Catching up with your BFF is fun, bonding time with your baby releases feel-good endorphins and walking the dog promotes a sense of calm.
So it makes sense to buddy up in order to give your workout a lift and boost your motivation.
Buddying up is nothing new — and even with social distancing still in place, partners, housemates and the other half of your social bubble will be allowed to join you in your workout.
Your exercise buddy doesn’t have to be another adult – or even human. You could include your baby or the family dog in your next fitness session and reap the wellbeing and resistance benefits.
Partner workouts caught the public imagination a few years back with social media sensations such as @SculptSisters and @TwoFitMoms jumping in on the trend for squatting, lifting and doing acro-aerobics.
CARiFIT workouts – in which you ‘wear’ your baby – launched in 2016 and the nation’s favourite PE teacher Joe Wicks is a fan, having included his daughter in several workouts, while Doga – yoga with your dog –launched in 2012 with classes for yogis and their faithful companions.
‘Of course there’s an element of fun to these kinds of sessions, but using pets, children or a partner for exercises such as squats and press-ups can be a way to add resistance. Just do this safely, ensuring you have plenty of space around,’ says Katherine Shaw, a sports scientist with Lucozade Sport.
‘The NHS recommends that all adults should perform resistance activity, working a full range of muscles on at least two days a week. This is because resistance training is really important for overall health.
‘Not only can it improve muscle strength and tone and protect your joints from injury, but resistance exercise can impact everyday lives, from maintaining good posture while sitting at our desks, to standing up from a seated position, both of which commonly reduce in older age.
‘It can also impact bone mineral density, improving the strength of our bones.’
Having a resistance buddy is also a great way to get motivated.
‘Motivation can be considered intrinsic or extrinsic,’ adds Katherine. ‘Extrinsic refers to when an individual may be motivated by something external such as a tangible or social reward or to avoid disapproval.
Intrinsic is a motivation to engage in an activity due to its inherent satisfactions, such as feelings of enjoyment and personal accomplishment.
‘Intrinsic motivation means you are more likely to stick to the exercise long-term.
‘And it is when physical activity is undertaken regularly and becomes part of your lifestyle that the benefits, both physical and psychological, become noticeable.’
As with all fitness routines, please remember to follow government Covid guidelines when exercising with someone — and check with your GP or healthcare professional before starting something new.
‘And always remember to warm up beforehand and cool down properly afterwards,’ adds Katherine.
‘Muscles are like elastic bands –they become more supple as they warm up and large amounts of forces through them when they are cold can result in injury or tears.
‘Gradually increase your range of movement and resistance throughout the session.’
Fitness’s best friend
Mahny Djahanguiri is a certified children’s, teens and adult yoga instructor who has been teaching for more than 20 years.
In 2012 she founded Doga – Yoga For You and Your Dog, a therapeutic human yoga practice that incorporates man’s best friend.
‘The idea is to incorporate your dog into your yoga practice using stretches, poses, massage and even chanting,’ says Mahny who uses her eight-year-old Maltese Terrier Robbie in her sessions.
‘It is said to create a better bond between owners and their pets, while offering dogs the same health benefits yoga gives us. ‘The parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system of a dog work in exactly the same way as a human.
‘These govern sleep, digestive systems and the flushing of toxins. Calming your dog down with Doga can have huge health benefits for them – and practising yoga alongside your dog also releases serotonin and oxytocin in the human brain, which can help with stress-related issues including anxiety and depression.
‘Yoga can also help to realign the spine and detox organs. ‘Small dogs are used as a weight, while larger dogs are used as a bolster.’
However, Mahny makes the vital point: ‘Don’t force your dog into poses, it’s only if and when the dog is ready to be lifted.’ And Mahny adds: ‘Research shows that petting your dog can have the same effect on your mood as caring for a baby, which means that Doga most definitely has physical and mental benefits.’
Find Mahny on Instagram @dogamahny.
Work(out) as a team
Buddy up with a partner or friend, when guidelines allow. Juggy Sidhu has a BSc in health, nutrition and exercise. An avid gymgoer pre-pandemic, he and his wife Jussi now work out together.
‘Transitioning from gym to home workouts initially required a lot of mindset reprogramming to ensure I saw limited equipment as a challenge rather than a restriction,’ he says.
‘For my wife, working out is a challenge mentally and physically around her career and the children. Not only did agreeing to train together give us a unique bond, provide motivation, accomplishment and reward, but it provided friendly competition.
‘We also got to increase resistance on exercises that, without a partner, aren’t as effective, using each other’s bodyweight as resistance to train muscles effectively. That can be difficult without equipment, especially for things like partner rows and partner planks. These types of exercises also incorporate an element of fun, but the mental benefits of training with a partner go beyond motivation and competition.
‘As a married couple, it isn’t often we get to spend quality time with one another and working out is better in the long run for our wellbeing than bingeing on the latest TV series.’
It’s vital to respect your partner’s abilities and capabilities, Juggy stresses. ‘Sometimes modifying exercises is crucial to ensure each of you enjoys the workouts, builds confidence and stays safe.’
Find Juggy on Instagram @theindianbodycoach.
As the founder of LDN Mums Fitness, Sarah Campus is passionate about transforming the way mums feel about health and wellness. Sarah, who has a nine-month-old and a two-year-old herself, says: ‘Being fit after having kids is attainable.’
Sarah is a Level 3 qualified personal trainer, gym instructor and nutrition coach, and has completed several advanced postnatal courses.
‘I love spending time with my baby and feel it’s important for him to see how happy exercise makes me, so I decided to start using him in my workouts,’ says Sarah. ‘It enabled me to maximise my time and it was also beneficial for my baby’s development of muscular strength and motor skills.
‘Not only can it strengthen the bond between us, but it improves his concentration and promotes bone growth. For the mum, it also helps with fitness and strength gains, strengthening the pelvic floor, improving posture and easing the symptoms of postnatal depression.
‘Exercises like squats and lunges will work your glutes and baby loves the motion of going up and down.
‘A glute bridge works glutes and hamstrings and lets your baby look at your face, while planks and Russian twists target your entire core and encourage bonding.
‘There are several things to consider when using your baby as your training buddy – like no plyometric movements, and good posture so as not to hurt your lower back – but by seeking a professional postnatal expert, you and your baby can reap the benefits.’
Find Sarah on Instagram @ldnmumsfitness.
Add some resistance to your session with one of these five at-home options
TRX Rip Trainer
For a full-body workout, the TRX Rip Trainer is a weighted bar and bungee system that can be attached to a door.
Dumbbell Tree Set
Holding three pairs of dumbbells weighing 1.1kg, 2.3kg and 4.5kg, the Opti Dumbbell Tree Set is a great addition for resistance training.
Fitted around the waist the Ex-belt has resistance bands either side and D-rings for 360-degree range of movement.
Bowflex SelectTech 840 Kettlebell
This hefty bit of kit combines six different kettlebells in one. Choose from 3.5kg to 18kg with a simple dial to easily change between weights.
UMI by Amazon Resistance Bands
Resistance bands can be used for stretching and mobility moves, plus various exercises to increase or decrease resistance.
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