Published July 25, 2007
As our summers wind down and we start to look ahead at the fall season, it’s a great time to remind ourselves of the resolutions and self-improvement goals that we had hoped to accomplish this year. Starting a regular exercise routine might be a resolution that you just haven’t gotten around to checking off your list thus far. Perhaps you’ve told yourself that you don’t have time for exercise right now. Maybe you’re having trouble finding the motivation to take that first step towards fitness. You might have started an exercise program in the past that just didn’t become a habit in your life. For one reason or another, exercise has not been able to work its way into your life.
What’s the good news in all of this? You’re not alone! There are countless others – right in your community – that can identify with you. That’s why all you might need to make exercise a habit in your life is to find another you! Find another person – a friend, a co-worker, a spouse, or even a neighbor that you don’t know well yet – who is struggling to make fitness a priority in life, and get together to accomplish your shared goal.
Studies have shown that people who exercise with a partner tend to exercise more often. If you were planning to take a walk or head to the gym on your own, you might find yourself making excuses for yourself – “I’m tired/hungry/busy/glued to a show on the Discovery Channel right now.” If someone is meeting you to take a walk or workout at the gym, you’re far less likely to have a mental debate with yourself as to whether or not you will work out today. You won’t make excuses.
Speaking of the gym, many people find it far less intimidating to try a new exercise class, a new piece of equipment, or a new sport when they’re with a friend. If you see your friend successfully performing an activity, you’re more likely to believe that you can do it, too. There’s safety in numbers, and a friend might give you the moral support and confidence that you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and into a new fitness routine. Partners also provide you with physical safety when you’re exercising outdoors. If anything happens to you, they can get you the help that you need.
In addition to safety and encouragement, fitness partners provide another important benefit: fun! When exercise becomes a social experience instead of an isolating one, you may actually begin to look forward to it. Having a conversation while exercising – walking or jogging, for example – distracts you from physical discomforts. Time passes far more quickly when you’re chatting with your friend than when you’re concentrating on the sound of your own labored breathing.
Does finding a fitness partner sound like a step that might work for you? If so, your next steps will be choosing the right person to be your exercise buddy, and planning your workout routine together. Below are some items to consider for each of these steps to ensure that your new plan is a success for both you and your partner.
When choosing a fitness partner, finding the person that fits your exercise style is as important as finding athletic shoes that fit your feet. If you don’t choose the right person for the job, you’ll want to quit exercising even sooner than you would if you were alone! It’s best to choose someone whose current level of physical fitness is similar to yours, so that you’ll progress at a similar rate. If one of you barely makes it off of the couch while the other already runs three miles a day, it may be difficult to jump into a routine that you can share. You also want to find someone who has similar fitness goals, so that you can motivate each other and celebrate your triumphs together. If one of you needs to lose a significant amount of weight, while the other is just looking to tone an already trim figure, you may both end up frustrated.
Perhaps even more important than your physical compatibility is your social compatibility. Your fitness partner should be someone who you look forward to seeing. You should be making each other feel comfortable and confident - so absolutely avoid anyone that makes you feel as if your body or your abilities are being judged. You’re far more likely to stick with a routine long-term if you feel good about yourself and feel confident that you can be successful in it.