Grab your sneakers, and a mate. According to new research, running with a friend (in real life, or virtual) will take your workout to the next level. This is why.
Photos: Instagram @lauradundovic, @bodybyleahsimmons
We’ve all heard how much better it is to exercise with a friend.
Exercising with a buddy can make you more likely to stick to your planned workouts.
Plus, it's more fun to run when you have a pal puffing along next to you.
Now, new research shows you’ll also work harder if someone you've never even met pushes themselves to run harder, too.
The research analysed data from over 1.1 million social media users who shared their running information. These people could become ‘virtual friends’ with other, like-minded, users.
The researchers found that people ran further – and faster – when their virtual friends did.
So, when a virtual friend ran an extra kilometre, people then ran an extra 0.3 kilometres themselves.
If that friend ran for ten minutes longer, people then ran three minutes longer, too.
This led the researchers to say, there was “strong evidence of the possibility of social contagion in running behaviors.”
Running might not actually be ‘contagious’ (as in, you can’t ‘catch’ someone else’s exercise).
However, hearing about other people’s achievements can certainly spur us on to do great things, says psychologist Dr Joann Lukins, from Peak Performance Psychology.
She says finding out how other people perform is a great opportunity for comparison.
We can then use that info to inspire or encourage us to do more, go faster and push ourselves even harder.
We can also use it to fuel our competitive fire so we are raring to “beat” our friends.
Sure, that makes sense when you’re physically working out alongside somebody.
If your friend propels herself to run an extra five minutes, you’ll watch her and likely to want to do the same.
But, as this research shows, you don’t even need to know somebody to feel just as inspired.
If you’re lucky enough to have an awesome workout buddy, that doesn’t mean you should ditch her, says Dr Lukins.
“Having someone to exercise with offers you companionship, accountability, more fun, improved mood, greater safety, social and physical comparison and distraction.”
In other words, there are loads of reasons to nag your friends to run with you this weekend.
If you don’t have a workout buddy but want one, Dr Lukins says there are three things you should consider when choosing your ideal partner.
Firstly, that person needs to have similar fitness goals to you.
They also need a similar schedule (it’s no good if you work nights and your pal wants to meet during your sleep time).
Lastly, they need to be reliable. After all, if your workout buddy keeps bailing on you, you’re more likely to skip your run, too.
But don’t stress if you can’t find someone you know who ticks all those boxes.
The good news about this research is that you can simply hop onto social media and find your motivation in virtual friends.
There are heaps of apps that can help.
For instance, Strava allows you to find out how your friends are faring in their running goals.
Meanwhile, RunKeeper compiles monthly leadership boards so you can compare your running achievements to your friends. Talk about motivating!
If you prefer an online community, Dr Lukins suggests simply googling the sport that gets your blood pumping, and getting inspired by peeps who share the same passion.
Or, you could also start a WhatsApp group with your besties so you can ‘share’ (okay, brag) about your latest workouts and hear how they’re doing, too.
Whether you choose to run alongside a friend, or compare yourself to a virtual friend, hearing about other people doing awesome things will be good news for your health, says Dr Lukins.
Simply seeing other people kick major goals can help increase our own self-belief that we can also achieve.
So what are you waiting for?
Either grab your workout buddy (or your virtual friend), and get ready to inspire each other to reap some seriously impressive results.
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fitness | body+soul