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Strength in Numbers

Want to get more out of your workouts? Having the right workout buddy can often make all the difference in your results.

Michele Chiappetta
December 28, 2018

If you want to be more active this year, you’re not alone. A lot of people set fitness goals for themselves in January — so many, in fact, that gyms all over the area are running specials right now to get you in the door.

The question is, how are you going to stay motivated to pursue those goals when the novelty of new year resolutions wear off? Enter the fitness buddy. Research shows that people who are looking to get fit have a much better chance of being successful and sticking to their workouts when they have a partner.

And let’s get real here: It’s not the snap decision to sign up for a 5K, buy a yoga package, or get a bike that keeps you in shape. It’s the act of running every day, or taking yoga three times a week, or riding your bike regularly that tones you up. If you want long-term results, you have to stick with your fitness goals consistently over time.

That’s why working out with a buddy is so helpful. That friend gives us added reasons to show up for workouts and keep at it until we see results. Plus, maintaining friendships is a proven way to improve your quality of life as you age. Win-win!

Exercise partners provide a powerful combination of support, accountability, motivation and, in some cases, healthy competition. They can play the role of teammate, co-coach and cheerleader — all while working out.

So, if you’re looking to get fit and love life this year, find a fitness buddy. But before you rush out and snag yourself a workout buddy, there are a few things you need to know. You see, not all workout buddies are equal, so you’ve got to be picky. Which makes perfect sense. By the same token, you’re going to be their workout buddy, so be prepared to step up your game and be the best workout buddy you can be. Luckily, everyone can learn to be a better workout partner.

Here are some reasons why this helps so much, and ways to maximize your fitness buddy activities.

Why it Helps

You’ll work out harder
When you exercise alone, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to work harder than usual. It’s easier to fall into a fitness rut and hit a plateau where you don’t progress much. But when you’re with someone who’s hitting the weights hard, you’re more likely to match their level of effort. Let that competitive drive fuel you to push yourself more, and you’ll see the results as your fitness improves.

You’ll see results quicker
After a while, solo exercisers can tend to fall into the same old routine, which can limit your results. A workout pal nips that tendency in the bud. Your friend is likely to notice when you’re interrupting your routine too often to check your phone. A good workout buddy will not only tell you when you’re going too easy, but also encourage you to try a new exercise, helping you avoid fitness plateaus where you get stuck and don’t improve.

You’ll be less likely to give up
We’ve all been there — the days of wanting to sleep in, the nights when you just want to go home and have a beer instead of getting in your workout. It’s much more tempting to slack off when it’s just you. But when you’re meeting a friend to exercise together, it’s easier to feel motivated to show up, because meeting a friend is not just a gym visit — it’s a time to visit and enjoy yourself too.

You’ll have more fun
Studies show that people who exercise with friends have more fun than those who don’t. No surprise there, right? While a solitary workout can be nice at times when you’ve had a busy day and want to clear your head, repeated solo workouts can get monotonous. But add a friend to the mix, and you also add conversation, jokes, confessional sessions — all the fun you normally have with your pals, just with exercise included.

You’ll avoid injuries
Working out effectively means doing the moves right. Proper form while you perform is essential. When you’re working out alone, you may not notice that you’re not maintaining proper form in lifting weights or running. But a good fitness buddy will see it and be able to point out when you need to adjust your back or move your arms differently. And that’ll help you target muscles properly, without pain afterward.

Keeps your ego in check
When people start getting good results from their workouts, a little ego can creep in from time to time. A good workout partner recognizes that you’re proud of your achievements and confident with what you’ve got, and at the same time keeps you grounded by constantly pushing you to do better.

How to Recognize a Great Fitness Buddy

Show up consistently - and on time
Being a fitness buddy is a commitment. When you fail to show up for a planned workout session, it can kill your friend’s motivation and mess up their plans, making their workout less effective and more frustrating. Don’t be that person! Treat your workout partner with respect. Do all you can to get there every time, on time. And if you absolutely must miss a session due to unforeseen issues, tell your buddy promptly so they’re not wasting time waiting on you.

Set specific goals that work for both of you
You’re not there to run a solo marathon, but neither are you there to do less than you’re capable of. Talk with your workout pal and figure out what goals would be mutually beneficial — whether that’s meeting for a set amount of time at the gym, showing up for a running group weekly, or lifting weights at least twice a week. The more specific you make your goals, the easier it is to check your progress in meeting them.

Be willing to push just enough
It’s easy to either be a drill sergeant, pushing your workout partner constantly, or a couch potato, not pushing them at all. To be a great fitness buddy, you’ve got to find balance. Pay attention to your friend as you exercise. If they’re in pain or clearly feeling worn down, remind them to pace themselves. If they’re barely breaking a sweat, encourage them to work a little harder. Remember, your end goal is to help each other.

Learn proper techniques
Every style of exercise has its proper way of doing things to help you avoid injuries and get good results. And there are always new exercises you can add to enhance a routine. Don’t leave it all to your buddy to figure this stuff out. Learn what you can about proper form, so you can help your friend exercise more effectively. If you’re working with weights, ask a trainer to show you both how to spot each other. Read up on new exercises and share them with your buddy.

Consider a long-distance fitness buddy
You don’t have to be in the same room, same gym, or even the same country to benefit from a workout buddy. If your favorite running friend has moved, stay in touch by phone, email, text, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Sworkit, FitBit, or any other connection tool you like. You can still challenge each other to meet goals and check in regularly. And you can always plan a meetup for a race or other sports activity once a year.  

How to be a Fabulous Fitness Buddy

  • Build your active partnership with thoughtful acts of support like these:
  • Be in touch. Send reminder texts or emails, prearrange rides to the gym, offer wake-up calls if necessary.
  • Be on time. Always.
  • Push your partner, then reinforce their efforts with praise.
  • Suggest new ideas and routines to keep things interesting and prevent plateaus.
  • Remind your partner of their goals and encourage them when the going gets rough.
  • Keep tabs on each other through illness, travel and other routine-breakers. It will make it easier to get back on track.
  • Talk about topics other than fitness. The more you care about your partner as a person, the stronger your alliance will be. But don’t wallow in negative talk. It’s an energy downer.
  • Be flexible. Sitter canceled? Take turns watching the kids so each of you can exercise independently.