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5 Benefits of working out with a friend

I'm the founder of SocialJane.com (www.socialjane.com) , a women's-only friendship networking site that helps women find new friends.

Whatever you are doing, chances are that it would be more fun if it involved a friend or two.

Photo credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Want to get fit, and do so quickly, with the least amount of pain and (perceived) effort? Of course you do; we all want that. And we actually all can have this, if we take the first step of securing a great workout partner.

Read on to find out the benefits of a compatible workout partner.

1. Companionship

We are humans, we are social creatures, we like to be around other humans. And that fact doesn’t change, whether we are sipping sangria or cycling through a circuit. Whatever you are doing, chances are that it would be more fun if it involved a friend or two.

Exercising is not an exception to this rule. It is absolutely much more enjoyable when completed in the company of good companions. First, it alleviates any potential for boredom, especially if you choose a workout buddy with the gift of gab. Second, the truth is that you simply cannot grunt and laugh at the same time, and chances are pretty good that if you select a partner you enjoy, you’ll be laughing way more than the alternative.

2. Encouragement

Each of us is good at our own thing, and for some people that “thing” is offering sincere encouragement to another at the precise moment they need it. This is the type of person you want to be working out with.

You can’t lose weight alone: Why a fitness support system works >>

I have just begun attending yoga classes at my gym, and I am surprised at how much strength the practice requires. I start each class energetic and full of hope, but about 30 minutes in, my arms are shaking and I’m frustrated that my feet still won’t lay flat on the mat. Then I turn to my friend and yoga partner, and she whispers, “You are doing great!”

And that is what a great workout buddy can do for you, provide a simple dose of encouragement, enough to power you through to the end of the session and on to your next.

Namaste, Brenda.

3. Support

Want to run a marathon? Find someone to sign up with you. Want to climb a mountain? Find someone to meet you at the base. Want to… do just about anything that seems difficult and scary and impossible? Grab a friend to partner up with you.

Having a friend alongside of you actually makes a challenging situation (like starting a workout routine) seem much more achievable, so says the latest research. When we are scared or unsure of ourselves, it is comforting to have a friend along to share our concerns and actually reduce them to a manageable level.

Gyms are scary (seriously, they are). So take a workout buddy along to help you face the challenge.

Couples' workout: Fall in love with fitness >>

4. Commitment

You know what keeps you coming back to the gym week after week, month after month?

Fun. Yep, that’s right, fun.

Researchers found that the reason people stay committed to a workout routine consistently is not due to the eventual health benefits they’ll earn, but instead to the sheer pleasure they derive from the activity. People who think working out is fun are the ones who will continue to work out, and do so regularly.

But when we are just starting out, exercise isn’t always a barrel of laughs. So how do we get from the pain to the pleasure of exercise? By enlisting the help of a workout partner. Having a workout buddy makes you responsible and accountable to your workouts and to your partner. And commitment to a workout partner may be just the thing you need to kick-start a personal workout regime.

By keeping your commitment to your friend (who you don’t want to disappoint and look like a schmuck in front of) and getting comfortable with exercising and a routine, you give yourself time to learn your new activity, make its practice a habit, and start having fun doing it.

It seems our sense of needing to please everyone can actually be a good thing, especially when it comes to breaking a sweat.

5. Competition

Nobody likes being the weak link, especially women.

This is what researcher Brandon Irwin found when he studied the workout habits of those on teams or in partnerships. “People like to exercise with others and make it a social activity. When performing with someone you perceive as a little better than you, you tend to give more effort than you normally would alone,” Irwin said.

His research found that not only did people exercise longer and at higher rates of effort when working out together, but the results were more pronounced in women with most participants improving duration and efforts by nearly 100 percent over their solo performances! (100 percent, wow!)

Next time you want to dial up the heat on your workout, grab a buddy and hit the gym. Your friend and your body will love you for it.

3 Best buddy workouts >>

The best workout partner is a lot like you

There are definitely some traits that make for the best workout partners. When looking for a great one, look for someone with:

  • Similar goals
  • Comparable fitness level (or just slightly higher)
  • A schedule that is compatible to yours
  • A great personality; you’ll be spending a lot of time with them, hopefully

How to find a workout buddy

1. Ask for referrals:

If you have a fitness trainer, ask her if they have other clients you can buddy up with for training sessions or outside activities. They most likely will applaud you for your fitness enthusiasm.

2. Get cozy in a class:

You grabbed the bike next to her in spin class, and the next day she jumped on the treadmill beside you, so you obviously have a few interests in common. The next time you see her in yoga class, plop your mat down next to her and strike up a conversation. Could be you just found your perfect cardio companion.

3. Use the internet:

There are a host of services on the internet designed specifically to help you meet people. Sites like Meetup.com and SocialJane.com are great resources for finding athletic activities or workout partners. Regardless of the site you use, you are sure to come across many gals in your area who are equally enthusiastic about making regular fitness a way of life.

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