February 16, 2012 at 10:06 am EST | by Kevin M. Norris
The benefits of two

Having a workout buddy can help keep you motivated — but choose wisely. (iStock photo)

Having a partner in crime can be one of the most effective methods in staying with an exercise program and healthy eating patterns.

Notice I said “eating patterns” and not diet — diets don’t work! There’s nothing like having additional support in what can be a long, arduous and overwhelming quest. Taking care of you requires a systematic, well thought out approach and having someone with equal or similar goals can be an excellent motivator.

I have more often than not hired a workout partner to help motivate me. I say hired because I essentially treat the process of finding the right person as an interview for a very important position as I wanted to find the right match. I look for someone with similar goals and a similar mindset and for an essence of motivation that I may not have for myself. Perhaps this person has something I want. I sit down with my potential partner and discuss our common goals, how we both like to workout, what activities we have in common and our strengths and weakness and what we both want most out of a workout partner. Remember what you are looking for most is someone to motivate you and help you stay committed particularly on days when you simply don’t want to work out.

It’s important to find someone who may have similar struggles and barriers. This person may have trouble sticking to a set time or even getting to the gym — here is where you both decide on the same times each week. Put the appointments in your appointment book and treat them as an important commitment that you must stick to. Having your workout partner to answer to will help you get your butt to the gym — not out of guilt, but out of responsibility and obligation. We all have off days and this is when you workout partner can come to the rescue and push you to prevail.

What else can a workout partner do? He or she can push you beyond what you think your limits are or even create a competitive edge to your exercise routine — a healthy competition can be a great motivator. For instance who can run the fastest mile or do the most pushups? This is where it’s important to find someone who is in comparable shape with similar goals for if this person is in much better shape than you are, the relationship may de-motivate you and make it seem as if you are always trying to catch up to your workout partner.  Having a workout partner at a similar fitness level is crucial to your motivation and success.

When looking for a workout partner, take your time, talk to a few different people in whom you think you can thrive off of and try your potential prospects out for a few workouts. Don’t be afraid to be particular and ask for what you want out of a workout partner. After all, you will be with this person likely several times a week so finding a good match can make or break your exercise program.

If you can’t seem to find a good match, there are other options to engage others. Rather than just engage one individual, you can create an exercise group of like-minded people who share similar goals.  Here you have a support network rather than just one person. I recommend three to four other people on your team to keep the group intimate.

Whether you decide on one other person or several, remember variety as well. In either scenario you don’t have to stick to the confines of a gym. Get outside — bike, jog, rollerblade or create your own boot camp routine in a nice park (there are countless in D.C.). Having a workout partner or small group may be an excellent opportunity to hire a personal trainer more economically. Most personal trainers will work with two people at a time and some will create programs for small groups and the cost per person will be substantially less.

Another approach is to take group exercise classes together, which can be intimidating walking into alone. Again, this should be a previously scheduled set appointment and you can make it a habit of following it up with a healthy breakfast or lunch. And you can choose a couple different types of classes again to stave off boredom and make your exercise program well rounded. Try Yoga, spinning, cardio-kickboxing, etc.

Whichever approach you choose, remember it’s all about garnering support, creating camaraderie and having fun in the process.

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