Not only does regular exercise boost those feel-good endorphins, but there’s something pretty cool about heading to your local gym and seeing a familiar face smiling and sweating on the treadmill next to you, or exchanging “but do we have to?!’ looks with your 6am circuit classmates when you’re asked to do burpees, or, having a few laughs with your personal trainer and giving them the goss from your week while you’re holding that plank.
Those regular, face-to-face interactions help us feel connected, and research shows that when we feel connected with others and our relationships are strong, we are less at risk of suicide.
Whether it be with a personal trainer, a gym-buddy, a group fitness class mate, a gym club manager; or a mate you love to work out with – regular peer to peer engagement with fellow gym-goers allows members to look out for each other and chat about life’s ups and downs.
When our relationships are strong, we’re more likely to see the signs that someone may be struggling and are better placed to start a meaningful conversation with that person.
To raise awareness about striking up conversations and connections at the gym, Anytime Fitness and R U OK? are calling on Aussies to Tread As One, to raise money for suicide prevention charity R U OK.
Participants can walk, run or even dance on a treadmill, or outdoors, to clock up as many kilometres (kms) as possible with hopes of raising $650,000 for suicide prevention. If you’re keen to register, head to treadasone.com.au.
Ahead of Tread As One, R U OK? has shared a few tips on how to make your workout count for more than just burning calories.
Look out for signs in your workout buddy that things might not be OK
Do they seem to be acting or looking differently? Have they been skipping lots of training sessions? Are they not as chatty or upbeat as usual? If you feel like something’s not quite the same with someone you know – there’s something going on in their life or you notice a change in what they’re doing or saying – trust that gut instinct and take the time to ask them “Are you OK?”
By acting as ‘eyes and ears’ and reaching out to anyone who’s going through a tough time we can show them they’re supported and encourage them to access help sooner.
A good workout deserves some recovery
If you think your workout buddy could do with a chat but you don’t get time during your workout, why not offer to take them for a coffee nearby afterwards, and ask how their week is going? That gives you some extra time to talk. Or, go to the gym more often. It helps to keep conversation flowing as you’re more likely to remember what you talked about a couple of days ago, rather than last week.
Take the initiative
If you’re in a group class, why not reach out and see if they’re interested in an extra class during the week, or a workout session just the two of you, or maybe heading out for a walk? You can also check out your gym’s noticeboard or newsletter for special events, like Tread as One, and invite them to join you in events and challenges. Some of the best friendships start when you go the extra mile to invite someone you don’t know as well, to spend more time together.
Ditch the headphones
Just started at a new gym and looking to make friends? Leave the headphones at home. Headphones are the universal language for ‘please do not disturb’. Not wearing them will give a window of opportunity for you to seek out someone to chat with or for someone to strike up a conversation with you. Also, if you’re doing group classes, try to arrive to your next class 15 minutes early. Not only will this help you feel calm and composed but it’ll give you plenty of time to get to know your classmates too.
Get to know the trainers
Make mates with your gym staff and personal trainer. Staff at the gym are always keen to speak to new members – chat with them to build your confidence and get to know your gym better. They might introduce you to other gym goers, or you could end up becoming friends.
Helping people become healthier isn’t all about the muscle, to a personal trainer. The concept of well-being is so much more and can have a dramatic impact on the emotional side of human existence. As a support person, they can often become an important part of your life, providing an outlet for not only physical change but they can enhance your feelings of connection, with regular chats, and positive affirmations.
If you’re keen to register for Tread As One, head to www.treadasone.com.au (You can just donate if you don’t want to do the challenge). For extra support, conversation tips and help-seeking information, go to ruok.org.au