If you’re struggling with your motivation, or you simply want to squeeze more out of every workout you do, then one of the smartest moves you can make is to get a workout buddy. In fact, having the right workout buddy can often be the difference between failure and success, mediocre results and incredible results. Even if you find you work better on your own, the right workout partner can force you to tap into those extra reserves of strength and energy so that you push through a few extra reps. The right workout buddy helps you give it your all, and if you want great results then you’ve got to give it everything you’ve got: you get out, what you put in.
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 you game and be the best workout buddy you can be. Luckily, everyone can learn to be a better workout partner – they’re forged in the gym, not made in the womb. Still, it helps if your workout buddy has more of raw materials from the outset, so I’m going to show you exactly what to look for in your workout partner. But before that, let’s talk about…
10 Benefits of Having a Good Workout Buddy
Help you achieve your fitness goals.
Here’s an interesting bit of research: through ongoing studies, Stanford University has found that simply receiving a phone call each two weeks can boost the amount of exercise you do by up to 78% (on average). The call, which was by either a human or a computer, would find out how much exercise was done in the past week, how the level of exercise could be increased the following week, and if any workouts were missed, emphasize the importance of getting back on track. Get this, after 18 months, they were still exercising at the increased level. So even if you can’t find a workout buddy yet, at the very least you can get a friend to call you and ask those 2 questions each week, which will boost your motivation considerably.
The takeaway from this study is that social support works even if it’s just on the phone. So when you make that support face-to-face, it’s even more powerful – you’re definitely going to be making your workouts, and the more consistent you are with your workouts, the sooner you’re going to achieve your fitness goals.
Working out becomes fun.
You can get a serious workout, without being serious – it’s okay to have fun. In fact, the more fun your workouts are, the more you’re going to look forward to and be commited to them over the long-term. There’s absolutely no doubt that the right workout buddy can make your workouts more fun. Working out alone can be lonely, so just having that social contact – being able to laugh, encourage and motivate – will make them much more enjoyable.
Easier to try new workouts.
Like they say: there’s power in numbers. When you’ve got someone else with you it’s much less intimidating to start using the gym, going to new classes, hitting the free weights or just trying out new exercise equipment (e.g. kettlebells). So if you’ve always fancied doing a Crossfit class, or trying out yoga or strength training, get a buddy on board.
Keeps your form on point.
In a perfect world, your workout buddy would be a personal trainer with years of experience, who could show you the perfect form for your exercises. However, if your workout buddy has even a little experience, they should be able to help correct any obvious form mistakes. Remember, it’s still important to get a trainer to make sure that you have good form, especially when you start doing new exercises.
Competition makes you perform better.
Most of us have at least a little competitive streak, and healthy competition is a good thing because it makes you perform better. One study had some interesting findings on this: participants perform better when they are paired up with a workout partner who is fitter than they are. Furthermore, the study found that to maximize motivation your workout buddy should be about 40% better than you are – a challenging, yet achievable goal for you to meet. When you pair up with a partner who is fitter than you it produces an effect known as the Köhler Effect, or simply put: not wanting to be the weakest link.
There were more interesting findings from this study: first, the partner was virtual (i.e. just a looping video shown on a monitor); second, when told they were working as a team, participants exercised 160% longer than those simply working with a partner and 200% longer than those working alone; lastly (in another study), when men were paired up with a woman who was fitter than they were, they were exceptionally motivated – more so than when paired up with another man who was fitter than them. The takeaway: man or woman, getting a workout buddy will make you perform better at your workouts.
Motivates and supports you.
For most people, having someone in your corner makes a huge difference to how motivated you are. Having a good workout buddy, who motivates and supports you will boost your commitment to your fitness goals and your confidence that you can achieve them.
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.
Makes your workouts safer.
Having someone to spot you when you do squats or bench press, makes working out much safer. In addition, when you go for a jog at night having someone to buddy up with also makes it safer than running alone.
Brings variety to your workouts.
Your workout buddy has different skills and knowledge than you do – you can benefit from this by the different exercises they introduce you to, the correct form, new workouts and different ways of being active. Variety is one of the key components of fun, so you’re much more likely to stick to your workouts when you can do new things.
Increases commitment massively.
It’s one thing bailing on your own workout, but it’s much, much harder to ditch a workout when you know you’re going to be letting your workout buddy down – not to mention the heat you’re going to get when you see them again. In addition to this, having a workout partner means you have to plan your workouts in advance to meet each other’s schedules, and once it’s down on paper and scheduled, it’s much more likely that you’re going to follow through with it.
Those are a few simple benefits of getting yourself a workout partner, and if you took a moment, you could probably come up with a handful more. The point is: having a good workout buddy is going to propel you much further towards your fitness goals, faster than if you go it alone. But there’s the rub: what exactly qualifies as a good workout buddy? Good question. Here are some of the things I’d look for in my workout buddy…
What to Look For in a Workout Buddy
You like them.
A good workout buddy has to be someone you actually like. Your workout partner could be incredible in every other respect, but if you don’t actually like them as a person, you’re not going to stick to the workouts. Remember, a good workout buddy makes your workouts more fun, not less.
Fitness role model.
Ideally, you want your workout buddy to be about 40% fitter than you are – aim to get a person who is a fitness role model, yet at the same time their level of fitness seems achievable to you if you really worked for it. If you’re a guy, you’ll get the biggest boost to your motivation if your workout buddy is female and fitter than you (according to the study cited earlier in the article). In addition, they’ll be more knowledgeable and skilled than you are on the workouts.
Positive and friendly, solution-focused and they keep working for better results. They also need to respect your time, be dependable, and if they’re spotting you, you need to be able to trust that they’ve got your back.
Compatible styles of motivation.
If you need a cheerleader to get motivated and they need a drill-sergeant, then it’s probably not going to work out. Make sure you share the same motivational style.
Share similar goals.
If you want to get to 14% body fat and they want to become a yoga expert, there’s a mismatch there – you need to share similar goals to really gel. It’s also critical that your workout buddy is as committed, and ideally, more committed to the goal than you are. They also need to be someone who won’t cave in on those days where you don’t want to work out – they need to be able to call you on any excuses you make and not back down if they’re bs.
No-brainer. If your schedules never coincide then it’s not going to work.
Avoid these pitfalls.
You also want to make sure they don’t suffer from the following: constantly make excuses, excessively egotistical, use unhealthy shortcuts (like drugs), overly competitive, obstinate, always late, bad attitude, talk more than they work out… the list goes on and on. Which is exactly why you owe it to yourself to be picky when you choose your workout buddy.
If I was looking for a workout buddy that’s the mental checklist I’d be checking off… And remember, they should be checking the same checklist off about you, so you also need to rise to the occasion – it takes two to tango. It’s quite a laundry list of things to look for, but you’ve got to be picky, after all, a great workout buddy is worth their weight in gold.
Do you workout alone? Are you looking for a workout partner? What do you look for in a workout partner? Let us know in the comments below!