On its face, fitness is a solo endeavor. After all, only you can join the gym, lift the weights, or find the motivation to lace up and log some miles, right?
Not quite. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that other people can certainly play a role in whether you achieve your fitness goals. For instance, community helps keep you in the game: Research suggests there’s a link between social engagement and exercise participation—so you may be more likely to stick to goals you set when you’re in good company, according to a 2012 review published in International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
But training with a coach or peers doesn’t just help keep your fitness journey on track—it can actually enable you to reach your potential. Psychologists file this under “self-determination theory,” the idea that you become self-determined—i.e., able to set your sights on a goal and achieve it—when three needs are fulfilled: autonomy, or feeling like your behaviors (say, training daily for a race) will drive change (hello, finish line!); competence, or feeling confident that you can succeed; and connection, or the feeling of belonging and attachment to others.
Plus, there are some fitness goals you simply can’t achieve by yourself. Read on for five of our favorites.
- Slaying a Relay Race
The beauty of a relay race is that it might help you accomplish a greater (read: much more impressive!) goal than you could possibly conquer on your own. Take Ragnar Relays, in which two- to 12-person teams lean on each other to tackle marathon distances, 120-mile trail events, and 200-mile road races—in some cases, running through the night to get it done.
- Participating in Charity Runs and Walks
You probably wish you could contribute large sums of money to a cause (or causes) you hold near and dear—who doesn’t? The thing is, few people have unlimited capital to donate. Charity runs and walks, however, create an opportunity for you to achieve a fitness goal—i.e., walking or running a particular distance—while raising funds and awareness. Whether you’re taking on the NEDA Walk or a Susan G. Komen 3-Day, you’ll likely need other people to help you hit your fundraising goals or requirements.
- Crushing Certain CrossFit WODs
Men’s Journal compiled a whole slate of CrossFit WODs that are designed for you and a buddy to tackle together. For instance, in “Chipper,” you and a partner aim to do 30 pull-ups, 50 wall balls, 50 sit-ups, and 100 kettlebell swings for time—but you can split up the reps however you want. (So, if you’re a pull-up pro, you might do all 30 while your partner gets after those KB swings.)
- Striking Some Impressive Yoga Poses
Certain couples yoga poses can be quite a fitness feat—just check out the Flying Backbend and Spider Kisses Arm Balance from registered yoga teacher Megan Hochheimer in this Women’s Health article. Plus, per the same article, the practice can help you and your partner to bond.
- Taking on New Activities
While riding a bike and swimming might be solo activities for you now, remember that at one point someone had to teach you how to do them. Same goes for other skills: Sailing, for instance, can help you improve your cardiovascular fitness and get stronger, according to Sailing San Francisco—and getting out there with an instructor can help you learn that new skill safely.