The choice to exercise alone, or with others, can be a difficult one to make. Some people enjoy the solitary run or gym session, while others love a good session of netball or group yoga class. Whatever the choice, both camps make compelling cases when it comes to pulling people to join their camp.

Soloists will entice you with the unbridled freedom of training anyway you like, anytime you wish to. Group enthusiasts will lure you with the joy of a shared experience.

At the end of the day, you make the choice. But let’s weigh the pros and cons for you, and maybe help you find your tribe.

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1. Do you focus better alone or are motivated by friends?

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We respond differently to the same type of stimuli, and that makes us unique. In group settings, some of us become distracted easily while others actually get more disciplined with the help of friends.

Ask yourself this: When in the gym, do you feel the need to talk to your friend or look around all the time? While talking to people may take your mind off the pain, it may also mean you’re not putting in maximum effort or focusing on the task at hand. If this is the case, then group exercise might not work for you.

However, if you’re the type that tends to slack off whenever there’s no one to watch you, then a friend who pushes you to finish that last lap at the track might be exactly what you need.

2. Does “peer pressure” encourage or annoy you?

Peer pressure is an amazing force in making people show up for a workout. When you’re training solo, the temptation to just skip a session is always there. However, if you’re in a group, then skipping a session means skipping out on your friends. Do it often enough, and your friends will start complaining. This is perfect if you need that added motivation to workout. Of course, if the very thought of having to deal with other people during your workout annoys you, go solo!

3. Which is more important: fun and variety or heavy training?

During group exercises, you don’t get that luxury of falling back on familiar exercises. You might really like normal push-ups, but the group’s instructor might have some wide-armed push-ups planned for you. In a group, you don’t get to choose your own moves or number of repetitions. This is excellent because it ensures you don’t fall into a fitness rut. You’ll feel like there’s always a challenge, and the muscle confusion will definitely help you get stronger, faster.

While group exercises force you to learn new moves and challenge your body, it doesn’t allow for you to go at your pace or work on specific weaknesses. Sometimes, the needs of the individual outweigh the group. Fun and variety might keep the boredom away for a while, but if you really want to work on long distance running or train towards lifting heavier weights, then going it alone will help you specialise. Additionally, most group exercises will not be able to address specific fitness concerns, so you’re better off working out alone if you have those.

4. Are you able to achieve the right form with little guidance?

In group exercise settings, it’s often hard for even professional instructors to pick out bad form. Say, you’re doing basic yoga and you’re doing a Warrior Pose with the wrong posture and positioning. In a class of 20-30 people, your bad form might be completely missed by the instructor.

In group settings, if your form on new exercises is less than perfect, there’s a chance that no one will correct you. Even though good instructors will be able to give detailed instructions and demonstrations, it could be difficult in a fast moving class, especially when it involves using new equipment.

On the other hand, those who go solo may never ever get the correct form since there’s no one around to give guidance. In such cases, it may be a good idea to look for a personal trainer or good online tutorials to help you achieve the right form before you work out on your own.

5. Will you be motivated or risk over-training?

Serious group exercises, like CrossFit or “Spartan” branded bootcamp style workouts have a little bit of a “work till you drop” mentality. If you’re alone following a video, you could hit pause anytime. However, when you’re surrounded by a whole bunch of enthusiastic people, you’ll tend to go as hard as they do. While it can serve as a good form of motivation, you may also be setting yourself up for a case of over-training over time.

Choose Your Poison!

There really isn’t any right answer, or perfect tribe for fitness.

Group exercise offers a certain camaraderie that makes tough workouts more enjoyable. You might also be pleasantly surprised by how hard you can actually go and what you can achieve with a little bit of pressure from class instructors. However, solo workouts allow you flexibility and focus, giving you the chance to sharpen your fitness in a way no group exercise can.

Whatever you choose, remember to focus on growing your fitness in gradual steps and finding joy in every workout session!

Quiz Time!

Want to know if you’re suited for group or solo exercise? Take this quick quiz to know yourself better:

  1. When I run, I tend to
    – Look at other runners or check out the scenery (group)
    – Focus on my pace and listen to music (solo)
  2. I often have trouble in the gym…
    – Dealing with boredom (group)
    – Getting better at a particular workout (solo)
  3. When I work out, I like to…
    – Go as rapidly as I can (group)
    – Do things at my own pace (solo)
  4. In the gym, I am…
    – The clueless beginner (group)
    – The experienced hand (solo)
  5. When I work out, I prefer to…
    – Meet like-minded people (group)
    – Push out every set and go home quickly (solo)
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