The Importance of a Workout Buddy
Hey there BDSC readers. Today I wanted to do a quick post and talk about something that I think is vitally important to your long term workout success: having a workout buddy. When you first start out on a new fitness program, your enthusiasm and motivation is at an all time high. For a lot of us, that peak focus is in January when we make a New Years resolution to start working out and get in shape. But as time go on, we lose focus and motivation for several reasons: the pain sets in from all those reps, we miss the foods we use to eat, maybe getting up earlier to workout is hard for you, or if you didn't have a good foundation, you may not be seeing the results you hoped for. Having a gym partner can solve and prevent many of those excuses and keep you on track to achieve your fitness goals.
First, having a gym buddy makes you accountable. If you have a scheduled gym time, that partner expects you to be there and vice versa. For this reason, you will miss less workouts and it is the perfect motivation on those days when you don't feel like getting out of bed, working out, or you just think you don't have the time. If you are not seeing the expected results, or your partner isn't either, someone is going to speak up and ask why and that will keep you on target with your nutrition and fitness goals.
A workout partner provides companionship that isn't to be overlooked. As much as I enjoy the feeling I get from working out, I will be the first to admit that it's not normal to be inside a dark gym for hours every week alone. Having someone to socialize with between sets and talk about your goals takes away much of the stress and boredom of gym workouts. This person may also share other interests, so when the weather is good and it's time mix up the workouts by getting outside to avoid the monotony of the gym, your workout buddy may be the person who you can also call to go on a bike ride, hike, or run.
That companionship and accountability may also be exactly what you need to build the support system you are not getting elsewhere. I hear a lot of my clients talk about how friends, spouses and significant others, and even their kids try to pry them away from their workouts. All those negative voices will eventually take their toll, and often people who are working out for the first time give up on their own health because of those around them. Sometimes I think those negative people try to derail you out of jealousy - no one wants to look like the lazy friend or spouse. They may even be afraid that with a new hot body and focus you will leave them behind. Kids and spouses are often afraid you will not be available to them like you were before. You can rationalize with them all you want, explaining how in order to be able to face life's challenges you yourself need to be of healthy mind and body, but unfortunately many of the people in your life will fail to get it. The workout partner you choose can provide that support and can be the "shoulder to cry on" so to speak when those negative influences in your life threaten to derail your goals and plans.
Another benefit of having a workout buddy is that you can push each other through the tough spots and plateaus in your quest. They can provide that voice of motivation and confidence when you need it (and vice versa). That might be when challenging yourself by adding weight: if you are going to make gains, it's important to keep adding weights or reps but you may not have the confidence to lift that weight you have never lifted before, over your head, without a spotter. Your partner is there for you, preventing injuries and monitoring your form to make sure you are getting the most from a workout. Less injuries means less pain, increasing the likelihood that you keep working out. Better form means better gains, and more results from the same amount of work.
Helping push each other through the tough spots is bound to also create a sense of healthy competition. That human desire to compete is the edge you need to make gains and improve your performance. I am sure when you go for a run, a least a little part of you wants to beat the other person. In the gym, do you secretly want to do one more rep than your buddy? That competitiveness is healthy and will keep you on target, ramping up your workouts. After it's all done and you look back, you and your workout partner are sure to have a good laugh and feel great that someone was there to witness the body transformation you achieved.
Choosing the Right Workout Partner
As you can see, the benefits of a workout buddy are obvious, but how do you choose the right one? The most important factor is choosing a partner who is as committed as you are. Do you agree on the number of times to workout per week? How about what time of day to workout? Do you both agree to make your new program a priority in your life? If this motivation is not present, you will prevent one another from making consistent changes - causing your commitment to wane quickly.
Just as important as commitment is a workout buddy who has similar goals or experience. Choose someone close to your ability. It's ok if the partner you workout with has more experience than you, it even helps when you are first starting out if someone can show you the ropes. But if you are too far apart in experience this will become a roadblock to individual progress. Eventually you may out grow one another, but when starting out you should be of similar physical ability. If you bench 50 pounds and you partner benches 350 lbs. you will be a road block to their progress, and that other person is bound to grow bored or annoyed because of the constant plate changes so you can do your set. It also helps if you have similar fitness goals such as weight loss, strength building, or maybe both of you are preparing for a marathon or even a Tough Mudder event.
Though it's great to have similar goals, it is ok to have some different interests. That's how you bring some variety to you workouts. For example if you prefer weights, but your workout buddy likes to go on an occasional run, this could be the variety you need to keep workouts interesting. The mix of activities will stimulate a different set of muscles, keep your metabolism on fire, and might even help get you to the next level of fitness.
If one workout out partner is good, two or three must be better right? Not necessarily. This may work for a spinning class or cardio session, but generally it's best to avoid the workout group. Group workouts usually end up being more of a social get together, everyone gathered around chatting about their day. If you do manage to stay focused in a group, it's going to be difficult to coordinate who works on what machine, and the time between sets will be long enough that your workouts will become very long - giving you an excuse to quit before you have competed all of your exercises.
Along those same lines, many people choose to avoid working out with significant others. For some of my clients, they just don't feel comfortable under the microscope of their wife or husband watching them break a sweat or struggle when starting out. Don't feel bad about this, sit down and have a conversation with your significant other and explain you just need some time alone - at least until you feel athletic enough to workout with them. Now for other couples, working out together creates a deeper connection as both can support one another through their struggles and share in the success they achieve together. This is going to be a decision between you and your significant other.
Finally avoid excuse makers. Those people don't want to succeed, they would rather blame their genetics, or other people for their own lack of motivation or success. Choose the partner who makes you smile and feel confident even when you are struggling. Someone who you don't want to disappoint, feel committed to, and whom you share a healthy amount of competitiveness with.
After those tough workouts, if you need some help with post workout recuperation, check out my other recent article: Workout Recovery. Be sure to comment below and tell me about your workout buddy!
Brooke Bailey is a personal trainer, masseuse, and student in health and wellness. She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow her on Facebook.