Exercise buddies or running solo?

31 January

Sometimes, the solitude of the road is all the push that you need to get your running shoes on. For others, it’s all about sharing the pain. For our resident nutritionist, Issy Lowndes, a mixture of the two works best. So, we asked her to share her thoughts on the benefits of exercising on your own versus with a companion…

I would choose to run on my own, but cycle with one companion and have often wondered if this is character trait – do extraverts love to exercise in groups and introverts on their own?  There isn’t an exact answer, or a right or wrong, but from experience I think there are benefits to both.

It depends on what you want to get out of your exercise or hobby; my life is generally frantic and noisy, so a run on my own in the great, quiet outdoors is the best form of escapism. If I am struggling with my fitness levels, I do listen to music to keep me motivated, but really my ultimate run is a crisp winter’s day, blue sky, silence and just me – the polar opposite to the rest of my life!

Cycling, on the other hand, is different. I tend to be out for much longer, so a companion keeps me going, helps me stay alert and acts as a motivator, as well as entertainer! I find I can’t talk and run very well, but I can certainly cycle and chat, perhaps a bit too well! However, everyone has different priorities for their exercising environment, and, of course, it is often safer to travel with someone else, but as long as you are out in daylight, have your phone on you and let someone know where you are going, then running solo is safe.

Some people don’t generally like being on their own much, or perhaps have a fairly isolated job, so an exercising companion can be very important. It offers something different to the ‘norm’ – that sense of escapism from the daily routine. There is also the commitment to someone else that is highly motivating. If you agree to exercise with a friend, you are much less likely to let them down, which helps to keep the ‘not feeling like it today’ attitude at bay. We’ve all been there – not wanting to get out and get moving – but once we do it feels so good and, afterwards, we are so glad that we pushed ourselves to do the exercise.

Picking an exercising buddy is important: firstly, you need someone, or a group, who is, or can become, a similar fitness level to you. This means that you are both likely to push yourselves to similar limits and, if you want, compete against each other a little. Nothing motivates quite like seeing your mate 10 paces ahead of you. Secondly, you need someone who is as committed as you are, otherwise if they drop out, it is highly likely that you will too – which is no good for anyone!

The logistics of going for a run with someone are much easier than arranging a cycle ride. Finding a cycle buddy needs to also work for you geographically, although it is, of course, possible to cycle for a little stretch on your own to meet up with your companion, so that neither of you needs to put the bike in the car. When road cycling with a companion or group, it is important that you plan how you are going to manoeuvre when cars come – it’s not so easy to be social when urban cycling, as you will normally have to ride single file and the road noise can drown out the chat. However, you still benefit from the commitment and motivational aspect of a buddy. Rural cycling is ideal for groups or pairs, but an understanding of road safety is vital.

The question to ask yourself is what do you want to get out of your run or cycle ride? Is it as much a lifestyle and hobby thing for you as it is fitness? Or, is it all about fitness at an extreme level? Whatever the answer, here’s my take on the benefits of exercising together and solo:

Exercising in groups, or with a companion

  • Exercising with others gives you the competitive push, the drive to keep up or do better, which ultimately is going to improve your performance levels.
  • A training buddy can also keep a watchful eye over anything you might be doing wrong, such as not warming up properly, running or cycling positions. You can get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and help each other improve.
  • Within groups you can form special comradery bonds. Pushing through hard workouts together can create strong friendships and the ultimate support network.
  • Commitment to each other means that you are less likely to let your companion(s) down – commitment to one another naturally translates into commitment to the exercise.

 

Exercising alone

  • Exercising on your own means that you have your own agenda – time, place, activity. You are in charge and can tailor it to work exactly for your own needs.
  • If you want to switch off from everything, either in silence, or with your own music, exercising alone can be extremely therapeutic. It is an amazing way to de-stress and wind down, especially if the rest of your life is frantic.
  • Exercising alone can also build mental toughness – you have to push your own limits, drive yourself harder, which is mentally tougher than having your mate yell at you.

However you choose to exercise, we’d love to hear from you. So, let us know what works best for you and why over on Twitter @ProvizSports.

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