Many of us see fitness as a social thing. Maybe you beat stress through team sports, or maybe you work out with your bestie to stay connected during the busy times. But if you haven’t hit the gym on your own lately, you might be surprised by how great a solo workout can be for your physical and mental health. Load up your fave fitness app and grab your running shoes — here’s why you should leave the squad at home.
1. Hit a new personal best. If you ever have to slow down on a run so bae can keep up, you’ll appreciate the opportunity to challenge yourself. And even if your vibe is more competitive — challenging your workout buddy to beat your squat record, for example — there’s something to be said for trying to surpass yourself.
2. Set your own schedule. “If you commit to running at 6am with a friend and they flake out, are you going to be motivated to get out of bed and go?” asks personal trainer Meghan Kennihan. “Nope.” Exercising solo means that you can’t let yourself off the hook if your gym buddy bails before or halfway through a workout. Plus, she points out, “You can be more impulsive and pick the workout you are feeling that day.”
3. Cut the distractions. Remember that super awkward episode of New Girl when Jess injures the guy she’s kinda into while flirting over a barbell? That’s pretty much the opposite of what most of us are going for at the gym. “You are less prone to injury when you have focused attention during workouts,” shares Dr. Erin Reynolds, a sports neuropsychologist and the director of Baylor Scott & White Sports Concussion Center in Frisco, Texas. When you work out solo, you can focus on your form without getting self-conscious.
4. Get sh*t done. “Working out alone allows you to maximize your time at the gym and leave feeling accomplished in a shorter amount of time,” celebrity trainer and fitness professional Paul Vincent tells us. He points out that while it’s great to enjoy your friends’ company at the gym, those conversations between sets can really extend the length of your workout in unproductive ways.
5. It’s all about you. “Everyone is different when it comes to exercise and how quickly they recover,” says Kennihan. “In a group training environment, you won’t necessarily get the best workout for your fitness level.” But when you’re training solo, she points out, you can scale up or dial back the challenges as necessary for your body and your goals. That might mean taking your push-up down to your knees so you can do more reps while maintaining good form, or taking a risk and deadlifting a heavier bar. “You do you,” she encourages.
6. Stick to the plan. Vincent points out that when you work out with your pals, they might want to keep a good time going. Of course, when you’re on a budget (or a tight schedule), that’s not really an option. “By going to the gym alone, it’s easier to stick to the meal schedule you want and avoid spending money or eating foods you might not want in the name of socializing,” he reminds. “It’s much easier — and cheaper — to simply sip on that post-workout almond milk and spinach smoothie and hop in your car home when you’re not with anyone.”
7. Get in touch with yourself. Hitting the gym on your own offers a valuable opportunity to reconnect with your thoughts and feelings. “There can be a meditative quality to working out alone, which research shows can markedly improve mood both during- and post-workout,” says Dr. Reynolds. “You can use the time to completely unplug from your daily life.” If you’re pursuing exercise to help your mental health, working out solo might be a positive way to integrate both fitness and mindfulness into your routine.
Do you rock the gym on your own? Share your fave solo workouts with us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)