The buddy system isn’t just for kids! We asked half a dozen fitness experts why pairing up with a workout partner can be more effective than going it alone. Here are their top tips:
1. You Can Use the Motivation. Not in the mood to get out of bed for an early-morning workout? It’s one thing to hit the snooze and roll over when you have plans for a solo run, but quite another to bail on a friend who’s waiting for you at the gym. #badfriend
A buddy simply motivates you to get up, get going and push a little harder. “A workout buddy with a similar goal can help motivate you to reach your goals,” explains International Fitness Model Heather Vines-Bright. “Your buddy can motivate you when you need an extra push, and vice versa,” she adds.
2. They Increase Your Accountability. It’s not always easy to hold yourself accountable. Some people hire a trainer to help them set and meet their goals. Not everyone can afford to hire or share a trainer, but anyone can find a workout buddy if they try hard enough. NASM Certified Personal Trainer Samara Hantman compares the “workout buddy” system a scenario most of us can relate to from childhood. “Remember when you were younger and went swimming?” she asks, “You had to stay with your buddy – you were responsible for making sure he or she was doing OK.” The same rules apply to your fitness partner. It’s his or her job to make sure you give your workout your all and your job to do the same.
3. They Add a Little Healthy Competition. Several studies have shown that going up against an opponent challenges us to work just a little bit harder. If you have a competitive bone in your body, the same theory works whether you are competing in a race or simply trying to keep up with your BFF doing laps at the track. Solo workouts can still be difficult and challenging, but shredding with a fellow fitness enthusiast can really up our game. “They challenge us to do more than them,” points out fitness coach Lisa S. Bashford. “One more rep, heavier weights, or another half mile.” There’s nothing like the rush of coming in first!
4. You’ll Gain Friendship and Support. Like many things in life, workouts are a bit more fun with a friend by your side. Time seems to pass much more quickly, too, when you’re sweating together. “Going through a lifestyle change with another person creates a lasting bond,” says Lori Musselman, creator of the MFit BootCamp program. “It’s special because they’ve seen you at your best and your worst, encouraged you, laughed with you and maybe even cried with you. When you have a workout buddy, you have support,” she shares. Who couldn’t use more support when working towards a goal?
5. It’s Just More Fun. “Let’s face it, working out can become boring and redundant,” says ISAA Certified Personal Trainer Nicole Matthews. “Having a buddy around will keep things entertaining and fun,” she tells us. A long-time researcher of the science of laughter, Dr. William Fry wrote, “Three to five minutes of intense laughter can double the heart rate – the aerobic equivalent of three strenuous minutes on a rowing machine.” Laugh away, my friends … just don’t forget to keep crushing it as you chuckle.
6. It Gives You More Options and Better Balance. When you work out alone, you tend to do the same things over and over again – the same run you’ve done every morning for years or the same group exercise class. Changing things up is the key to muscle confusion, which helps you get stronger and leaner. “You like Zumba and Pilates, and your friend loves Body Pump and Spin,” NASM Certified Personal Trainer Robin Gillespie explains. “Meet up for all four classes for a well-balanced schedule, and use foam rollers after class to work on flexibility together,” she advises. It’s a win-win!
7. There’s Safety in Numbers! Training for a race? A running buddy not only pushes you to log your daily miles but also keeps an eye out for you on the road in case you become injured or find yourself in a dangerous situation. A partner in the gym is priceless, too, in terms of safety. “A workout buddy can help you stretch beyond your limits and be there to spot you on that last rep or two,” relates Vines-Bright. No excuses – you’ve got this!
8. You’ll See Results. And last but not least, that sweet smell of success! If you show up and stick with your fitness plan, you will see results. “Buddies want the best for one another and want to see each other succeed,” assures Matthews. “They will do their very best to show up and not let the other one down.
Be careful who you buddy up with; a dependable friend is essential to reaping the rewards of the system, so be smart when you choose. Pick someone you enjoy spending time with, has a positive attitude and is at least at your current fitness level.
By Karen Morse, MPH