How to be a Good Training Partner

Good training partners are gold. How can you be a great one?

One of my favorite training partners!

One of my favorite training partners!

1.       Communicate

Either the day before or via text, let teammates know what your plan is or that you’re on board with their plan for training times, warm-up times, etc. If you’re doing rehab with somebody, communicate with them, too! If you’re the leader on the team, communicate coach’s goals and wishes with your training partners. Just don’t be bossy about it!

Be on time.

Respect everybody’s time (including your own) by showing up when you’re supposed to. If that means you arrive early to stretch before warming up with everyone else, cool! Do that. Go to sleep early so you can make it to 6am lifting on time. Nobody wants that to last longer than it needs to!

If you’re not on time, don’t make people wait.

We all run late sometimes. Go back to step one (communicate). Recognize that you’re not the only one training that day, and give the group the freedom to forge ahead without you. You can catch up!

We both spent a lot of extra time watching and filming each others’ sessions over the years.

We both spent a lot of extra time watching and filming each others’ sessions over the years.

2.       Practice Selflessness and Self-Awareness

That last bit (don’t make people wait) is a good lead into this topic. As elite athletes, we all have a certain amount of ego. You can still be confident and put forth excellent efforts in practice. But when it comes to team dynamics, you need to exhibit self-awareness.

Selflessness: Grab javelins or dumbbells for other people. Watch and encourage teammates at a throwing session you have nothing to do with. Go to a scary appointment with a teammate just to keep them company. Show up to pack the javelins for travel, even if it’s just so you can grab a bite to eat afterward. Put somebody’s equipment away just because you want to. Listen to a training partner’s favorite music for once. If you have lengthy technical questions for your coach, schedule time away from practice with him or her rather than taking up a lot of everyone’s time for just you. Be a team player within a training session. Something someone else does or a fellow athlete’s random input might answer your question anyway.

Self-Awareness: Pay attention to how things you say or do are interpreted and adjust your behavior. Figure out how you can best contribute to the group with the special skills that only you have! My voice just gets super high when I try to yell for someone in the weight room, and that’s not helpful or inspiring, so I tone it down a bit and let the yelling be done by other people. Russ and I used to talk about how his male training partners could yell and trash talk him to fire him up, but if I tried that no one would be comfortable, LOL. I try to really pay attention to things people are doing and give more specific feedback than just, “Good job.” I find that I appreciate, “The pronation of your left hand on that last throw was way better than the one before” much more than, “I liked that throw,” so why not be specific when I’m commenting on how I’m grateful for peoples’ roles in my life, too? Do some self-reflection, or maybe even ask your training partners how you can help more. Then do that.

Share more than just sport…maybe just not as much as we do. Photo by  Paul Merca .

Share more than just sport…maybe just not as much as we do. Photo by Paul Merca.

3.       Contribute positivity.

Move training times around so that you can train with people if possible. Do not undermine your coach to fellow training partners. Be a friend, not just a training partner: Have fun stuff to talk about that isn’t just track and field during warm-ups. All sports all the time is exhausting! Bond over other things. What podcasts are you really enjoying? Do you have a favorite new TV show? Share an interesting tidbit from a class or your new favorite joke.

If you’re having a bad day, remember that the beauty of training partners is that you can ride the wave of their high during your low. Your frustrating, terrible days are allowed to suck, and you might be surprised to learn that other people are aware that you’re struggling without you going on and on about it! Your training partners know you’re suffering, but don’t want to help you spiral: Let their positivity carry you through on those days. Things WILL get better. Then, when they’re having one of those days, you can carry them.

Maddie  is always on time for training and fun.

Maddie is always on time for training and fun.

Do things you don’t need to sometimes. Stretch a friend for 10 minutes. Sit next to the treatment table during some painful soft tissue work and make your friend laugh instead of cry. Talk someone through a tough time you’ve had if they’re experiencing something similar. Be supportive. Being a good training partner is really just being a good friend, and we all know how much we appreciate those. Sometimes, tough things happen in relationships, but the closer you are as training partners and friends, the more incentive there will be to work through difficulties and come out the other side a stronger team.

I’ve already said that I’ve been so lucky to have excellent training partners throughout my career. I wanted to write this blog to further highlight the value of that special relationship. Even though I’ve been training and competing for a long, long time, it still feels great to show up and know that people I’m around have similar goals, yes, but are also just awesome people enjoying the ride. Contributing to that positivity can be so fun. Go get it.

