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Buddy up

It’s all about team work

Getting fit and reaching your health goals is a personal and individual thing, right?

Well, while it is true that no-one else can do your fitness work for you; no-one else can get you up, put your gym kit on and walk you into the gym, there is a lot to be said for team work once you are there.

A growing body of research says that by teaming up with a fitness buddy, working out as a couple, or joining a fitness group will help motivate and inspire you to work harder, more regularly and you are less likely to shirk an exercise session.

Getting support

Dr Wayne Andersen, managing director and medical director of US-based health and lifestyle company, Take Shape for Life, said. “In my 10 years of experience evaluating what creates long-term health-and-fitness success, the single most important factor is having a support system.”

And our very own manager here at Kelsey Kerridge, Liane Shadrack, agrees. “An exercise partner can provide support, accountability, motivation and, in some cases, healthy competition. They can take on the role of coach, teammate, even sounding board, all of which will help you through your workout.

“It’s not for everyone,” Shadrack added. “There are some people who like to get ‘in the zone’ and want to train alone, but for many, many people, especially those new to the gym, having a friend and support is really beneficial.”

Choosing the right fitness buddy

There are some important factors to take into consideration before you rush off to recruit the first person you see as a fitness buddy. Make sure you join forces with someone who has similar goals and commitments to you. There is no point choosing to exercise with someone who is at a radically different level of fitness. If they do not want to work as hard as you, it will be distracting and de-motivating; if they are much fitter, you may be pushed too hard and will end up ill or injured.

It is also important to assess the type of relationship you have with your fitness buddy. It must be someone who you like and wouldn’t want to disappoint or let down. If you feel you have a responsibility and a commitment to your fitness buddy, then you are less likely to back out of a session or make excuses.

There are three main successful fitness partnerships:

The buddy system

The buddy system is usually a couple of friends or colleagues, who train together and have developed a regular routine. This is a really good system for people who have shared goals – weight loss or training for an event, for example.

In the gym, a buddy can also provide practical support, acting as a spotter during a weights session, timing you on a circuit-based work out, and providing some healthy competition.

Watch out for: becoming so friendly that you spend too much time joking around or gossiping. Also beware becoming too competitive – this could have a detrimental impact on your friendship.

The group

This is a small group who generally workout at the same time and in the same vicinity. It might be the regular members of the spin class, the faces you always see in the boxercise session or the people who turn up for the weekly running group from the gym.

It works because it instils a feeling of “we’re all in this together”; if you look across the room and see the effort on the faces of those around you, the motivation to work hard becomes very strong. The group normalises the effort you are putting in, which an outsider without that connection might find extreme.

Watch out for: sometimes a group’s needs do not reflect your own. Make sure that you are in the group for the right reasons – to hit your fitness goals – not just because you like the people in the group and feel comfortable there.

The couple

There are many advantages to working out with your partner. On a practical level you can travel to the gym together, you can schedule gym sessions to fit in with your lives, you might use gym childcare facilities while you work out.

There is also the emotional support of being in the gym with someone who will praise you and recognise your efforts. Couples might not be training together, but the security of knowing you have an ally in the gym is a powerful tool in raising levels of confidence.

Watch out for: If you are prone to bicker or get too competitive, then this could be a toxic situation. If this is the case, exercise separately.

Finally, you do not have to limit yourself to one fitness partner. It could be that a weights session is spent with your gym buddy, you ride out with a cycling group and you play tennis with your partner. As with all aspects of fitness, variety is key.