When we try to board the regular-exercise train, one of the first things that may come to mind is “I’ll recruit a partner! This will keep me accountable!” Sure, workout partners are great. If they consistently do everything that you need, when you need it.
While buddies can certainly play a part in your regular exercise routine and help you achieve your health and wellness goals, you’ll find greater success in sustaining your routine if you can avoid the mentality that you can only work out if your friend is with you. There’s good news — you can help create your own accountability in ways that will leave you less dependent on one person and will empower you to stick with your health habits long-term.
1. Pick a partner who has already established some consistency.
Oftentimes workout unions are formed between two people who are consistently inconsistent, coming together in the hopes that the exercise baby they create will be a thriving bundle of never-miss-a-day. Sometimes it works. More often, it does not. Look around you, at work, church, your kid’s school or your book club. Who is someone who seems to be regularly active? Maybe they often wear running shoes or wear T-shirts from a recent 5K race. Strike up a conversation about fitness (e.g., “What gym do you work out at?” or “Are you training for a race right now?”). Ask them if they would be interested in taking a walk with you this week.
2. Use your partner as a supplement.
Try having a partner as a complement to other activities you regularly do. Rather than planning every workout with one partner, try scheduling something 1-2 times a week together. These partner workouts will be in addition to other activities you do on your own. For example, if you have a walking buddy, plan at least a couple of days a week to walk by yourself. Download music, podcasts, or audiobooks to listen to for your solo walks. Choose a route that has pleasant scenery. Finding enjoyable things (other than your partner) about your activity, will help you follow through with the behavior long-term. It will also make you a better partner if you can develop some of your own stick-to-itiveness (see #1).
3. Create a contingency plan
For the days that you plan to work out with your partner, create a back-up plan for when your pal flakes. For example, if you and John always meet at the gym and you don’t like going without him, come up with a plan that you will actually stick to (this is key) when John cancels. This plan needs to be simple, and one that requires little preparation or equipment. Perhaps it is taking a walk or going for a run on your own somewhere near your home or office. Maybe it’s jumping rope and doing some body-weight resistance training. Maybe there is a class at the gym around the same time as your regularly scheduled John-workout that you could do if he bails.
Workout partners can play a role in helping keep us motivated and entertained when embarking on the journey to habitual exercise. However, they don’t hold the key to your success. Use these suggestions to ensure you’re not completely dependent on them for your own health!