The Magic of Good Training Partners

I just got home to Colorado from two weeks in Chula Vista, California, my original post-collegiate training home. Russ and I moved there coming up on ten years ago. I loved it. Thought it was magical. It is again.

San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park when we visited Chula Vista for Spring Break 2009!

San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park when we visited Chula Vista for Spring Break 2009!

I’ve talked a lot in the last year+ about how fantastic my coaching situation is. I love love love love love working with Jamie and Dana. They are two of those rare, fabulous people in my life that just get me. You know the ones, that you always have some extra five minutes of conversation to cover before leaving each others’ side. Who say aloud what you’re thinking before you can form the words. Who are there for you in the hardest of times, and proudest of you in the best of times as a result. The ones who surprise you often with statements and observations that burst forth belly laughter. Absolute gems of friends.

As far as javelin is concerned, Dana and Jamie are all I need. The way we’re working together has my focus so much more locked in than it has been in years. All of us being together in Chula Vista on this trip resulted in some of the best practices of my whole life. I can feel performance building even more than I did last year, because I know our system works, and the technique isn’t quite as new as it was in 2018. Sunny and 70 San Diego conditions help everything. But let me tell you about an X factor that I can’t believe I keep forgetting about.

Good training partners are what I want.

I have had many fabulous training partners over my years as a javelin thrower. Let me take you back.

High School:

Rachel Baardson. Lisa Haakensted. Adam Mobley. Kate Helms. People who enjoyed javelin, sure, but also just made me laugh. After the silence of swimming and intensity of basketball in high school, track practice was just such a time of friendship. Sure, we worked hard, but we also talked and laughed and enjoyed outside the whole time. My high school track friends were the original training partners who are friends. Friends who just happen to be training partners.

College:

Lindsey Blaine. Quietly focused. Someone I, to this day, don’t feel cool enough to be friends with. A woman with relentless drive. I always just wanted to impress her. In training and in life.

Jim Schwingendorf. My dear, dear friend, fellow BGRite and party crasher, and neighbor. Whose Dad was my Catch Phrase soulmate. Jim nicknamed me “Knee Sweat.” Always ready with a joke and always giving 1000%. It made me so proud when Jim and Steve Carlson both made regionals in 2008!

Betsy/Laura/Elaine/Kylie. Four sweet freshmen when I returned from Beijing for my fifth year. Their endless energy in their pursuit of knowledge was so special at the end of my time as a Boilermaker!

Purdue T&F Banquet 2008: Me, Jim, Steve, Lindsey!

Purdue T&F Banquet 2008: Me, Jim, Steve, Lindsey!

Professional:

Mike Hazle. That guy. We met in Beijing in 2008 and then were the best training partners in the world in Chula Vista for three years. So unlike each other but somehow perfect together. One of the most loyal people I’ve ever known. He knew exactly how to fire me up and I like to think I was good at calming him down (sometimes he needed that). The end of his career and what sometimes feels like the beginning of mine overlapped, and I couldn’t be more grateful for his leadership and friendship. He was creative in his approach to training and appreciated every day, which taught me to do the same, regardless of how we felt physically. Jamie still writes “Hazle squats” into my lifts sometimes. In May of 2012, Mike suffered an elbow injury, shifting his focus from a second Olympic Games to his other passionate aspiration of serving in the military. I didn’t understand at the time that he was serious, but we started rucking from the runway to the weight room instead of walking. His goal of BUD/S was halted by serious ankle issues that required surgery (on both) before going an alternate route. His ankle surgeon was my ACL surgeon, so we’d pass each other in the doctor’s office parking lot that Fall, both of our dreams shifted into something we didn’t really see coming, and exchange the same encouraging words we always had. I was proud when he finally won a USATF National Championship in 2011 after four consecutive silvers. I loved being at meets together in Europe. But my pride in him as a U.S. Veteran leaks out my eyeballs when I think about it too much.

After my knee surgery and Russ’s and my move to Colorado in 2012, my focus kind of had to shift to myself. I went back to school. I was just healing. We got engaged at the end of 2013 and then I bought a house and then we renovated that house ourselves. I spent time traveling to see Ty by myself in NOLA and Texas, and loved the freedom of those trips. Russ was my periodic training partner and travel companion until he retired in 2016. What I’m saying is that I’ve spent a lot of time inadvertently learning how to train alone. And I do simply love the training. I do cherish time focusing on my job, listening to music, by myself.

