It’s easy to get lost in thought when working out. “Am I doing this right? Ugh, my muscles are so tired.” And it’s easier yet to let those thoughts get the best of your plans. “Maybe I’ll skip this next workout. Maybe I’ll just skip all these workouts.” One quick way to short circuit those doubts? Find yourself a workout partner.
First: what is it that makes working out alone so hard sometimes? Jen Kates, coach and owner of Meru Wellness, a remote nutrition and wellness company based out of Denver Colorado, says we can be our own limiting factor, whether that’s because we’re not seeing the benefits we’d hoped for, or just getting caught up in a cycle of negative thoughts. Kates says two of the biggest goal-killers are losing motivation and not pushing yourself to go harder. “Without someone there to help motivate you, your accountability and adherence to your workouts or training can suffer, no matter how great your programming is for your workouts,” she says.
The added layer of accountability is what really amplifies the effect of a training buddy. If you promised someone other than yourself that you’ll be at the gym at 7 a.m., it makes it that much harder to hit the snooze button. Plus, a partner can help push you when you might have normally backed off. “Having a bit of a competition with your workout partner helps to push BOTH of you,” Kates says, “which helps increase the intensity of the workout.” Choosing the right partner is key, though. It should be someone who amplifies your workout, but also makes you want to show up. So how can you be sure? Kates says to “see how they push themselves in a workout, and see if they push YOU enough and support you during the workout as well.” She also recommends sharing similar goals and making sure your communication styles mesh well. Research out of Stony Brook University shows that the exercise habits’ of the people close to you can positively influence your own, but only if they’re supportive. Make sure you’re training with someone who champions your efforts and cares about your success. One study out of Michigan State University showed that even a virtual partner can vastly increase aerobic performance, but only if you believe you’re working together.
Have a partner that sounds like a good fit, but might be at a different level? Kates recommends setting expectations for things like pace and intensity before you start the workout so you can avoid surprises and possible frustrations. Not every workout needs to be together, so figure out ahead of time where you and your partner match up. One’s rest day easy set might be another person’s challenge — just make sure to talk first, and be supportive of each other. If a training buddy sounds right up your alley, but goals just aren’t lining up, keep up a meditation practice while you look for the right partner in training. Meditation can help us to be aware of thoughts that can derail our progress and help us to recognize them for what they are: just thoughts.