Many of us have tried and tested the workout-buddy theory - that we’ll find it easier to stick to, feel more motivated, and can socialise all while doing some exercise. Sounds grand! But if you’ve ever been left at the weights section without a spotter, stood up in the park for your usual morning walk, or simply don’t know where to look - you’ll know finding a buddy isn’t always easy, nor is being a good one ourselves. So keep reading, to learn more about recruiting buddies and being a wonderful one!
If you’ve ever tried to commit to or find a workout buddy, you’ll know the relationship is about as easy as going from couch to 5k in a week. Finding someone we like, that wants to do the same or similar workouts we do, and that actually sticks to the schedule isn’t always the first person we see in the gym or even our best mate.
You might even be thinking it would be easier to pay a personal trainer, a coach or someone to shout at us, by the hour. But the most simple step is to ask anyone who might be interested - whether it’s friends, family or work colleagues, or even putting a message out on social media. You might be surprised by how many responses you actually get and who they’re from!
It can help to mention any specific training styles you like or are interested in trying out, or you might be seeking a buddy for some inspiration. If you prefer to work out alone, there are fitness groups or classes available (online and in person) that you join for the community vibes, but still fulfilling your own goals.
Once you’ve found your buddy, maintaining the relationship needs a little of our focus - along with some to do the actual workout too. There’s an etiquette to being a workout buddy, that we need to uphold and our partners do too. So here are our top tips for being a great workout buddy - and making sure your buddy is keeping their end of the deal too.
Top tips for being a wonderful workout buddy:
No one wants a flakey gym mate. Cancelling or bailing last minute on planned sessions is demotivating for us, and not a great way to show our commitment to the person or our activity (which if you initiated the buddy-up, could be a little annoying). Of course, we’ll not always be able to meet up when we said and plans do have to change, just be sure to communicate and rearrange to ensure there’s a next time.
Accept comparative strengths and weaknesses
One thing that puts many of us off working out with others can be the comparison it can trigger. If your workout buddy is really great at the HIIT workouts you're doing, while you find them sweaty and sickening, it’s not going to make for a good time. But when we accept our differences, whether they are strengths or weaknesses, and we can encourage and support each other, our workout buddies might be buds for life and working out won’t seem that bad even when it’s our least favourite bit.
Start by being clear about your likes or dislikes when it comes to exercise, and as you build this relationship, make sure (without being mean) to air your frustrations as they arise - in a cool and calm manner to be resolved. Whether you’re going to be a no-show, have sustained an injury or fancy a change of pace, communicate clearly and honestly. Communication allows this relationship to grow in healthy and satisfying ways, while encouraging us to keep moving, in a way we find fun and engaging.
Keep personal chat to a reasonable amount
We have all heaps of stuff going on in our lives and we all have up and down days, but when we bring this to the gym we can get distracted, end up chatting for hours instead of moving, or even dump our problems onto someone unexpectedly. If your workout buddy has become someone close to you who you share stuff with, perhaps arrange a coffee or alternative catch-up rather than taking over the workout session for a friend-therapy session.
Set a joint goal or vision together
Discuss your respective goals or aims and try to come to an agreement over a mutual one. For example, you might be hoping to up the kilos while you squat, but your buddy is looking for a new bench press PB, you might mutually agree that the goal is higher weights, with your own preferred methods. But if one was a running bean wanting to train for a marathon and the other has barely run a day since school PE, it’ll likely not work out (pun intended) especially if one of you is left behind!
Create a healthy level of competition
As we work out together, we will eventually understand our own abilities and begin to recognise theirs. Creating a healthy level of competition is about identifying opportunities for growth. So you might grab a heavier dumbbell than usual and challenge your buddy to a few extra repetitions before you move on to the next exercise. Or they might challenge you to keep running for 5 minutes after you reach the time limit you set. It’s not about competing with each other - this is often more demotivating than motivating.
Encourage, don’t coach
When cheering each other on, aim for encouragement rather than coaching. If we wanted to be coached or shouted at for motivation, we’d probably just get a coach or personal trainer, rather than a buddy. Phrases like “keep going”, “you got this!” and other gentle reminders every now and then will be motivating without feeling murderous after.
Know when to not push
As well as encouraging each other to keep going, it’s important to encourage each other to take rest days, recover after tough sessions and be gentle with ourselves - especially if we’re feeling sore, achy, or injured. Rest days are equally as important at the sessions you’ll do together.
Give them a chance
On first occasions, or a first time bailing on a session, we might feel let down, or like it’s not really working for us. Be sure to give you and your buddy time to see results together, in fitness and getting on. But if your buddy is letting you down often or wanting different outcomes, or you simply find you’re not each other’s usual cup of tea, consider moving on and finding someone new!
Make it fun
An obvious one, but of course, to make exercise more enjoyable we need it to be a least a little bit fun. We don’t have to hit the gym with our buddies every time we want to work out. We might head to the park for a run-around or even just a walk. We might head out to an activity like trampolining or bowling with our buddies and even the kids can join in. make sure your workouts are a balance of exercise and fun to keep you going, and encourage your buddy to do too.
Let others in
Having a workout buddy doesn’t mean we have to be an exclusive item, wherever we like to exercise. The thing about partnering up in the gym (or anywhere) is that it often makes us more approachable to others, you might find you have queues of gym members wanting to join you, or maybe a new member or someone else who’s been looking for a buddy.
Allow for cool patches
As with any other relationship, the one between workout buddies will have its fair share of ups and downs. They might become our best friends or they may drift away over time, or they may go away often, so being accepting of cool patches can help us manage this. We can always find someone new, keep in touch with old buddies or find remote workouts to keep doing together.
When it comes to working out with others remember to honour your needs, but be prepared to commit to a plan with someone. No one wants a flaky gym buddy, nor one that pushes us too hard or too little. It’s all about balance (as with everything else in life), and even if we have the best workout buddy, we might still find there are times we want to exercise alone - and that’s ok.
Having a workout buddy is designed to be helpful not hindering - so if at any point during your workout-buddy relationship, it’s not working, you’re finding it too hard or simply unenjoyable consider the future of this relationship. Whether it’s down to differences in training styles, attitudes, opinions, or even just being a flakey flake.
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