Find your fit­ness BFF

Shape (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - By SARA AN­GLE

You’re ready to take on the great out­doors (ur­ban or wild), now rally a friend to join you, and you’ll max­i­mize the rush... and your re­sults. But not just any friend—there are key things you need to con­sider.

AAn un­charted run, a fresh hik­ing path, and a kayak cruise are all out­door ad­ven­tures that are bet­ter with a buddy. But find­ing a sweaty soul­mate can also boost your mo­ti­va­tion to be ac­tive, found a re­cent study from the Univer­sity of Aberdeen in Scot­land. When solo ex­er­cis­ers re­cruited a new work­out pal to plug into what­ever their cho­sen rou­tines were, they started exercising an ex­tra 90 min­utes per week—likely thanks to the so­cial sup­port, say the re­searchers. Now that tech is mak­ing it eas­ier than ever to link up with like-minded sporty types for out­ings—try free apps such as Bvddy (iOS) and FitMatch (iOS and An­droid)—the trick is ze­ro­ing in on the per­fect pal for your ex­ploits, both in skills and mind-set. We asked the pros to come up with this what-to-look-for list so you can meet your ad­ven­ture match.

Pos­i­tive at­ti­tude is ev­ery­thing

It goes with­out say­ing that you’ll have a bet­ter time if you’re with some­one who can stay ex­cited about the ex­pe­ri­ence, even if things get tough, says Megan Kennedy, a se­nior guide with Dis­cover Out­doors in New York City, a com­pany that runs group hik­ing, climb­ing, paddling, and mul­ti­sport trips. “You can’t con­trol the el­e­ments, so if it starts to rain, if some­thing un­ex­pected hap­pens, or even if what you’re do­ing gets too hard, you’ll want to be with some­one who is go­ing to keep up the en­thu­si­asm,” Kennedy says. That kind of en­ergy rubs off on you too. “In gen­eral, we tend to take on the be­hav­ior of those around us, so their good vibes can perk you up,” says Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D., a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at Santa Clara Univer­sity. But do your­self a fa­vor and avoid the overly cheer­lead­ery—too much ver­bal en­cour­age­ment of the “You can do it!” va­ri­ety can ac­tu­ally curb your en­thu­si­asm if it feels con­de­scend­ing, a Kansas State Univer­sity study found.

It’s OK if you’re not best friends

You may share an in­ter­est in the out­doors, but that doesn’t mean you’re go­ing to con­nect over ev­ery­thing. “Some of the peo­ple I do out­door ac­tiv­i­ties with are much older or younger than those I would typ­i­cally be friends with,” says Kennedy. But there’s a bond­ing that hap­pens dur­ing out­ings which cre­ates a cer­tain type of friend­ship, she says, and it’s to­tally fine if you have no in­ter­est in go­ing to happy hour with that same pal. Plus, when you pair up with some­one who has a dif­fer­ent skill set, you’ll be stronger to­gether. The key here is to cast a wide net rather than just fish for peo­ple who fit the pro­file of your for­mer col­lege bud­dies.

Your part­ner should be bet­ter, just not too much bet­ter

The per­son you pick can also af­fect the level of your per­for­mance. “When peo­ple work out with some­one they per­ceive as be­ing fit­ter, they work out harder than they would if they were work­ing out with some­one they per­ceive as be­ing less fit,” says Plante. The op­ti­mal part­ner? Ac­cord­ing to a study from Michi­gan State Univer­sity, he or she should be “bet­ter” than you but not some­one you think could eas­ily leave you in the dust. “If your part­ner is too much bet­ter than you, work­ing out with them feels un­re­al­is­tic,” ex­plains study au­thor Bran­don Ir­win, Ph.D. But find a friend who can, say, go at your goal pace, and, his re­search sug­gests, it’s game on. When sta­tion­ary-bike rid­ers in the study were told their vir­tual part­ner had lasted 40 per­cent longer in a cycling sprint, they rode nearly twice as long in their next sprint as they had ini­tially. Not only that, but they continued to im­prove over the next six ses­sions.

They’re out there search­ing for you too

Your best bet for hunt­ing down a po­ten­tial play­mate? Do a no-stress trial run. “We al­ways have peo­ple who show up on their own for our trips,” Kennedy says. “Most of them are just look­ing to break into a new hobby and don’t know any­one else who does it.” So no, it’s not weird if you turn up for a group hike solo. She’s seen many clients join on their own and quickly dis­cover their tribe of out­door friends, who then wind up spend­ing many week­ends ad­ven­tur­ing to­gether. Kennedy rec­om­mends look­ing for lo­cal ac­tiv­ity cen­ters like Dis­cover Out­doors or brows­ing Meetup ( for guided out­door ac­tiv­i­ties or run clubs in your area. Also check with out­door-gear re­tail­ers such as REI ( that host trips. Soon you’ll find your buddy, and you two will be con­fi­dent enough to cruise on your own.

There’s a bond­ing that hap­pens dur­ing out­ings which cre­ates a cer­tain type of friend­ship.

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