Friends bring us laughter, support and fun—they’re among life’s greatest gifts. Not to be overlooked, they can also be a benefit to your walking routine. No, we’re not talking about them serving as your own personal cheering squad (though having outside support for achieving your fitness goals can encourage you to keep going). Walking with a friend can actually change the way you look at this awesome aerobic exercise and even how you experience it.
Walking with a pal is in a sense no different than keeping another social commitment, like meeting someone for lunch. You show up because you don’t want to let them down. You focus more on the quality conversation and bonding time, rather than what you’re doing or where you are. These can be powerful benefits if you’re a person who tends to skirt exercise or who hasn’t yet found joy when breaking a sweat. Research has even shown that those who work out together may be able to maintain a harder workout without realising it. So this means as you reach that dreaded hill, you may forget all about the impending muscle burn, because you are not focussing on the exertion but rather on the connection with your friend.
In a perfect world, your ideal walking partner would live next door or work in the next cubicle. But if you don’t already have a local friend to recruit, take some steps to find one and go online. Post your partner search to Facebook and check other social media networks, or even look at sites like Meetup.
There is such a thing as Ms. Right when it comes to walking partners and these three features can make for a successful pairing
Schedules that Mesh
If your schedules are inevitably opposite—she helps at school morning, and you help in the afternoon; you’re an evening person, but she can barely stay awake after getting the kids to bed — it’s not meant to be.
Compatible Fitness Levels
Trying to keep up with someone who’s marathon-ready can coax you into doing too much, too soon. Likewise, walking with someone who’s just getting started may keep you from pushing yourself to your full potential.
Similar Workout Goals
You may see your walk as part of a focused training program, while your friend may view it as more of a casual means of getting out and moving a little. Chances are you won’t be on the same page about things like distance, speed and more.
Choose a convenient location
If one of you has to drive longer than 10 minutes to reach your meet-up spot, your excursions are less likely to happen. Find a spot near both of you, or alternate meeting up in one another’s driveways.
Try to walk in the morning
This can be more beneficial than walking later in the day. Experts have found that people who exercise earlier are most likely to have a lower BMI.
Confirm your walk
Beyond making sure that you’re still on, texting or calling your partner the night before or morning of your walk can make it less likely that either of you will skip out
Chatty walks aren’t just good for catching up. Having a walking partner is like having a built-in heart rate monitor. That’s right! Your ability to carry on a conversation is as good of an indicator of your effort level as that beeping device, whether you’re a seasoned exerciser or a beginner, according to a pair of studies from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. Determine the pace you want to keep, and then tune into your speech to find out if you’re meeting the mark.
LOW: You cannot only tell your walking partner what your favorite song is, you could sing it (if properly egged on, of course). This will work for a warm-up, but you’ll need to pick up the pace for heart-health benefits.
MODERATE: You can comfortably launch into a story about something that has happened. Matching or exceeding this pace should be your goal; it’s also a great speed for your cool-down.
MEDIUM to HARD: You can talk but you’d just rather not say more than a few words. Aim for this pace when you are doing at least three-minute intervals; revert to a moderate pace in between to recover.
FAST: You are really having a hard time talking altogether. This is the perfect pace for doing intervals that are about a minute long; again, switch to a moderate pace in between these spurts.