The Buddy System
A dynamic duo, typically friends or colleagues, who train together one-on-one or have developed a regular routine of connecting for fitness activities.
Best for: Those who shy away from gyms and fitness classes when solo, or who tend to be more introverted. Great for those focused on specific, shared or complementary goals (e.g., losing weight, getting stronger, training for an event). Ideal for pals who want to spend more time together and be more active. Also great for coworkers or stay-at-home parents.
“Finding time to work out around your job or the kids’ schedules can be challenging,” says Kara Thom, coauthor of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011). “So it makes sense to recruit the people you see on a regular basis.” Have a coworker join you for a lunchhour workout, she suggests, or exercise with fellow parents waiting around during a child’s music lesson or sports practice.
Why it works: “Having a reliable workout buddy increases your chances of sticking with your program,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, MS, PT, psychologist, physical therapist and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness (Morgan James, 2009). It can be hard to push yourself during solo workouts, she notes, and it’s dangerous to lift heavy weights without a spotter. A workout buddy can provide some healthy competition while keeping you within safe limits.
Plus, there’s a huge emotional benefit. “During a workout, more than our pores open up,” Thom says. “We find ourselves connecting with our workout buddies more intimately than we might if we were just meeting over coffee. Workout partners not only get us through a challenging workout, but can help us through life challenges as well.”
Potential pitfalls: “If your workout partner is down all the time, complaining, you will eventually lose motivation,” Lombardo says. Likewise, if he or she is too competitive, gives up too easily or is jealous of your success, it will bring you down. You don’t have to be perfectly matched fitness-wise (in fact, it can be helpful to exercise with someone who is a little fitter than you), but if you have dramatically different personality traits and divergent fitness goals, it can derail you, Andersen adds. Finally, beware of getting distracted with too much joking around or gossip. Your workout partner should make exercise fun, but not cause you to lose focus.
Success story: “From past experience, I know that I am more likely to go to the gym when someone is expecting me,” says Brandi Frommelt, 29, a mother of three girls who works out at Life Time Fitness in Tempe, Ariz. Initially, Frommelt used a personal trainer for motivation, but one-on-one training was never her long-term plan. “Ideally, I want to meet with someone three to four times a week, and working that frequently with a trainer just wasn’t in my budget.”
Frommelt then tried recruiting girlfriends to go to the gym with her. “I found out pretty quickly that although many women say that they will go to the gym with me, few ever do.”
She eventually discovered the best place to meet a reliable gym buddy is at the gym. “I realized that the people I saw there regularly already had the motivation to be healthy and active.” And, she knew their schedules aligned because she saw them consistently.
So last year, Frommelt gathered her courage and asked one of the regulars, Liz Poloskov, 32, to join her for a workout. The women have met faithfully three times a week ever since. “Our fitness goals are slightly different — she wants to lose weight and I want to build strength — but it gives us a nice variety of routines and exercises,” Frommelt says. “We rotate doing cardio and lifting.” The women also meet with separate personal trainers once every few months and use that information to develop new routines. “Partnering up has helped me to try different exercises that I would not normally do, which has pushed my fitness forward.
Number Two: strength in numbers