One of my all-time favorite movie lines is from Jerry McGuire—and no, it’s not, “You had me at hello.” It’s “Help me, help you. HELP ME, HELP YOU!” Remember? And no truer words could be spoken between workout partners. The right training buddy can be exactly the help you need to crush your fitness goals.
A study from Michigan State University’s Department of Kinesiology found that training with an exercise partner can increase the amount of time you work out. Researchers discovered that participants who biked against a simulated partner on a screen exercised twice as long than the participants who biked alone. A workout buddy is there to challenge and encourage you, but they can also make you work harder and longer than you normally would. This is because, as study author Brandon Irwin, Ph.D. says, “…you don’t want to be the ‘weak link.’”
In case you need a little more convincing, here are a few more reasons to team up today:
- You’ll show up. It’s one thing to blow off the alarm and roll over when you are exercising alone. I have dragged myself out of bed on many an early morning, muttering reasons why I can’t go for a run. But the thought of my training partner standing on the corner in the dark waiting for me—and the embarrassment of texting some half-baked excuse to cancel—pushes me out the door every time.
- It’s more FUN. Let’s be real here—the treadmill and the elliptical are not the most exciting ways to pass the time. With a partner beside you, laughing and chatting as you break a sweat, the time flies by.
- You’ll have more options. You could shoot hoops alone, but with a partner it becomes a game of one-on-one! Some of the most entertaining exercises require a second person. Try the wheelbarrow push-up, where one person does a pushup while the other stands holding his or her partner’s ankles. The “holder” squats as his or her partner gets closer to the floor, so both exercisers get a workout at the same time.
- “Catch” some healthy habits. Researchers at Harvard University found that unhealthy habits like overeating and smoking are “contagious.” A person’s risk of becoming obese rises by 2 percent for every five obese social contacts they have. But you can also “catch” motivation from the people around you. Find yourself a strong, healthy workout partner and get real close.
- You’ll have someone to share in your success. When you are working out alone and reach one of your goals, you might give yourself a pat on the back. That is not nearly as exciting as setting goals together with a partner and celebrating with a smoothie at the juice bar or a new outfit in the pro shop.
But choose your workout partner carefully, as the wrong workout partner may derail your fitness program. Here are some important considerations for choosing that special someone:
- Find a workout partner with a similar fitness level. If you are just starting a running program and you team up with a seasoned marathon runner, one of you is going to be disappointed.
- Look for someone who shares your fitness goals. If your goal is to lose 10 pounds and your partner wants to enter a bodybuilding contest, you will have a hard time getting your workouts to mesh. While your emphasis will be on cardiovascular workouts, hers will likely be on strength, which means one of you will come up short.
- Try to find someone who has a similar schedule. If you are a morning person and like to work out before you head to the office, you probably will not be able to partner with someone who works the night shift at a hospital. Instead, find someone who will want to exercise at a time when you are both at your best.
- Make sure you share similar values and have some things in common. It is not necessary that you and your workout partner are exact mirrors of one another. In fact, this may be a wonderful opportunity for you to become more open-minded and appreciate someone’s differences. However, if you do not have anything in common, you may not have much to talk about and will not be comfortable sharing your life experiences.