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26 October 2010

Fitness buddy system works

Fitness loves company, whether it's a running buddy, a spotter in the weight room, or a pal to bolster your courage as you tackle that first yoga class.

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Fitness loves company, whether it's a running buddy, a spotter in the weight room, or a pal to bolster your courage as you tackle that first yoga class.

Experts say ‘buddying’ up can make your workout easier to stick with and harder to miss.

"People don't necessarily work out for social reasons, but that social factor can keep them working out," said Kerri O'Brien of Life Fitness, the equipment manufacturer.

"And stopping becomes more difficult when you have to overcome those social bonds."

Sharing goals strengthens bonds

Whether you're trying to lose weight or train for a marathon, O'Brien said sharing goals strengthens bonds, as well as resolve. A survey of 1,000 adult exercisers conducted by Life Fitness found that 27% of women prefer to work out with a friend.

"As with any new habit, if you have the opportunity to talk and make decisions with another person, you're more likely to stay with it," she said.

Jessica Matthews of the American Council on Exercise, says it's all about accountability.

Finding the motivation

"One of the perceived barriers to exercise is motivation: getting it there, getting it done," she said. "If you know someone's waiting on you, it might prompt you to exercise on a day when you would not if you were doing it solo."

Matthews said one place to find that workout partner is in a group fitness class.

"A lot of women who begin with group fitness classes evolve to working with a partner outside of class."

She's often seen women who go to the gym set up a little circuit among themselves, using dumbbells, resistance bands, and leg presses in rotation.

"And in the weight room you see men spotting one another, watching each other's form, giving constructive feedback," she said.

Nothing like a friend

Adam David, owner of the Viva Vinyasa yoga studio in Manhattan, thinks there's nothing like a friend to put your workout in perspective.

"When you're working with a friend there's a level of enthusiasm that's relaxing but productive," said David, a veteran yoga instructor.

"Your ambition is balanced with the sense of humour to realise that it's not that critical."

David said the desire to beg off is more easily expressed by his private clients.

Groups better than solo

"In a group no one's going to say that," he said. "The group environment doesn't indulge sloth."

O'Brien suggests finding a partner with the same goals and general level of ability, "so you're pushing each other, as opposed to one person pulling the other through the workout."

She cautions that this bond, like any other, needs tending.

"Working out should strengthen the relationship, not stress it," she said, "So choose times convenient for both, and try not to overpromise each other."

Communication is key

Crucial to maintenance is what O'Brien calls that open respect conversation.

"Discuss what your goals are, and if they change, share them with each other," she said. "Check in with each other at every workout."

Of course, the buddy system is not for everyone. Experts agree that co-existing with the socially inspired are the lone wolfs who assiduously covet their workouts as "me" time.

But for those keen on connection, the rewards can be sweet.

"When people get their first head stand, the look on their face is 'I did it,'" David said. "Like any accomplishment, that's nice to share."

(Reuters Health, Dorene Internicola, October 2010)

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