A Less Than Good Workout Buddy – Do’s & Dont’s to Collaborative Fitness

June 26, 2011

This is a guest post by Marie Nerine of www.keepingsingle.com.

A workout buddy is a great gift that another friend can give you. She’ll help to motivate you while giving you the satisfaction of motivating her. Together you can reach your goals and together you can push each other a bit further. Right now I have a great workout buddy, she pushes me to run that second mile even if my goal was just to run one, she’s excited to go to difficult classes at the gym like boot camp and be my partner in crime, and she’s always willing to go to the gym no matter when I call her, but I didn’t always have a great workout buddy.

My workout buddy was a problem

Workout Buddy
Creative Commons License photo credit: j@ys0n

Sam was a really sweet girl who I had known since we were kids and we were best friends. Throughout our young adult life we stayed in contact, but as I was regularly visiting the gym and, at the very least, maintaining my high school weight, she had begun gaining. Last spring she asked me if she could join me at my gym. I was so ecstatic to hang out with her regularly and have a workout buddy, since I had been doing it on my own. Sam had recently lost around fifty pounds just from eating healthily and walking regularly, but she was still obese and still had a lot of weight to lose.

When she joined the gym she also signed up for personal training and invited me to join her when I wanted to. I knew that personal training wasn’t something I necessarily needed, but having a friend to do it with her would probably be easier, so I went with her to most of her appointments.

DO put your friend before yourself. If you know that they need you for something, even if it’s a bit more expensive or you don’t need it, don’t be afraid to make the time/money to help a friend with her goals.

DON’T put your workout buddy in a financial situation they don’t want to be in however. Sam had signed up for the personal training on her own, but asked that if I join her I pay for my half, and if she canceled I pay half of her cancelation fee, that kind of pressure doesn’t help you or your buddy.

I’ve always been addicted to the classes available at my gym, I love that in one hour many of the classes help me do both cardio and strength training. I invited Sam to a few of the classes I routinely go to and she turned me down, completely uninterested.

DO be willing to try something new! You’d be surprised how much fun a spin class can be with a friend, not to mention the benefit of breaking up your usual routine for your weight loss goals.

DON’T judge a workout by its cover. That Zumba class may look silly from outside the classroom, but trust me once you’re inside it’s more fun than most other workouts you can do at the gym.

Sam’s personal trainer recommended that she try interval training to help lose the weight. I offered to do it with her since it’s a great workout and we could push each other. Most intervals are done on the treadmill, but Sam wanted to do the elliptical. So we did our thirty minutes, I found myself pushing Sam more than she pushed me, but I let it go because by pushing her it helped me to push myself. Afterwards we were both dying a bit, Sam more than me, since she was more out of shape than I was. I pointed out to her what a great work out it was and how well we did, and once she caught her breath she said she wasn’t going to do that anymore. I asked her why and she explained that she wanted to “save that kind of exercise for when she hit a plateau”.

DO remember that it’s important to feel like you’ve worked out after a workout. If you just putter along on the elliptical without breaking a sweat your workout buddy is going to feel cheated and you’ll find your own goals aren’t being met.

DON’T ever plan for a plateau. The more you save good exercises for that time where you have to push through a static weight, the less exercises you have to do right now, and the less likely you are to reach that plateau. Forget the excuses, if you and your buddy treat every day like you’re in the middle of a plateau you’ll both lose the weight in no time!

The most difficult day with Sam was a month into our working out together. I had lost all the weight I was planning to lose for that month (8 pounds!) and at least an inch on all my measurements. She hadn’t done her measurements but the scale hadn’t moved for her in the past month. I could see the disappointment in her face and tried to help out by asking her about her nutrition as well. I knew that part of it was that I was working out like a fiend, going to the gym several times a day, going to classes, trying different kinds of exercises, and pushing myself until I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I had also started eating healthily, and would regularly invite Sam over for lunch after our workouts so she could get an idea of what she should be eating (without telling her straight out).

DO remember that everyone loses weight or gains physical ability at different rates.

DON’T be jealous of your workout buddy if she’s doing better than you are. Be happy for her! She probably couldn’t have lost that weight if it hadn’t been for your help!

DON’T overdo “helping” your buddy. This was something I didn’t even realize I was doing until much later, but because I was more experienced in fitness, nutrition, and weight loss, I had a hard time holding back with Sam. I could have not talked to her about her nutrition and just let the personal trainer do it, but I felt bad for her and wanted to help. When your buddy is down about her fitness, think about what she needs most, does she need you to help her figure out what she’s doing wrong, or does she just need you to nod sympathetically?

This marked the nearing of the end for Sam and I as workout buddies. During our personal training appointment that same day we were doing some simple step ups and Sam broke down. I have never cried at the gym, but I know that it’s something that happens, so I did my best to console her. The trainer had no idea what to do, so I took on his role a bit and started trying to ask her what was wrong. She went off about how it was too expensive to be healthy, how she couldn’t afford the $4 bread she could only afford the $1 bread and so on. I had heard (and said) this too many times before, and I had to hold in all of my disdain for the excuses she was giving. I eat very healthily, and once I learned how to shop at the grocery store to buy healthy food and not spend a lot of money, I now spend less than I did when I ate unhealthily. If bread is such an issue, then cut it out, or bake your own, there are plenty of other good grains and carbs out there. I was so mad but I had to just hold on to her and comfort her through her break down.

DO support your buddy no matter what, sometimes it can be really hard because you can see them making excuses and moving away from their goals, but you have to remember it’s their choice and to just support them.

DON’T give up! It may be hard to ask for help, especially when you see your buddy doing so well, but rather than complaining about costs or time, ask her how she does it, you may be surprised at what she’s willing to do to help you.

Sam and I stopped working out together within a few weeks after that, her bad mood and discontent for the healthy lifestyle we were building, along with her jealousy towards my success, made it very difficult for me for a few weeks to even keep up my usual routines. I felt a kind of survivor’s guilt for losing the weight that she didn’t lose. I realize now that it’s not my fault, that she could have done things a lot differently herself. I had offered for her to come over for most meals, since cooking for one is a pain in the butt anyway. I tried to push her while we did cardio together, and I invited her to all my classes that helped me so much. Sometimes a friend isn’t meant to be a work out buddy.

Better workout buddy to the rescue!

But now I have Rachel, who has been interested in fitness as long as I have, if not longer. She’s supportive and sweet, and although she’s full of her own opinions on fitness and nutrition, she knows when to let an opinion go and just enjoy the run.

Do you have a great workout buddy? How have they helped you?

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