Published: 22:00 BST, 12 January 2013 | Updated: 10:52 BST, 14 January 2013>
Our inspirational fitness columnist Ruby Warrington reports from New York on the fitness and lifestyle trends that have transformed her life . . . and could do the same for you:
Fit in the City: Columnist Ruby Warrington has found a workout companion
When I met Francesca, I thought she was fabulous. Another British expat in New York, she was funny, intelligent and extremely well-connected – her ex-husband owns one of the coolest nightclubs in the city.
Over lunch at a fashionable Mexican diner in SoHo, we chatted away like old friends, bonding over everything from our love of Heinz Baked Beans to our favourite jeans – and discovered a shared obsession with Leandro Carvalho’s Brazilian Butt Lift Workout DVD. He trains the Victoria’s Secret models and I’d recently interviewed him for a newspaper article.
We were both after a way to target our pear-shaped British bottoms, or ‘boom-boom’, as Leandro refers to it (this is funny, not creepy – honestly). Before I knew it, we were scheduling a workout date at one of his classes and I was wondering what one wore to such a thing. My very best spandex leggings? Should I do my hair? And then I realised: I had made my first FFF.
Don’t LOL. For those not au fait with text acronyms, it means fitness friends forever – a play on BFF, or best friend forever. We’ve all heard about love, or at least lust, blossoming on the gym floor. But this is different. Bromances and girl crushes are burgeoning all over New York, based on a shared passion for exercise.
The term FFF was coined by Amanda Freeman, creator of a yoga-fusion workout called SLT (Strength, Lengthen, Tone), when she heard that two regulars at her Upper West Side studio had ended up in a Hamptons house-share together last summer.
‘Their relationship began in class, as they attended the 6.30pm session together four times a week,’ she says. ‘Before long they were hanging out on Facebook, and the last I heard they went on holiday together at Christmas.’
It may sound rather toe-curling to us reserved British, but there’s plenty of research that shows working out with friends makes exercise more enjoyable and effective. Not only do we produce more feelgood endorphins, we’re more likely to show up for class once we’ve committed to being there with a buddy. Research last year showed that if your friends are overweight, it’s likely you’ll find it harder to shift the pounds, too.
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Virgin Active claim a third of their members exercise with a partner, mainly because it makes them work harder, and the gym chain is introducing group personal training this year – so FFFs make financial sense too.
In New York, where working out often takes priority over socialising, the gym is a place to forge new relationships. If you meet people at a class, you’re likely to have certain personality traits in common. And, once you have a regular routine, you don’t have to worry about scheduling get-togethers. ‘Friends who always take the same class together will go off for brunch straight after,’ says Amanda.
Motivation: Ruby, right, on a night out on the town in New York having fun with her new FFF, Francesca
I have another FFF, Kate, who approached me to be her personal Mrs Motivator when she heard I was writing about fitness. Most of our bonding has been done in our favourite boutiques on the Lower East Side and over bottles of sauvignon blanc in trendy bars in the Meatpacking District.
But she said recently: ‘I need to get in shape. Can we provide each other with a bit of moral support as we try to get our acts together? Even if it’s just checking in on Facebook every now and then?’
So we’ve agreed to commit to doing some physical exercise every day and report back with any funny stories along the way: like the woman who lets her dog run beside her on the treadmill at the gym in Kate’s building, or the mother and daughter wearing full make-up in my Bikram yoga class, only to sweat it all off by the end.
Social media is another great way to find FFFs. If you are worried that striking up a conversation with a stranger after class might seem desperate or a bit stalker-ish, the internet offers safer, neutral ground. I know people who will simply tweet when they are looking for a jogging partner that weekend, and on fitness websites such as zest.co.uk there are forums dedicated to helping people find training buddies.
There is a Facebook group for just about every type of exercise, from bodybuilding to marathon training (especially at this time of year).
I found my latest FFF on Twitter. When I tweeted that I was planning to start the 30-day Bikram challenge last week (where you do a class every day for 30 days straight), an old friend in London decided to take up the challenge. You can keep up with our progress on Twitter using the hash tag #fitinthecity. Or why not join us, wherever you are in the world?
As for my Brazilian Butt Lift sessions with Francesca, we have yet to make it happen. But in the meantime, she’s invited me on a yoga weekend in the Hamptons with a gang of her equally fabulous friends. Where do I sign up?
Follow Fit in the City on Twitter @RubyWarrington
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