Working at a fitness club, I see a lot of people working out with friends. Some come into the club together to sign up, while some become workout buddies after they meet in the gym. There is also the comradery of people who frequent the same classes together and become close through group fitness. Any way you look at it, there are the “workout buddy” members, and also the solo flyers.
When it comes to my own training, I’m what I guess you’d consider a lone wolf. It’s not because I don’t like training with other people, but it’s all I’ve known for many years. Maybe it’s just what I’d subconsciously consider my “me time”. Who knows?
Rewind to a recent Saturday night, around 11pm.
It’s Labor Day weekend. People are probably sitting around a fire, enjoying their favorite cold beverage while unwinding. Not me. I had it engrained in my mind all day that I was going to train legs on my Saturday night out. I’ve got a heavy, unforgiving barbell sitting on my traps, ready to bury me into the ground. I couldn’t find the switch that turned all of the lights on, so here I am, a maniac lifting under the cool shroud of darkness. Call me crazy. I probably kind of am to spend my only free night out of the week at the gym. Most sane people wouldn’t do this. This is the exact reason that I don’t have a training partner, or a workout buddy, or whatever you’d call them….. I don’t want to wait for someone or plan anything around anyone.
Fast forward to a recent early morning solo lift……
I’m in the gym, training deadlifts. It’s 6am. Having been woken up every hour the previous night by my stuffy nosed 3 year old daughter, I’m pretty much the epitome of the walking dead. Out of all the powerlifts, the deadlift and I have a mutual love/hate relationship. Sometimes the bar flies off the ground like either end is equipped with rockets and other times, I feel like it’s stapled to the pavement beneath my feet. With my form, if I’m even the slightest bit off (like this particular morning), nothing goes right. Easy weight becomes nearly impossible to lift. I feel like a novice again. THIS is when another set of eyes and some verbal motivation could be a game changer! This is the exact reason that I’d love to have a training partner.
I’m very envious when I see two strong people lifting together, hitting big weights, helping each other get through the struggles that the iron presents.
That Jekyll and Hide moment leads me to the fact that there are both pros and cons to having a workout buddy to train with. Here is my list…… (I’ll probably think of 567 more pros and cons once I publish this).
-Accountability. Gym buddies help you stay motivated by dragging you to the gym, even after that rough day at work or at home. Cookies and Netflix at home or iron, sweat, and progress at the gym? A good buddy can help you motivate to make the right choice and you could do the same for them!
-Socialization. Not all fun times need to happen over unhealthy food and drinks. Training can be a great time because of the positivity that it creates. The laid back environment can help a person stay more relaxed and enhance training performance. I’ve had quite a few instances where having my mind a bit more relaxed may have helped me not think about an intimidating weight as I prepared to move it.
-Stress relief. People talk out their problems at the gym. Trust me. It’s great to have someone to vent to.
-An outside eye. Having someone present to critique your form can keep you performing exercises in a safe and effective manner. This goes back to my deadlift walking dead experience. Had someone else been watching my form, I could have made a few leverage adjustments and moved the weight easier.
-Someone to progress with. It can be equally motivational to have a training partner find good success with the weights. One could use this as a way to light their own fire, and keep striving for gains. As the friendly level of competition heats up, more behaviors may change outside of the gym as well. A person can be more motivated to eat right and get better sleep to get a leg up on their competitive comrade.
-Lack of motivation. If a person’s training partner loses motivation, one may justify also falling off. All of a sudden, the “my partner quit coming and now I have nobody to go with” excuse begins. I definitely see this one all of the time!
-Friendly competition can lead to overtraining and injuries. The wrong type of mentality can derail many hard earned gains. People have off days and if a training partner has a great workout, and you aren’t, you may still ignore the body’s warning signs, keep trying to move more weight, and fall victim to injury.
-Lack of knowledge can lead to slow/no progress. Not everyone is an expert in exercise technique or programming. Just because your buddy is doing the same workout that he did in high school, 20 years ago, doesn’t mean that it’s still going to be effective. There are many times that people come to the gym with the “Cookie Cutter Internet Superbro 2000 Swole Arms in Just Four Weeks” workout, thinking they are on a great program, only to find out that this was written by a keyboard warrior without much fitness knowledge. Programming plays a big part in whether or not a workout will be effective. Also, many people think that their form is spot on enough to start giving advice on dangerous lifts, when in fact, they have a lot of room for improvement and run the risk of injuring their friend! When in question, meet with a qualified trainer. (Wink, wink). They can show you proper technique and get you started on a program that will effectively suit your needs.
As you can see, there is good and bad with having a workout partner. There are times that being under the bar is my quiet sanctuary in which I don’t want to be bothered, as well as times that I yearn for someone to train insane with. Select someone wisely. Your progress may depend on it!
Embrace the Journey……