How Helpful is an Exercise Partner? (and How to Find a Good One)
Updated: Jan 23
When it comes to exercising, having a partner can make a big difference. And it’s not hard to see why – pretty much everything is better with a friend!
Today we are going to review a few of the big impacts having a partner can have on your exercise routines, what are some key traits that you can look for in a partner, and some strategies for linking up with the right person in your fitness journey.
Why get an exercise partner?
There are many statistics and studies that have shown the impacts of having an exercise partner. And for each group that was studied, I'm sure they’re usually true and thoughtful statistics.
But instead of reviewing a handful of statistics from various studies that I found, I want to make a different point about this topic...
Let me illustrate what I mean, here is a stat that I came across about exercise partners: Training just two times a week with a partner had a 78% increase on exercise level after 18 months.
Here’s what it should say (and what I want you to take away from this): Being consistent, even just two days a week, resulted in a 78% increase on exercise level after 18 months.
Having an exercise partner is great. It really, really is. But having a partner is not the reason why you will increase your exercise level.
Being consistent is.
Having an exercise partner is a helpful strategy to help you stay committed and motivated to be consistent.
Of course you don’t want to view your exercise partner as only a tool to get you what you want, that would be dumb! They’re your friend and they're working towards their own goals too.
But I want to make sure we know what we are doing here – we are finding ways to make our fitness journey more consistent, sustainable, and enjoyable. This is where an exercise partner can help.
Having an exercise partner is not dissimilar to setting up a rewards system, or doing a habit tracker, or having a fitness journal, or counting your steps, or…. you get the idea. None of those things make you more fit on their own, they are strategies we employ to help us be more consistent.
Being consistent is what makes you more fit.
So, now that that conversation is behind us, let’s talk about exercise partners!
How can an exercise partner help you meet goals?
· You will be more committed.
This is probably the single biggest benefit of a partner and the message to pin to the top.
The main reason we all look for an exercise partner is to have someone who’ll help us stick to our workouts. When you are checking in on each other regularly and know that skipping or bailing on a workout is going to let your partner down, you will be significantly less likely to do so.
· You will have more confidence.
When you are alone it is so easy to let all the noise and distractions get to you, it won’t be long before you begin feeling unsure and start wondering how you look and if you are doing anything right at all. Having a friend to interact with is going to go a long way in keeping you from looking around and feeling unsure about yourself – there is certainly *emotional* safety in numbers!
· You will have more fun.
Putting on your noise-canceling earbuds and getting lost in your perfectly crafted playlist is fun too! But memories are made with friends, you will look forward to seeing them, chatting about whatever, making some jokes, and time will pass much quicker while you are knocking out your exercise.
· You will find some extra motivation.
If you find yourself to be a tad competitive then the path to being motivated when you work out with others is easy to see. But even if you are not really competitive you will continue to find motivation in knowing someone is watching and you want to keep pace.
What makes a good exercise partner?
Finding the right exercise partner is also important! Here are a handful of healthy traits that we can look for in a potential gym buddy.
· Compatible schedules.
Wow, really coming out of the gates swinging here! This is going to eliminate A LOT of options when it comes to potential exercise partners. Because, what good is it if you don’t have compatible schedules? Sure you can check in on each other and text each other about getting your workout in- but that is what’s called an accountability partner – not an exercise partner. And let me tell you, it is a lot easier to bail (or even straight up lie) on a text than an in-person exercise partner.
You don’t have to have matching schedules of course, but make sure they fit together enough that you can count on each other when you make an agreement.
· Make sure you like them.
Knocking another fastball out of the park here! Make sure you like them and want to spend time with them. Believe me, it is a lot harder to disappoint someone you like than it is when you don’t care about them or what they think. So a great rule of thumb: make sure you like them.
· Find someone that you want to be like.
The people we spend time with have an incredible influence on shaping who we are. As James Clear says in his book, ‘Atomic Habits’: “Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.”
So think about the person you are asking to become a part of your life in, what we hope, is a very regular and long term way. This is why you hear people say: get a workout partner who is in better shape than you. We naturally adopt habits and tendencies of people that we are around regularly.
Make sure your fitness partner is someone that you want to be like; whether that is in their fitness habits, their attitude, academically, or anything. You don’t have to want to be their clone, but you want to make sure you are setting your environment up well for your own self development.
· Find someone reliable.
It would defeat the purpose if your exercise partner were the one letting you down. Find someone reliable to communicate with you and show up with you.
Unfortunately sometimes you won’t know this until you give it a try, and you would be left having to make a change. But generally if you know a little bit about someone you can have a hint if they will be reliable: do they show up on time for other things you see them at? Have they communicated and responded to you regularly while setting up the workouts? Do you see the results in their life of someone consistent (ex. Are they consistently working out and it shows in their body and mood?).
There are many more traits, other than just these listed, that could make someone a good exercise partner. But I feel that these are a few of the most important ones that all good exercise partnerships have in them.
Where can you find an exercise partner?
You get it… you see how a partner could benefit you and you have a good idea of the type of person you want to be a partner with – but WHERE DO YOU FIND ONE?
Well, I’m glad you asked, because I have a vague, rather nondescript answer for you… just kidding. But kind of, yeah. I can’t tell you that you’ll find a good exercise partner on Aisle 12 Bay 6 like I was a Home Depot employee telling you where to get the right tool for your home improvement project.
The question is more personal and specific to you than that. What kind of people do you like? Where do you hang out? How often do you want to workout? Those are things you will need to ask yourself when looking for an exercise partner.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts on the topic:
· Start with people you know.
The nice thing about this group is that you likely already know who you like, who is reliable, and who already exercises. So identifying a few people to ask should be a quick process.
Think through your friends, coworkers, significant other, and see if you can come up with someone who meets the above criteria for making a good gym buddy and shoot them a message to see if they are interested in giving it a go!
· Check out the watering holes.
A watering hole, in this instance, means somewhere that your potential exercise partner is already spending their time. Think about it; a good partner is someone else who is also trying to prioritize and work on their fitness too, where would someone like that be? Gyms, fitness classes, wherever you might go to exercise. So go check those places out and get to know some people.
Side benefit: if you are going to the gym and meeting people at the gym when you go – there is a good chance their schedule is compatible with yours since you are at the gym at the same time as you!
You probably don’t want to stand at the door and ask everyone who comes in if they want to be your gym buddy, that might be a little weird. Rather, just be open to meeting people when you go. Start conversations, be thoughtful, get to know the other people you see coming around when you come to. You will meet some great people and potentially find an exercise partner!
· Don’t feel bad about resorting to the internet.
Obviously be mindful and safe while meeting people online – it’s a big world out there and you need to be especially careful meeting people online. But in today’s world, it is a very common place to meet others, and with the infrastructure of social media and other apps, this may even be the easiest way of them all.
There are Facebook groups and other apps specifically made for finding a gym buddy, kind of like dating apps, but for exercising. They certainly make it easy for you to find others in your area who are looking for the same thing you are!
Having a good exercise partner can go a long way in helping you stay consistent and enjoy your workouts more!
Having an exercise partner also means being an exercise partner too. Be ready to be a good teammate and help your partner meet their goals too.
This is all about finding a way to improve your fitness journey. Not everything you try along your journey is going to be a perfect fit, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it! Find a partner and see how this affects your exercise sessions. There’s a good chance it will make them more fun and a little easier to stay consistent.