If you exercise with a friend you’re more likely to train for longer and less likely to find an excuse to miss a session. In fact, a recent study of 1,000 women found that almost two thirds – 64 per cent – of those who run, go to the gym or attend group exercise classes with friends will push themselves harder than if they went alone.
So what makes the ideal fitness friend? Someone who has a similar fitness level to you with similar goals; someone who doesn’t just say they want to make healthy lifestyle changes but will actually commit to exercising regularly (rather than just talking about it) and someone whose company you enjoy. You don’t have to be besties (although you might become so) but you want someone whose presence is calming or energising – not plain irritating – so you look forward to your training sessions together.
Planning a fitness date with a friend sounds like a perfect scenario – catch up on gossip and get fit together, but chances are (unless you became friends through a shared love of your sport) neither of you will take the fitness side seriously enough and you’ll end up flaking on each other.
So where to find a non-flakey fitness buddy?
Dan Roberts, celebrity personal trainer, points out that you’re more likely to find people to exercise with when you’re already exercising together – or at least alongside each other – rather than staying in, making plans that never quite turn into action. He recommends exercise classes as one of the “best options for finding potential exercise buddies. These tend to be quite social and the few minutes before and after a class is an ideal way to find someone you can perhaps practice moves with for five minutes and maybe start training together. “
His other course of action is weights room spotting. “Spotting is when you act as temporary coach and help someone with their last couple of reps of a lift. When you see someone of similar strength doing some heavy-ish lifting, ask if they need ‘a spot’ (assuming you know how to do it!). Then when you need help, you can get their help.” Gumtree is full of ads for people looking for gym buddies to do just that, and keep each other motivated.
Roberts adds: “As with cultivating any relationship, start things off slow in a natural way. Full blown exercise buddies don’t appear overnight. Most people, train better with others, so I would advise working on getting a couple of different buddies you can train with.”
Running clubs are a good way to find fitness friends. “Committing to run with other people means you’re way less likely to skip a run simply because they’re expecting you to show up and you can’t let them down,” says running club aficionado Bethan Taylor who blogs about physical and mental health at aprettyplacetoplay.com.
“You’re also more likely to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and achieve things you didn’t think were possible because you’ve got the support and encouragement of your running buddies. Run clubs are an amazing way to make friends.”
Your fitness buddy could be sitting across the desk from you at work. Exercising with a work mate makes sense – no convoluted and constantly cancelled plans about where and when to meet, just going to a class together in your lunch hour or going for a run straight after work, no excuses, and you may find your workout bond makes office life more interesting.
You can find fitness friends online, by searching for local groups for your sport, or by using one of the tailor-made sites. Findafitnessbuddy.co.uk is a site “where you can find like minded people near you, that share your fitness goals, love your sports, and have the same fitness levels as you”. Sports range from mixed martial arts to golf to just looking for the motivation of a regular gym partner and you can search by location and fitness level (beginner to the alarming sounding ‘elite’).
Myfitnessfriend.co.uk uses similar criteria (location, sport and level) and is “the place to find a local workout partner, involved in the same sports and of a similar level of attainment and fitness. This site aims to match people who can support and encourage each other to go beyond their targets and enjoy their fitness pursuits further through sharing successes with a friend.”
Whether you want to meet new yoga, running or gym mates, you’re sure to find future fitness friends to help you reach your goals and keep exercise fun.