Yes, that’s right, you heard it here. I’m telling you that you’re allowed to train alone. I’m using this post to rally against the prevalent idea that you’re leaving pounds on the table if you don’t surround yourself with a loud group of lifters screaming at you to complete that PR.
The extrovert ideal
In Quiet, Susan Cain makes a good case that we tend to idolize the extrovert in the United States. Introverts are often seen as shy, anti-social or designated as geeks and nerds. Whereas extroverts are seen as go-getters and passionate individuals. I think in some ways this has infiltrated lifting culture as well. We see it a lot especially in advice threads: “if you really want to improve find a group of like minded individuals to train with!”
I will fully admit that this advice has merit. You will learn a lot from other experienced individuals, especially if you’re not the type to go out and research on your own. However, I would argue that those who would prefer not to train in a group are the ones more likely to furiously research anything they have questions about!
The individual’s advantage
To further my argument I would to detail several advantages the individual training alone has. The biggest advantage is certainly in the time department. Anyone who has trained with others knows that there tends to be a lot of chatting between sets. Not that socializing isn’t fun. It can be. But when it’s time to go to work you don’t want to have to wait for your training partner to quit flapping their gums. To add to that, the time required to switch out weights and rack setup between individuals (assuming you’re sharing the same rack) can add up as well.
I think another huge advantage is just focus. When it’s me in my garage I’ve got no distraction, no one shouting at me. It’s just me and the bar. I think this gives us a better opportunity to focus on movement quality and also performance metrics like RPE. It’s a lot easier to let the movement break down if you’re in a loud environment.
Lastly I think we’re a lot less likely to do stupid shit. In public and around others there’s always the temptation to show off. Some of us can temper that temptation but others have more issue with it. If you’re one of those, training alone can ensure that you stick to your programming and not do something you’ll regret in the future.
The last word
You can absolutely learn a ton from individuals more experienced than yourself. Seek out those stronger than yourself. But don’t feel like you have to drive two hours out of your way to train with a group because you’re not going to get stronger otherwise. There are plenty of super strong individuals that train by themselves. A lot of very valuable learning can be done via books and, obviously, the internet. A lot of effective training can be done on your own.