Having a fitness partner can help keep us motivated and disciplined. Here are a few more steps you can take to make sure you're being the best workout buddy you can be!
Learn to Spot
If you are going to exercise together, it makes sense to know how to help each other out. Having a spotter who you trust will allow you to push yourself harder when lifting heavy weights, so take the time to learn how to spot properly for the movements you and your partner do. Even if you aren't lifting heavy, being able to offer a critique on each other's form can be helpful in preventing injury, since we can't always tell when we're performing an exercise improperly.
Naturally, you want your advice to be both helpful and correct. Learn the information together by sharing/discussing videos and articles, and discuss with your partner what kind of feedback they want, such as whether they want to be pushed hard or bailed out of a lift early.
If you're really not comfortable with the idea of spotting or form-checking your partner, consider booking a session with a trainer who can give you a hands-on tutorial. Anyone can learn, and you'll be helping each other have safer, more effective workouts.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but I'll mention it anyway. Many people find the idea of exercise and healthy eating to be extremely daunting, and it is common for discouraging thoughts to creep in. Be a sounding board, address negative thoughts/feelings with compassion, and try not to be dismissive of your partner's issues (even if they seem small or incorrect).
That said, know when it's time for them to suck it up. Sometimes we need to have our butts kicked, and who better but our workout buddy to deliver the blow? Discuss this before the situation comes up, and let each other know which type of feedback you respond to best.
Support is given through words, but also through actions. If your dietary needs are different, be mindful of the effect your eating habits may have on your buddy. You may be at different levels of fitness; taking off and leaving your partner in the dust doesn't exactly convey a sense of fellowship, but neither does an accusation of being a “show-off” when one person performs better than another. Leave the ego at home, or better yet, get rid of it altogether.
Be available to one another even when you're not together. Keeping each other accountable with a simple text message about going for a run or hitting your daily calorie target can be a powerful way to feel supported and supportive during the time between workouts.
Try Something New
Nothing can inject life into your fitness regimen like going to a new spin class, climbing gym, or indoor obstacle course, and checking out a new gym or fitness class can be a lot more fun if you do it with a friend. This is especially true if you experience anxiety about meeting new people or going to unfamiliar places, so having a partner can get you doing things you never thought you would try. Even if your workouts are home-based, there are so many different workout ideas online and in magazines that there's really no excuse to be bored with what you're doing.
It's even been found that we get more out of workouts when we think our partner is better than us , so use this to your advantage! Take turns recommending workouts to do, especially if you come from different fitness backgrounds. You'll both get to try new things, and you'll both have a chance to do things you're good at.
For some people, exercise is a private joy. They can't wait to get up early and run on empty streets, or crank up the music in their headphones and tune the world out while they lift. This is their time, and they cherish every moment of it.
For others, exercise is one more thing they feel like they should do. They don't really like it, but they're going to try and make it happen. Since misery loves company, it is fairly common practice for people to team up with a partner to try and keep them on track. This subject has even been the subject of studies which confirm what many of us have known for a while; having a “workout buddy” makes us more likely to stick with our exercise plan and get more out of the work we're doing .
With that established, let's take a look at what we can do to be better workout buddies. Making one post about workout partners just didn't feel right, so stay tuned for part 2!
Understand Each Other's Goals
No matter who your partner is, you'll likely have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to fitness. You'll be able to lift more or squat less, jump higher or run more slowly. As such, it is reasonable to expect your goals to be different. Spend some time discussing them, both before you get started and as you continue along. Understanding each other's goals will allow you to provide support and motivation when needed.
While this may seem counter-intuitive, you and your workout partner don't have to be doing the same things when you're together. The “togetherness” aspect of the workout might end as soon as you enter the gym, and pick up again once you leave. You'll still have provided each other with accountability, you can still hang out afterwards, but the point is that you've added a social aspect to your workout.
I mentioned accountability, and this may be the biggest reason people consider using the buddy system. Booking your workout like an appointment will help you fit it in to your schedule, and booking that appointment with another person will make you less likely to cancel.
This ought to go without saying, but I'll say it anyway; if you're using the buddy system to help you show up to your workout, you have to show up yourself! This is a two-way street, and it only works if you're both doing it.
As I've written before, there is more than one way to show up. Make sure that you arrive at the workout ready to rock. Put the phone away, have a plan, and get to work.
You've pumped yourself up, you've made it to the gym, you're about to get started, and you hear “ugh, I don't even know if I wanna do this” or “what's the point, I can't seem to lose this weight.”
Negativity has no place here. We're supposed to be helping each other out, motivating one another, keeping the momentum going, and you're gonna whine about having to do this?
I've caught myself doing this before. I've had people do it to me. It sucks. Take a deep breath, think about the effect your words have on your partner, and say something else. Or nothing, that's good too.
In fairness, there's a big difference between being negative and complaining about your decision to do a fourth set, or complaining that your legs don't work after yesterday's stair run. Good-natured groaning is ok, being a downer is not.
Ryan Casselman is a personal trainer, musician, and the founder of Real Trainers. Stay tuned as he finds out what he's going to write about each week or so!