Let’s be honest, the vast majority of us struggle with exercise motivation. Whilst we may have the best intentions to stay in shape and maintain consistency, there will simply be days that we just don’t want to hit the gym or go for that run, even when we know we should. Unfortunately studies show that when we exercise alone, we’re actually far more likely to make excuses and to skip our workouts than if we have an exercise session booked in with a partner.
“When we have an exercise session booked in with a training partner, it makes us more accountable,” says Matt Rowe, Personal Training Manager at MotivatePT “We’re far less likely to skip the gym in favour of a morning lie-in or drinks after work with colleagues when we know we would be letting our training partner down. Setting an appointment in the diary and meeting with someone who motivates you is a proven way to help you stick with exercise.”
Whether you’re meeting a personal trainer in the gym or heading out for a morning jog with a friend, the ability to double our exercise performance when we buddy up with someone else, is a considerable achievement. It’s clear that adding a social element to exercise has a marked effect on our mental approach to physical activity. When we exercise with someone we get along with, then it’s natural to interact, to talk and to socialise, which is a great way of distracting us from the pain we may be feeling from exercise or from constantly clock-watching. It’s natural that when we enjoy something, we’re much more likely to want to stick to it. Over time this helps us to develop an exercise habit, which then becomes less likely to be cancelled or postponed. Developing lifestyle habits is one of the most effective ways of achieving long term health goals.
A study by the Department of Kinesiology at Michigan State University, found that by training with a partner we could not only be helping to increase our enjoyment of exercise, we can also increase our exercise motivation by up to 100%, thereby improving both our results and our ability to stick with an exercise plan over the long term. Another study by Stanford University, found that just receiving a motivational phone call every fortnight could increase the amount of exercise we do by almost 75%. If this is what could be achieved from a phone call imagine the advantage of actually training with someone else.
Additional benefits of having a workout partner include having a fresh perspective on both your exercise and your fitness routines. An exercise partner can act as a sounding board when developing workout plans helping us to look at ideas and methods of training we may simply not have considered on our own. When you achieve results you also have someone with which you can share your success. Whether it’s a few inches off the waist or achieving that 5k run, it so much more rewarding to enjoy this with someone who has shared the journey with you.
So how do you go about finding a workout partner? There are plenty of ways to get in shape with someone else and the Internet is a good place to start. Look for activity clubs, local running clubs or sports clubs in your area. Most sports clubs have sign-up forms where you can put your name down to join a team or find a squash or tennis partner. You can also try a few sessions with a personal trainer who can set you goals and develop a plan for you to follow.
The important thing when you choose an exercise partner is to ensure that they are either a similar fitness level to yourself or just slightly fitter than you are. Trying to work with a partner who is in a completely different league can result in injuries, because you’re trying to push yourself far beyond your natural capabilities. However, when you train with someone who has a similar fitness level to yourself, you can work at a similar pace. It’s natural to be slightly competitive as no one likes to finish last, so being on a similar level means that you can push one another to keep going when you feel like giving up. The friendly rivalry will enable you both to raise your game and achieve more than you would on your own.
By finding the right workout partner your exercise sessions will become fun and more sociable meaning they will be something that you look forward to. With a shared workout comes accountability and shared goals. Within just a few months you will begin to develop an exercise habit that can help you to stick to those exercise plans.