Improve Your Workout by Adding a Friend

by Elisa Dely 

Most people embark on a new fitness program with great intentions, but sometimes lack the accountability to continue to thrive. Working out alone has many benefits, but if you want to increase your success and improve your exercise time and intensity as much as 200 percent, finding the right workout partner is key.

A recent study by Michigan State University researcher Brandon Irwin found that participants who work out with someone they perceived as a slightly better performer improved their own efforts. Irwin’s participants were given “virtual” partners and told that they exercised at a 40 percent better rate. This perception resulted in a 90 percent increase in the participants’ performance. Later in the study, the participants were part of a virtual team. They were told that they were trying to achieve a team score. Participants who thought they might be the “weakest link” actually exercised longer. Over the course of

the study, the group participants exercised up to 200 percent longer than those who continued to exercise alone.

The key to success when exercising with a partner or group is knowing your workout “personality” and choosing the right workout buddy or group situation for you. People who are social and enjoy group situations may be most motivated exercising with others or as part of a team. Group exercise classes or run and bike clubs are great choices for those people. Others who are planners or are self-conscious about their abilities may do better with one well-chosen partner.

When choosing the right group or partner, a person should take the following into consideration:

Do you consider your partner a fitness role model?

If you choose someone who is slightly better at running and you are slightly better at strength training, you will both benefit from each other’s knowledge and make better gains.

Does your partner have similar goals and interests?

If your motivation and goal is to become a better swimmer and your partner wants to improve her yoga technique, you need to look for someone else.

Is your partner positive and motivating?

Look for someone who keeps complaints, negativity and excuses to themselves. Avoid someone who is egotistical or overly competitive. Your workout is meant to be positive.

Does your partner’s schedule work with your schedule?

Obviously, if you can never find times that sync you will never get a workout scheduled.

If you choose to work with a spouse or life partner, be aware that relationship personalities will follow through into your workout relationship.

Avoid partners who are using “quick-fix” shortcuts such as unhealthy weight-loss supplements or artificial energy products.

Choosing the right partner makes working out much easier. Trying new workouts becomes fun and helps you stay motivated. Good workout partners keep each other safe and healthy by watching exercise form and talking about nutritional goals. A good partner also ensures participation. Having a set time and someone to meet is a good way to improve accountability
and commitment.

Try one of the various types of workout accountability:

  • The team or club approach. Find a group class, small group training, club or team in your area.
  • A like-minded friend or co-worker.
  • A spouse or partner
  • A personal trainer or coach.

All accountability options improve motivation, safety and success. Most importantly, working out with a partner makes exercise fun and helps develop a lifestyle that yields long-term improvements.

Elisa Dely

Elisa Dely is a Certified Personal Trainer with nearly 20 years of experience and Co-owner of Genesis Fitness and Wellness, an in-home, on-site personal training company.




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