Bring A Friend

I used to squat on a BOSU ball.  I did them because it improved my balance, and made my abs stronger.  Or so I thought.

Definitely not what I should've been doing.
Definitely not what I should’ve been doing.

My first few years in the weight room where demonstrations of awful exercise selection and sequencing.  My workouts weren’t very physically effective, but they certainly contributed to my love of exercise.  I was in the gym, I was having fun, and over time I learned.  I’d like to accelerate your learning process, but you’ve gotta get your ass to the gym in the first place.

My friend Alex had taught me to squat.  He wasn’t a trainer or a coach, he wasn’t studying exercise physiology, and he probably wouldn’t identify himself as an “athlete”.  No, Alex was an economics major who loved reading Bruce Lee and was curious about Olympic lifting, and we were in Phi Mu Alpha together.  Alex made it his mission to get me to the gym and step my game up, and I can’t thank him enough for that.

I had my slip-ups; the BOSU ball squats were one of them.  You can bet that once those were discovered, I was booted off the ball.  (No, he didn’t actually kick me.)  Alex was a great help to me inside of the gym, but he was also a big part of me going to the gym in the first place.  He’d call as he walked past my dorm, and it was up to me to be at the Hen House at 8am.  Alex, thank you for all of the help you’ve given me.

Friends like Alex are awesome, but not everybody will make a great gym buddy.  There are some things to think about before you start sending this picture to all of your friends.

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What are your training interests?

The gyms are flooded with those looking to make healthy habits in the New Year, and for many, the goal is fat loss.  Perhaps you’re preparing for a 5k or a half-marathon.  You might be training to put muscle on your body, or maybe you’re training for a powerlifting meet like I am.  Friends who exercise are awesome, but you might not be “compatible” to train together.

An eHarmony account isn’t necessary; simply ask you friends what they’re into!

When are they free?

This might sound obvious, but make sure that any possible invitees follow similar fitness schedules to you.  This includes both similar exercise times throughout the week, but also similar exercise durations.  If their schedule limits them to 35 minutes in the gym every day of the week, and yours allows you to train three days a week for two hours at a time, you’ll have significantly different training sessions.  I’ve made the mistake of training with friends who don’t warm-up have different training goals, and I’m in the middle of my main movement and they’re already asking much longer I have left.  If you carpool, this can be an issue.

Find out when your potential gym buddies are free, but also find out how long they want to spend at the gym.  It’ll help you figure out if they’re an apprpriate match.

What are your experience levels?

Perhaps you’ve been training for most of your life, and this is the first time they’re stepping into the gym.  Maybe it’s the opposite way around, and you’re the n00b.  Either way, make sure that you’re able to work together despite these differences.  For example, I don’t have a single problem moving weight if myself and a training partner were using different loads.  I’ll take some plates off of the bar while squatting or deadlifting so that you can work just as hard, and I’d like to believe that if I went to a high-end powerlifting gym, they’d do the same thing for me.

Be sure to find a partner who is open to these changes that need to be made during your workout, and that you can respect each others experience.

How motivated are you?

Some people will stay inside when it’s overcast, while others will go for a run in a thunderstorm.  Where do you fall between those two extremes?  If you’re the kind of person who will get to the gym no matter what, find someone who has similar drive to train.  If you’re apt to missing workouts, do not find someone who is similar to you.  Just find somebody who is more understanding of you missing workouts, but will call you out before it becomes a habit.

What is your attitude?

I used to blast RATM, pull my hat low, and get angry at everyone else in the gym.  Recently, I’ve been dancing to Macklemore between sets, and pretend it’s a party.  I’m having a helluva lot more fun in the gym, and still training hard.  If you take things too seriously, find someone who’s just as serious as you.  If you’re laid back, then find someone who takes their training seriously, but enjoys a more lighthearted attitude.

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Accountability is the biggest benefit of having a training partner at the gym with you, especially if you’ve made fitness a New Years Resolution.  I’m proud of the fact that I seldom miss workouts (one in 2012), but a goal of mine for 2013 is to have a  partner at as many of my training sessions as possible.  A friend with similar goals and schedules, who understand the hard work and/or fun time that you have in mind will be the best fit.

Now I want you to send out a message.  Think of friends who you want to help, or who will help you.  Whatever your preferred measure of communication, find a friend and bring them to the gym.  Hell, send them this article if you want, it’s up to you.  Figure out a place and time, and put it on your calendar.

Now, meet at the gym and train.

 

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