Finding the Right Training Partner

New mom Shaunna Payne Gold was working out alone in the wee hours of the morning and needed someone who was okay with running at 5 a.m. on a regular basis. She posted for an early morning running partner in her local Black Girls RUN! Facebook group.

“Here we go again,” thought Crystal Pringle. Crystal had been running alone in the wee hours for years, and had seen many with good intentions try to run at Zero Dark Thirty. Nevertheless, Crystal took Shaunna up on her offer, thinking, this’ll last four weeks.

Five years, several marathons, and many triathlons later, they’re here to tell you their story, and to help you to find your perfect training partner. Here it is, from Shaunna and Crystal…

Now we hate to break your hearts, but there is no perfect training partner. But your perfect training partner is out there, somewhere, probably looking for you. Each week we post our photos on social media, on both our personal pages as well as in large groups of triathlon enthusiasts. Inevitably people comment with, “I wish I had a training partner…” “I can’t find anyone who can workout with me consistently…” “Where are you located? I need a training buddy,” or some variation.

Although we lucked into a rhythm through a Facebook post, here’s what we encourage you to look for if you’re in need of a faithful training partner:

Your Training Partner Should Have Similar Fitness Goals for the Year

It makes sense that you may fall in and out of relationships with training groups and partners if your goals no longer match. When we first began, running was our primary activity. Whether it was a quick 5K run or a 20-miler prior to a marathon, we started out as one-dimensional athletes. As our goals changed, our needs changed and therefore we needed others with similar fitness goals. There’s no sense in feeling pressured to run when you know that you’re moving toward triathlon. Plus, the sad truth is that you’ll run yourself ragged by maintaining a single-sport training group for a social outlet while also training toward multi-sport goals. Don't spread yourself too thin, or your training will suffer for it. Find someone who is shooting for the same races, mileage, frequency, or event as you are.

Your Training Partner Should Be In Regular Communication With You

It is critical for training partners to have regular communication that is consistent, open and honest. We communicate about the races in which to compete; our goals, training plans, concerns, set backs and progress. We discuss and share information regarding training gear, nutrition, and coordinate our training schedules. It’s the norm for us to set the training schedule, times, and locations on Sundays for the following week.

Your Training Partner Should Be A Gentle Bully to Push You

Even the strongest people want to quit sometimes. You’ll need someone along the way who will push you to get out of the bed when you’re not feeling it, to crank out that last rep at your PR lifting weight, and that last mile of a tough training session. Although you may not get the warm fuzzies when this person pushes you to find more gas in an empty tank, that’s the whole point – you will have weak days when you need your training partner to push you; the same will be required from you as well.

Case in point, our last brick session prior to our first 70.3. After an hour of swimming and 3 hours of cycling, we had a 2-hour run left on a beautiful day. I (Shaunna) was exhausted while reaching for my Camelback and prayed that Crystal would call it quits. Apparently neither one of us wanted to wave the white flag so we toughed it out. If a training partner wasn’t there, we both would have gotten our celebratory Slurpees sooner than we did. A training partner has the ability to push you beyond your limits just through his or her presence.

Your Training Partner Should Be an Accountability Partner and a Truth Teller

A good training partner will keep you accountable and honest. One or both of you will get tired physically and emotionally. A training partner will give you the push you need get up, hit the pool, jump on the bike, or start that run. We can rationalize to ourselves to skip a workout or not challenge ourselves to capacity if left to our own devices. However, knowing that we have someone waiting for us, or someone we don’t want to offer excuses to, we get out and get our training done. Having a training partner who knows you well is like looking in the mirror. They know when you are not giving your all. A training partner will call you out when you slack off and be your biggest cheerleader when you swim two seconds faster.

Your Training Partner Should be Available, Yet Able to Go It Alone When Necessary

Even with a training partner, there will be times when we will have to train alone or have a different training schedule due to work, school, or family commitments. Though we are not dependent upon each other to train, having a training partner with comparable availability is great for those sessions when we’d like some companionship, need to talk about accomplishments, offer suggestions, or work through a training issue. Having a training partner with similar availability can also be a safety factor. We’ve all heard there’s safety in numbers, especially when “joggers” seem to have a knack for “discovering” things in the woods.

If nothing else, your training partner should be someone you genuinely enjoy being around, even in tough situations. You would be shocked how many strong relationships form based on the amount of time you spend with someone. Make sure you choose one who you are actually looking forward to seeing during the week. You’ll know who those are when you miss them on your solo swim, ride, or run. Remember, to find a good training partner, you must be a good training partner. So make yourself available, situate yourself in circles with similar athletes, and make connections that are mutually beneficial to your goals. Training partners are not mandatory, but they are crucial to elevating your game.

Crystal & Shaunna have been training partners for almost 5 years, waking up at #zerodarkthirty which is usually between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Both are Ironman 70.3 finishers and multiple-time marathoners. Questions or comments? Reach them at and