Imagine this scene. Your friend arrives at your front door in running gear, raring to go and you say “Aw, sorry, I don’t really feel like it.” It’s never going to happen, is it?
When you’re lazing on the sofa TV surfing, you might say that to yourself. But can you imagine giving your friend that sort of excuse? And this is precisely why exercising with a friend can be a very good idea – more motivation, no feeble excuses and of course, once you’re out together, you’ll remember it’s fun to catch up while being active together.
The key thing is to pick your fit friend wisely, points out Kathryn Freeland, celebrity personal trainer and founder of Absolute Fitness. “You need a friend who’s reliable, who’s a similar level of fitness and who wants to do an activity you’ll enjoy at a time that will work for you,” she says. “Beware, of making lots of plans, going, “Yay, it’s going to be great” – and then nothing happens.”
So getting fit with a friend gives you a moral obligation to turn up. Plus, you’re going to push yourself that bit harder when you’re with someone else, even it’s jogging to the next lamp post instead of copping out and walking. A recent UK study of women’s exercise behaviour found that 64% of women who train with their friends were more likely to push their workouts to the limit than those who exercised on their own.
“I love exercising with my friends,” says runner and blogger Bethan Taylor. “Heading out for a run or to do some circuits in the park is a fab – and free – way to catch up and spend quality time with your mates. If you’re with your friends you’re more likely to try that little bit harder as you can motivate each other when things start to feel tough, with the massive advantage of knowing which type of encouragement works best because you know each other so well.
A sporting challenge among friends can help you to push each other and stretch your limits. Why not enter a charity 5k race together or go to a local parkrun together? Bethan says: “If you want to have extra fun at a race grab a friend – you’ll pace each other, gently encourage each other when things get tough and act as a personal cheer squad.”
You’ll also find that sharing personal fitness goals with a friend brings you closer – and keeps you going. Interestingly, more than 40% of participants drop a fitness course shortly after it begins if they attend on their own. But if they work out with a friend, the dropout rate decreases to 6%. When you achieve a personal best on your own, of course, it feels fantastic. But when you’ve got a ‘personal cheer squad’ friend, as Bethan calls it, who know how hard you’ve worked to conquer your inner sofa slug, it feels even better. And when you have an off day, the understanding from a friend can make things better and silence your personal ‘I can’t do it’ demons.
When you’re doing it with a friend, exercise is also a lot more fun – which again, means you’re more likely to stick at it and make fitness a regular and enjoyable habit. Laughing and chatting distract you and when you’ve got the support of a friend, you’re more likely to up the ante and try something new. Can you really see yourself doing sit ups or bench presses in the park by yourself without feeling silly? Dangling from a jungle gym in the park without a friend egging you on?
You should also think about exercising with your partner. Studies have shown that couples who exercise together regularly are happier in their relationship: working out together strengthens the relationship and enhances sexual attraction. You don’t have to get sweaty in the gym together. What about a weekend cycle ride, or joining a fun new class, like learning to salsa. Having a laugh, learning something new together and getting fit together. What’s not to like?