Hey, you don’t need to be afraid to admit: It can get lonely out there. Whether you’re on the track, in the pool or deadlifting pieces of scrap metal in the local junk yard, working out is usually a solo grind. But sometimes it’s nice to have a workout buddy.
While sitting in the back row of spin class or running next to headphone-wearing treadmill zombies might feel like solidarity, it’s actually closer to solitude. And that’s not a bad thing. Working out is a time to focus on yourself, to clear your head. In many ways it’s therapeutic to have that time alone.
But getting a rigorous sweat in doesn’t mean you have to discipline yourself in some dark workout dungeon. Even when Bruce Wayne was trying to escape the Pit in “The Dark Knight Rises,” he had all of his prison boys chanting and cheering him on. And that’s one of the great things about workout buddies (and prison buddies, I suppose).
There’s a sense that, “yeah, this is tough, but we’re all in this together.” So do yourself a favor, and consider calling a workout buddy once in awhile.
But don’t call just anybody.
You must weigh pros and cons — and consider the most prominent prior examples. Below are some readily available options for you to evaluate:
If you’re a morning workout person (or want to be), this option is worth exploring. Somebody who is most likely within shouting distance when you wake up is going to make it harder for you to sleep in and slack off. Same goes for sharing a fridge. If you’re trying to eat healthy, your roomie will make it harder for you to sneak Ben and Jerry’s. If you can commit to a routine, you’ll be able to easily motivate each other to get up in the morning, hit the gym and stay disciplined.
Con: If you don’t prefer the same gym. Or if you hate your roommate.
Favorite example: Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Zook (Wyatt Russell) in the workout montage scene in “22 Jump Street.” The QB/WR duo relentlessly pumping iron in their room together — literally that’s all they do.
Nothing gets the juices flowing like an old nemesis from your playing days. Ideally this person is somebody you competed against. There was a little bad blood, but time (and maturity) have buried that hatchet. In a real best-case scenario, you can find a situation to play against each other in a sport like pick-up basketball and train after. I assure you even the oldest rival will bring out the best in you. Who knows? You may even dispel post-workout awkwardness and become friends.
Con: You haven’t matured as much as you thought, and a hard box out turns into a full blown melee during your Thursday night ZogSports basketball league.
Favorite example: Rocky and Apollo Creed training montage in “Rocky 3.” The beach run/water hug is the stuff dreams are made of.
YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER
This pertains to those couples who don’t live together yet (otherwise, see “your roommate” above). It also pertains more to couples who have been seeing each other for a bit — although I have heard of a few examples of spin class first dates (but won’t comment further). A glimpse into each other’s routine is fun, and playful competition is good (until somebody starts to get sensitive). Working out with your SO can also be a very nice dispute-resolution technique, both for very effectively settling arguments passive-aggressively (see: running with headphones in) and not-so-passive-aggressively settling arguments (see: boxing class).
Con: This works best as a change-up to a routine not something that becomes super-regular. And if you’re the overly competitive type, it could spell disaster for the relationship…
Favorite example: Couple of the athletic moment — Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton. They’re just like you and your girl/boyfriend, save for the fact they are world-record holding track and field stars.
Every once in awhile, it just helps to be coached again. Whether you’re learning proper techniques for a new type of workout or just need somebody in your ear pushing you to a higher level, I find that splurging on a personal-training session is well worth it.
Con: The disadvantages are just that — the cost — but even just a periodic check-in can help, and your trainer might be able to give you routines to follow on your own.
Favorite example: “SNL” legends Hans and Franz, here to pump you up.
The strong silent type: loyal, nonjudgmental and almost guaranteed to be faster and in better physical shape than you are. You will never find a partner happier to join you on a run or with a better all-around attitude.
Con: Can’t spot you on the bench.
Favorite example: Air Bud.
No man (or woman) is an island. Finding your own workout buddy is not just a helpful way to break up the monotony of solo training. It’s also beneficial mentally and physically — and altruistically, as in you’re helping another person in the classic “help me help you” tradition of Jerry Maguire.
Just choose carefully. Workout Buddy is a title to take seriously.
Originally published October 2016, updated July 2022
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