ST Run: Run with others to derive benefits from group dynamic

Runners enjoying the first training session for The Straits Times Run in the City last year. Running as part of a group means an athlete can take advantage of the collective synergy created by the presence of others.
Runners enjoying the first training session for The Straits Times Run in the City last year. Running as part of a group means an athlete can take advantage of the collective synergy created by the presence of others.PHOTO: RUNNING DEPARTMENT

Running is a sport often done in solitude. No one is required to be physically present alongside you, and no communication with anyone is required.

More often than not, you are alone as you experience the fatigue that slowly builds up as you navigate through your running course. It is just you, covering the distance in front of you with your two feet.

However, running does not always have to be done in solitude. Have you ever felt that challenging or mundane tasks become easier or more enjoyable when done in a group?

For example, do you find that studying becomes more efficient and interesting when done with a group of friends? Or does time seem to pass much quicker when queuing up with your family at a famous restaurant?

Similarly, by immersing yourself in a group while you run, you can take advantage of the synergy created by the group.

KOHLER EFFECT

This synergy created by the group is known as the Kohler Effect. It is a phenomenon that occurs when a person works harder as a member of a group than when working alone.

In a study published in The Society of Behavioural Medicine in 2012, it was found that cyclists who were accompanied by a partner on a stationary bike at a pre-determined effort were able to sustain their cycling for twice as long as when they cycled alone. More surprisingly, their perceived amount of effort put in was no higher than when they cycled alone.

These profound effects of group exercise are postulated to be due to the innate human nature of social comparison.

DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Due to the Kohler Effect, when one is paired to exercise with someone who is slightly fitter than oneself, one would tend to strive to match or exceed the performance of that other person.

Running regularly with someone who is slightly faster than you would allow you to achieve performance and motivation gains, all while putting in the same perceived amount of effort.

This sounds like a win-win situation, but do exercise some caution when running with a partner or group. Pushing yourself to match your peers constantly may lead to injuries over time, caused by excessive forces on your tendons, muscles and bones. Pacing yourself based on your overall perceived level of exertion is key.

GROUPS IN SINGAPORE

Personally, most of my runs are done alone. I either run home alone as part of my commute after work, or just simply run solo through the trails. However, I still meet up with friends to get in a run together on weekends - and you should too.

The Straits Times Run and its official training partner, runONE, will be working with The Running Department (www.facebook.com/runningdepartment), one of Singapore's largest and free running groups, to help prepare you. Details will be announced soon.

But you can still join The Running Department every Wednesday and Saturday at the respective training venues. The programme schedule will help you run as a group and improve together.

Remember, teamwork makes dreams work.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Run with others to derive benefits from group dynamic'. Print Edition | Subscribe