A Whole New Kind of Love: Finding Your Swole Mate

Need an extra kick in the pants? It might be time to find yourself a workout buddy.

P.S. I see people use “swole mates” with dead seriousness on social media all the time and it always makes me chuckle… and roll my eyes

Despite having played team sports my whole life, I have to admit that I don’t necessarily always like to work out with other people. Case in point: I absolutely loathe doing sprint sets with other people. Why? Because I am a really, really competitive person, and don’t like to lose… even if there’s no actual competition, there’s always one with myself (such is my burden. Sigh). I’d much rather put the work in on my own and show up for practice already in shape, and work on things you need more than one person for (the actual playing of soccer, for example. That’s much more enjoyable). Putting in the work doesn’t bother me—I like to train and know how to dedicate myself to getting better at something—it’s getting frustrated at myself that I don’t like, and training partners tend to bring that out in me.

So why, given that little backstory, would I dedicate an entire post to the benefits of workout buddies? Because, there are times when even someone like me loves to have a workout buddy, that’s why.

For example: I’m up skiing in Tahoe this weekend; the snow’s good enough that just about everything I want to ski is open, and my ski buddy (the boyfriend) and I are about the same ski level. Skiing solo is fun, for about half a day: you go in the singles line for lifts, don’t have to compromise on which runs you want to do, and you can jam out to your iPod. But having a ski buddy that’s the same level as you is SO much better. They give you someone to share the experience with—and make you go harder and do better, whether by encouraging you to do a more difficult drop-in or insisting you head through the trees because “it’ll be epic!”

Another example: I’ve really decided I’m not a giant fan of biking—it’s more of a necessary evil for triathlon. But going riding with someone who I know won’t mind going my speed and just loves to wheel around for the hell of it makes riding fun for me, and I’m more likely to wheel my Trek out for a spin (also, pick an awesome place, and I’m there!).

That, there, is the value of a workout buddy: to push you farther than you could push yourself.

exit buddy

A little healthy competition is critical to improve, and that’s basically the environment you’re creating with a workout buddy. Don’t get me wrong, a good relationship is one that’s completely supportive, but engendering competition is the only way either of you is going to get better or more in shape. Maybe they encourage you to raise the weight on your bar, or maybe you cheer them on to 5 extra minutes on the treadmill, or maybe you just have to grit your teeth and grind up that hill because they’re a good 10 bike lengths in front of you and you don’t want to look dumb!

A buddy doesn’t have to work out with you. Maybe you can’t find someone who’s the same fitness level as you, or maybe they’re focusing on another sport entirely. While it’s nice to be able to get out and actually exercise with someone, another big benefit they provide is the accountability: if someone is waiting on you to go to the gym, you better damn well go.

So how do you pick a workout buddy? Find someone who has goals they want to achieve as well, whether that’s someone just starting out, or someone dedicated to fitness. The newbie will be gung-ho, and that brings good energy; the experienced one will probably bring good knowledge to the table. Find someone who’s dedicated. Nothing’s worse than a flake—they’ll not only take the wind out of your sails, your excuses will start to look plausible. Find someone with whom you work well. If you start dreading exercising with that person (for whatever reason—some people can be friends normally and just not work in the gym), that’s not going to help in getting you off your butt. Find someone that makes you excited about exercising and wanting to work hard.

Found one? Now why don’t suggest a friendly challenge to kick things off? Here’s a good one: 3 weeks from now, whomever can hold a plank for the longest wins (my personal record is 5:17… beat it!). No matter who wins, you’ll both be better for having tried. And that’s the point anyway, isn’t it?

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