I’ve visited Chula Vista at least once a year since we moved away. It is always fun to see Jamie and feel supported when he comes to watch my throwing sessions. But now there is this little tribe of training partners that make the place an unmatched treasure again.

Mike Shuey (Shuey in this blog, for clarity). Intentionally light-hearted but obviously earnest in his pursuits. A newly-minted 80m thrower with a lot left in the tank. Very tough: He’s had some of the weirder injuries I’ve heard of and shaken them right off. A family man with great comedic timing and sometimes-too-good sarcasm. He came to Colorado last year and Russ and I took him fishing, plus I got to learn that we practice well together when he came to the Academy with me to throw with Dana. Very athletic, and getting more so all the time. Questionable musical taste within workouts, but that is something we absolutely have in common.

Max Rohn. Fellow Coloradan. Many would call him a hero. Someone who fully appreciates cool life experiences that have come his way through uncool life experiences. New enough to the javelin throw to want to soak up everything he can, and brings an attitude of gratitude to every session. A strong person without being stubborn where he doesn’t need to be. Up for debate on anything. Excellent mannerisms, periodically including my favorite, finger guns. An old soul with a young zest for this Track and Field adventure that he started later than most, and is likely enjoying more than many as a result. Apparently some of the best humans come from Penn State (Shuey coached Max a bit while they were both still there. See also: Jimmy, Darrell.).

Brent Lagace. A periodic companion for Shuey in throwing sessions. Lovely, relaxed energy to be around.

Justin Phongsavanh. Great hair, and great hair flips because he probably knows it, haha. Has the best surprised face right before he laughs out loud. We can talk about electricity and dogs. Justin is a seated thrower, and Dana and I were both humbled and intrigued to try it out and give him our input. His questions challenged the very way I think about how my able body throws. I’ve been around para-athletes for a long time, but not many para-javelin throwers. They’ve sharpened my focus on how best to do what we all do.

Erica Wheeler. One of my original javelin heroes. This ’96 Olympian is the Paralympic javelin coach at the CVEATC, and therefore works with Max and Justin. Still the Washington State High School Record Holder, I’d seen her name for two years on record books before watching her win Nationals in 2003, when I was there for the very first time to compete as a junior. I just thought, “She’s from where I’m from. I want to do that.” It is so much fun to interact with her in a collaborative coaching capacity, and Dana agrees. We had an absolute blast putting our brains together and geeking out on the javelin.

I spent two awesome weeks with that group of great people, plus my two coaches. I know that Russ and I moved away from Chula Vista for good reasons, and those all remain, but knowing that such an excellent community exists there again means I’ll be back more often.

The bottom line in an ideal training situation is to love what you do. I LOVE training. I love the process of making my body feel good and perform through movement. I love the knowledge that every little thing I do physically is contributing to my ultimate goals. I love being outside and active, often, even when it’s cold in Colorado. I love the necessity of good hydration and adequate nutrition. I love working hard: Asking that extra little bit of my muscles when they’re burning and shaking, putting mind over matter. I love the feeling of surprising explosive power and stretch reaction. I can do that on my own and enjoy the heck out of it. But I forget how much better it is, together. Every track athlete is internally motivated. But there is just something special about celebrating other peoples’ success alongside your own. The X factor of fabulous training partners isn’t something I imagined I would find again. The right people, who yell strength into your muscles when the barbell suddenly gets heavier. Who can’t help but whoop with you at that tiny javelin dot that you made rocket away. Who join in on celebration dances, the more ridiculous the better.

This might all sound really sappy. But I’ve been around a long time, and the magic of good training partners is a big deal. It probably means more to me than it does to them too, and that’s okay. I also realize that I am now the Mike Hazle in the Chula Vista equation: The perhaps wise, sometimes ridiculous, older athlete. I don’t live there anymore, but training there for ten years now makes it feel like mine, and if I can periodically drop in and meld back into that great community, I can’t wait to contribute again in some way.

Have you had great training partners? Did you tell them how much you appreciated their role in your career? You should.

Next week: How to be a good training partner! I’ll flip the script of this blog. More practical advice than just gushing and reminiscing. 😊