Virtual training groups – How to stay connected to your training partners

Like other runners and groups practicing social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic, members of the running community in Missoula, MT know that now is not the time to physically meet for their typical pub race on the last Wednesday of the month.

But Elizabeth Wasserman, program coordinator for Running wild Missoula, made sure that the group was not thirsty, either for the foam or for a friendly competition.

Wasserman has mapped out unique 3-5 mile race routes that start and end at Big Sky Brewing, Western Cider, and other local watering holes. Runners can complete courses, make a purchase (curb or takeout), take a solo selfie, and tag @runwildmissoula when they publish it.

Once they’ve made enough visits to complete a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row on the four by four square Beer Run Bingo card she created, an email to Wasserman allows them to enter a draw for club goods.

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This is one of the many efforts that olympic trials marathoner did to keep people virtually connected while adhering to his state’s anti-assembly guidelines.

“I’ve tried to think of a lot of different ideas because nobody knows how long it’s going to last,” she said. The runner’s world.

If you miss the competition, motivation, or camaraderie that comes with running in a group, there is a lot you can do to recreate the experience while remaining physically distant. Here, some ideas from Wasserman and others.

Sweat together, apart

Group follow-up sessions may seem like a distant memory, but the Cowtown Pioneer Training Program in Fort Worth, Texas, made their spring speed classes virtual. Coach Gary Anderson and Cowtown training coordinator Tamara Ogle asked the 70 registered runners to complete a 5km time trial on their own and used the results to prescribe paces.

Each week, Anderson assigns a sprint session, meeting his athletes on Facebook Live to talk about what it entails, such as ladder training, with intervals of 400 meters, 800 meters, 1200 meters, one mile, and then back down.

Runners then complete training at their own pace and at the prescribed pace (Ogle, for example, often walks around a nearby church parking lot). Then they come back to post their splits or their photos, and to encourage each other. “People have been very positive on this Facebook page, really support each other,” Ogle said.

This week they’re experimenting with a concurrent session – Anderson will be uploaded to Facebook on Thursday at 6 p.m., giving runners halfway advice. The quick intervals could last 30 seconds or three minutes: “we won’t know how long,” Ogle said. “He will tell us when to go and when to stop.” At the end of the six-week session, they will perform another trial to assess their progress.

Other groups record group strength training sessions. Chicago coach Dan Walters of DW running goes to his gym in the basement three times a week. He launches Facebook Live and leads as many as 100+ team athletes who wish to join through a 30 minute bodyweight weight training.

“I keep it simple,” he said. He speaks slowly and frequently, providing cues of form along the way – knees out, hips steady.

Another Chicago-based team, the Second City Track Club, makes 15 minutes abdominal workouts every night on Zoom. “We call it the base hour,” said Chirine Njeim, who had trained for the Rotterdam marathon – and a chance to requalify for the Olympics for her native Lebanon –before this race is rescheduled from April to October.

The runners take turns leading the sessions, which provide opportunities for the Close team to reconnect, Njeim said.

Go to social networks

In addition to running and running in pubs, Run Wild Missoula typically runs in-person training classes twice a week for a half marathon and a full marathon. These were halted at the end of March – “just when everyone started to engage,” Wasserman said.

Instead of group races with over 100 people, Wasserman collaborated with a local race store Runner edge in Week Strava challenges– for example, traveling a given route the fastest, finding the most vertical gain on a coast or creating a Montana-themed GPS art.

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“We offer prizes to local businesses, like cafes and brasseries, either gift cards or merchandise,” she said.

But everyone is a winner – she often reviews and applauds the accomplishments of her runners and has seen them do the same for each other. The group dynamic is not over, “but it has turned into this online platform,” one thumbs up and one comment at a time.

Other clubs run online dating that is purely non-functional in nature. DW Running, for example, hosts a “lunch and chat” Monday afternoon on Zoom. About 10 to 15 athletes, of all ages and backgrounds, take breaks from their workday to check in.

“We’re talking about the virus, we’re talking about running, or we’re not doing it,” Walters said. “The team continues whether I’m here or not. They just like to talk to each other.

Pick up the phone

Walters already had a weekly call with each of the 80 athletes he personally coaches, as did his three assistant coaches. These discussions have become even more meaningful in the face of the uncertainty, he said.

“Some athletes are super motivated right now,” he said. “Others have an identity crisis—I always have a race, I love to train in a group, I fight over here, floating in the ether. “By speaking, he determines the mix of training, rest and support that every athlete needs for optimal mental and physical well-being.

You don’t need to have an expert hotline to take advantage of your phone’s dialing capabilities, said Lisa Reichmann, coach at Run further and faster in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Some of its runners have made a habit of calling each other while running in separate places, instead of meeting in person. “We loved this pivot to adapt to the current situation,” she said. His training partner, Julie Sapper, also takes advantage of his easy days to find his friends.

Learn something new

In addition to the virtual challenges, Wasserman posted YouTube instructional videos on topics such as fueling during the race, hydration and the Body-Glide application. It has an “open door policy”, taking into account the requests for subjects of its athletes. Therefore, if your group has a qualified leader or coach, consider asking them for materials.

Another option: a virtual book club. The Eastern Shore Running Club (ESRC), based on Maryland’s Lower Shore, read Christopher McDougall Running with Sherman: the donkey with a hero’s heart, then met on Zoom to discuss it. It was something they had planned to do in person, but worked just as well online, said Vanessa Junkin, the club’s secretary.

Or, share your own stories. Last month the Chicago Area Runners Association hosted a race-centric Zoom storytelling event hosted by NPR personality Peter Sagal. (You can watch a replay here); participants told stories about running with dogs, beating their best times and conquering the Boston Marathons course. Even if you don’t have a professional radio host to host, you can gather your friends and share stories about your favorite races and racing moments.

Pretend until you get there

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Punches and punches were among the first victims of the pandemic, but Lutz, Florida-based coach Amy Thorton, who leads a group called runCLUB, found a way to safely revive them.

His friend and fellow runner Robert Raymond sent him a photo of him raising his hand and asking him to return the favor in a virtual high-five. “I thought it was so cool, I put on an event that all my runners could participate in over the weekend,” Thornton said.

The Eastern Shore Running Club’s three weekly runs always ended the same way, with a group selfie. After their face-to-face meetings were suspended in March, Junkin began asking runners to post their individual photos to a Facebook thread. Then she stitched them together into a social media collage.

On April 5, many runners posed with medals from the Salisbury Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K, originally scheduled for April 4 and converted to a virtual event. “I think it’s a great way to bring all the smiling faces together and keep us connected, even when we can’t run in a group,” she said.

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In fact, they “come together” even more frequently now – Junkin posts new images daily. “I guess we’ll just keep going until we can get back to our normal group runs and selfies,” she said.

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Milton S. Rodgers

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