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People Who Train Alone Will Feel Spooky 'Third Man' Syndrome

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By Augustine Mbam - - 5 Mins Read
A person jogging in a deserted roads
Jogging (Pixabay) |


According to a recent survey, those who work out alone may be more likely to encounter what is known as a "third man" experience, in which they feel like someone is watching over them or joining them.


Circumstances where athletes claim to feel the presence of an unseen, fictitious entity, such as a spirit or a loved one who has passed on, providing solace and support during trying times, are known as the ‘third man’ factor.


Notably, this was observed during explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic expedition in 1917, when he documented the presence of an ethereal companion who "joined" him and his team on their exhausting journey to safety in the harsh environment of South Georgia. 


People who participate in activities like climbing, diving, running, cycling, or hiking, particularly over long distances, are prone to experiencing hallucinations or being accompanied by a "spiritual guide."


A person taking a hike in the snow
Hiking in the snow (Vi Nowak/Pexels)


The study, which was carried out by Dr. Ben Alderson-Day at Durham University, revealed 84 athletes who had come into contact with an unidentifiable presence. The Journal of psychological medicine reported the findings.


The British Mountaineering Council, UK Caving, and Cornish adventure sports company FreediveUK were just a few of the groups that they had put out a request for involvement to get people to participate in the poll.


20% of those polled said they have experienced feeling watched or followed when working out alone. 30 percent of them claimed to have located the source of these sensations.


Most of these individuals feel the presence of a loved one around them, helping them get through the challenge, and they suddenly find themselves filled with more vigor and energy to complete the task.


Dr. Ben Alderson-Day characterized the occurrence in a discussion at the Cheltenham Science Festival by saying, "In difficult circumstances, people unexpectedly sense the presence of a ghostly companion who aids them in overcoming physical challenges."


Dr. Alderson-Day made the following observation and stated that "Weekend warriors participating in excessive exercise and seeking to push themselves beyond their physical limits should be aware that they may start seeing non-existent presence. This frequently happens in places with little sensory input, such as caves, the ocean, or mountains. In such circumstances, people lose their internal sense of spatial location, which causes them to think their own body is outside of them and that it belongs to someone else."


"It can happen during something like a marathon, but it seems to happen more frequently in those who are performing these sports alone and in those with an endurance component."


Irrespective of the ‘third man’ syndrome being experienced while working out alone, here are a few benefits of working out alone and why you should give it a try.


  1. Working out alone allows you to set your own pace to achieve your goals and avoid injury without being rushed or pressured by others.
  2. Working out alone can help clear your mind, relieving stress through reflection and physical activity.
  3. Working out with other people leaves room for more distraction, especially if you’re with your mates. If you have a lot to talk about, it’s all too easy for your run to become a walk, and the quality of your session can be affected.