Relying on the buddy system
By Joanne Kempinger Demski
Jan. 26, 2009
Exercise partner can help keep workouts on track
For some exercisers, the hardest part of the workout is just getting to
the gym. They must ignore that chocolate cake in the fridge or step
away from the television and its new batch of "American Idol"
For others, the problem may be finding the motivation to do more than
chat near the gym's water fountain once they get there.
Fortunately, there is a cure for these ailments: Hook up with a workout
Having a partner makes it more difficult to bag the gym when a spell of
laziness hits you, and you are likely to work out harder once you're
Working out with a partner is similar to having an appointment with a
personal trainer, said Beth Halter, a nationally certified personal
trainer at the South Shore YMCA in Cudahy.
"That person is expecting you to be there," she said. "You are
accountable for showing up."
The advantages of having a partner are particularly strong this time of
year, when New Year's resolutions start to wane.
"We see that drop-off after that first month. If people work out
together, they push each other. . . . We see these people more often,"
Another advantage to exercising with a buddy is that you can get a
When working out alone, some exercisers will do one set, wait 10
seconds then do another set. When you work with another person, you are
forced to rest longer between sets, and that helps you recover.
"By the time they're done, your body is rested and ready to lift
again," she said.
Weight-training workouts are also safer and can become more advanced
with a partner to spot you.
"You can put more weight onto a bar knowing there is that help there,"
Halter said. "Then you can lift heavier and your spotter can help you
complete your lift safely."
There are also many great exercises that require a partner, said Matt
Barber,a nationally certified personal trainer at the downtown
Milwaukee YMCA. Examples are the oblique medicine ball rotation, in
which you stand back to back and pass the ball to each other in a
circular motion, as well as the medicine ball toss.
A workout partner also makes it more likely you'll try new exercises or
classes to help you meet your goals.
"People feel uncomfortable when they don't know what they are doing.
And classes like Zumba - you don't want to do those by yourself,"
Barber joked. "Workout partners can have fun and laugh at each other
(in these classes), but they are learning at the same time."
Choose a partner
In picking a partner, Halter suggested looking for someone of a similar
fitness level in both weight and cardio workouts.
For weight training, seek someone with similar strength.
"But you should recognize that you may not be as strong as the other
person," Halter said. "It can help to push yourself, but you can
sometimes push yourself too hard. When you do that you get sore or can
get an injury and are then likely to quit."
For cardio workouts, try to find a partner with similar endurance.
"If one person is running five miles a day and the other is running one
mile a day, the person running five miles won't get a good workout or
the person running one mile will push themselves too hard and it could
cause injury," she said.
Men and women can work out together with good results. Cardio-based
workouts and group fitness classes are good choices, but workout
partners also can go to the gym together and then go their separate
Barber said a husband and wife, for example, can motivate each other to
go to the gym. But when they get there, one of them might lift weights
and the other might run. Then later, they might get together to do abs
Workout partners can also be found outside your circle of family and
Barber suggested talking with people you see working out at the same
time you are exercising. If they have similar goals, they might make a
good partner. Or two moms who have kids at the same school could be
good partners, too.
"There should be no limitations to where you could find your workout
partner," he said.
Don't pop a wheelie
When you find the right person, schedule your workouts in advance,
start out slowly and take a moderate approach to weight training.
"Starting out too slow is 100 times better than starting out fast and
getting injured," Barber said. "Fitness is a lifelong thing. Take it
easy. There's no rush. Consistency is king."
Because working with a partner includes spotting and doing different
exercises, Barber said meeting with a fitness professional is smart.
"Talk to a trainer about how to work out safely, then get checked out
every once in a while," he said. "Make sure what you are doing is going
to lead you to your goals."
A trainer can help you create a workout and teach you how to spot your
partner correctly. And, when workout partners hire a trainer, some gyms
will allow them to split the cost, he said.
Exercising with a partner is also a smart move for those who don't work
out at a fitness center.
Susie Falk, owner of Falk Group Public Relations in the Third Ward,
said she exercises about twice as much as she normally would because
she has a partner. She walks about three miles in her Bayside
neighborhood starting at 5:30 a.m. four or five times a week with her
friend and neighbor, Becky Noble.
"We rally each other - even on those freezing mornings when it's dark,"
Falk said. "I'm absolutely more consistent with a partner. I know I go
twice as often because I have her."
Falk said Noble brings her dog so that he gets a workout as well, and
they lift weights in Falk's basement.
"And, time permitting, we'll have a cup of coffee afterward. It's a
really nice way to get a workout in, and it's social, too."