This will help you get more comfortable.
2) As you plan what you want to say, focus on your feelings and the impact of what’s going on from your perspective. Avoid placing blame. Even in the circumstance of someone being late, focus on how you feel, for example, frustrated when you start a run late because it creates more stress in the rest of your day.
3) Find the positives in the situation. Even when we bring these sorts of concerns up in the nicest way, it’s possible the person on the receiving end will feel hurt. Don’t forget to also talk about what you’re enjoying about your time together. For example, “I’ve loved how you push me when we train, but I’ve noticed the pace is feeling a bit fast for me.”
4) Consider what you’d like the resolution to be. Now, you’re only one part of the conversation, so it may not be resolved in the way you’d like. Your running partner may have a job that leads to last-minute schedule changes, or their goals for pacing no longer line up with yours. However, you can still go into the conversation with an idea for how it can be resolved. For example, adding faster-paced segments of your run is fine, but you don’t want to maintain that pace for the whole run.
5) Be proactive with when you bring up your concerns. Rather than waiting until your partner is late and you’re annoyed, or bring up the speed issue as you’re catching your breath trying to keep up, bring up the topic outside of those moments, ideally before they next happen. If you can’t talk about it beforehand, the next best would be to talk about it after, but ideally not during. When we try to address something while it’s happening, emotions are likely heightened and this will make it harder to come to an ideal resolution.

Running and training with someone else has a lot of positives, but sometimes there are issues in the relationship. Though we can ignore them and hope they go away, communication is often the best way to work toward resolution. And, if you can’t resolve the situation in terms of your training partnership, hopefully through this thoughtful way of communicating you can maintain a relationship outside of the training that you have been doing.

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