Does anybody exercise alone any more?
Everywhere you look, people are working out in clusters — they’re sweating through bootcamp, pivoting around a netball court, or just running with a pal. That’s great, but some of us are naturally a bit more fit-roverted (yes, that’s a term I just made up) and get more out of riding solo — and experts say that’s perfectly okay.
“If you try to force yourself to do group exercise when it’s your natural inclination to do it alone, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” says Ali Cavill, health and fitness expert at Fit Fantastic. With that in mind, here are eight brilliant benefits of going it alone.
1. Less distraction
It’s pretty obvious that working out with other people leaves room for more distraction, especially if they’re your mates. If you have a lot to talk about, it’s all too easy for your run to become a walk (with cafe stops along the way).
“You see it at the gym, there’s the catch-ups at the bubbler and the delays in the bathroom while you’re getting ready because you’re chatting,” Cavill says.
Unsurprisingly, this has potential to affect the quality of your session. "Chatting while working out will make it less effective. You won't go as intense as you want to it you're talking and focusing on something else," Cavill adds.
2. You're not beholden to anyone else
Imagine you've committed to a regular 6am bike ride with your best mate, and they pike every second time. How motivated are you going to be to get out of bed and get it done on those days?
"If you're training with a group of friends who have a tendency to either cancel or not show up or take it easy or fall off goals, that can actually hold you back. Whereas if you just train by yourself, you get out there and do it anyway — sometimes you don't have that option to not go because your training buddy's not going," says Neil Russell, personal trainer and exercise physiologist with Atleta. (Post continues after gallery.)
3. You decide when, how much, and what you do
Exercising solo allows you to take full charge of your workouts (oh hey there, control freaks). This means you can be more impulsive, decide your own goals, and go as hard as you want to.
"You're also able to do shorter workouts. If you schedule to go to a gym class with a buddy, you've got to stick to that time and time frame, whereas if I were to train on my own I'm able to do a 20 to 30 min HIIT workout and get it over and done with," Cavill says.
4. You can tailor the workout to what your body needs
Everybody, and every body, has specific needs when it comes to exercise. In a group training environment, you won't necessarily get the best workout for your current condition — for instance, if you have a niggling injury or you're not feeling on form.
"If you're training by yourself and your shoulder's playing up, or your hip or lower back, you can ... work around it and you can still get a workout in. But if you're in a big group and, say, you've hurt your knee and they're doing a lot of lower-body stuff, then you get less benefit," Russell says.
5. If you have a PT, you'll get more individual service
Russell says in a one-on-one session with a personal trainer, you're generally going to get their optimal service, motivation and results. When you're training in a group, their attention, technique correction and other services are naturally going to be spread thinner.
You can also ensure you're getting exactly what you need.
"Different sort of workouts will react differently to different body types. If you've gone one-on-one, your trainer can tailor it to your body type. The group will be about a generalised goal, but not one for your body type," Russell adds. (Post continues after video.)
6. It can be less intimidating
If you're prone to self-consciousness or new to exercise, the thought of getting sweaty in the company of other people can be daunting.
"I know a lot of women struggle with this. At the gym or when they go with a friend, it can be a lot of looking at what people are wearing, or their body shape, or not knowing anyone," Cavill says.
"When you're on your own you don't have any of those extraneous factors to worry about. You can just focus on the job at hand."
Russell adds that exercising solo or with a trainer can help to build your confidence up to a point where you're happy to join a group environment.
7. It's a good excuse for some 'Me Time'
It can be hard to find time to just be with your thoughts (or that podcast you've been dying to listen to). Even a half-hour walk or swimming laps can give you the opportunity to think without too much distraction from other people, and to work through any personal issues or stress you're experiencing.
"Some people will have their book or be watching TV [in the gym], it can be a chance to grab that 'Me time' that in today's environment we don't get a lot of," Cavill says.
8. You can perform to your level
Cavill says group training can be a disadvantage if you're the 'fit one' in that group, because you won't necessarily be driven to perform at your highest level. It's the same with exercising with a friend whose fitness level doesn't match yours.
"Say you're running with a buddy, you'll be more inclined to go at their pace rather than letting them come up to your pace," Cavill says.
Do you prefer to work out alone? Why?