Training: Way More Fun with an Awesome Team

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While my experience with team sports as an adult has largely been confined to Y-Tri, I am now planning to find a running group to help prepare for my first full marathon this fall in Philadelphia.  It’ll also help me prepare for Open World Racing’s next trip to Poland this October.  

If you’ve thought about picking up a new sport or activity or adding a little structure to your training regimen, I’d strongly recommend joining a team.  No guarantees that the team will be cool as Y-Tri, but I’ve thought of a few things joining a team is likely to bring you, no matter the coolness level:

From a training perspective, joining a team is a great way to provide some structure to your training plan.  Elise and I had both competed in a few triathlons prior to joining Y-Tri, but mostly just winged it and had done okay in the races.  But after several months of spinning with Sari on Tuesdays mornings (holy shit); running with coaches Tim, Dustin, Rhonda, and Steve on Thursdays; a few brick workouts (biking followed by a run); and a couple open water swims on our own, we’ve both picked up our game (Elise much more than me – she placed 3rd in the women’s overall category at our most recent race!).

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The most pleasant surprise so far of 2018 has been how much fun Elise and I have had being members of Y-Tri, otherwise known as the Anthony Bowen National Capital Area YMCA Triathlon Team.  I’m not sure about you, but I haven’t been on a sports team since high school, and when I was, it wasn’t nearly as fun.  Actually, it was horrible: my experience largely consisted of playing football in Ohio and enduring relentless physical blows from my oversized opponents and teammates. 

In contrast, being a part of Y-Tri has been a positive and enriching experience.  One could not ask for a better head coach than Larry – also the Y-Tri founder.  For him, Y-Tri has been an 18-year labor of love and it shows. Y-Tri combines all of the best things about healthy physical competition, training with a purpose, and being part of an awesome group of people who are some of the kindest, sincerest, most supportive, and last but not least, masterful athletes in a very difficult sport.

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Along with structure, joining a team provides accountability.  I’ve been known to sleep in a morning or two rather than face a cold morning workout, but recognizing that I needed to keep pace with my rapidly-improving teammates provided a much-needed incentive to get up this past race season.  Inherent in the accountability factor, for me at lest, has been a sense of competition – we can all race the clock, but having that other person right behind or in front of you is a huge motivation to dig deep and keep pushing for more.

Working within a team framework is also a great opportunity to improve your technical skills.  Swimming is the clearest example of when small technical improvements can improve your performance.  But I’ve learned the most about cycling this season:  our spin classes and group rides gave me an opportunity to focus on maintaining a smooth circular motion when pedaling and a proper stance on the bike. 

While the above aspects will help improve your training, there is nothing like racing with supportive teammates to really give your performance a boost.  And that’s where Y-Tri’s real strength lies: a hearty cheering section!  A team that will cheer on all of its members – and pretty much everyone else too – is priceless on race-day, when the heat and other factors sap your morale, good teammates will help carry you through.

Joining a team is a great way to connect with other like-minded people, especially if you’ve just relocated. Y-Triers are socially and environmentally conscious and health-minded in addition to being triathletes- just my kind of people.  

Teammates that are up for training with you are also likely to be ready-to-go adventure buddies.  Those that have been in the area a while can provide some grounding for the more transient among us, and are often good sources of information about other fun outdoor activities in the area.  Not to mention, teammates often have day jobs and other affiliations and can sometimes be a good gear hookup – our Y-Tri Facebook page and email distro has been used to buy and sell bikes and lots of other gear.

Joining a team can enhance your training, build your technical skills make your race experience more memorable, and deepen your connection to your community – each a great reason on its own.  Elise and I are already committed to continuing with Y-Tri next year, but in the meantime, are looking forward to all of the adventures to be had with our new friends!  Give it a shot – find a team to train with near you!