The Buddy System
By Delsie McCoy, MS
Sherlock Holmes has one. Batman has one. Harry Potter has two. Iron Man even married his.
What do all of these characters have in common? They have a buddy to help them ride out the good times and the bad. Could you enlist the assistance of a buddy to help you achieve your weight loss goals? Put it this way: even superheroes have sidekicks.
Many people struggle to maintain their motivation to exercise. They may know exercise is an important part of maintaining their weight loss, but they start an exercise program only to stop and restart, over and over again. One way to help maintain a regular exercise program is to enlist the aid of a buddy, someone to exercise with you. A buddy makes it more fun and can push you to exercise more consistently, and, maybe even just a bit harder, than you might on your own. A recent study conducted at Indiana University found that married couples who went to the gym together had only a 10 percent dropout rate after a year as opposed to a 50 percent dropout rate for couples who worked out separately. Clearly, an exercise partner increases your ability to stick with the program!
Choosing the right exercise partner can be a bit tricky, however. First, your exercise partner does not have to be a spouse or even a family member, but should be someone you feel comfortable with; someone who supports you and your goals. Being supportive is key. A partner who makes you feel badly about your abilities or your efforts is not the right partner for you.
Next, consider your potential exercise partner’s personal level of motivation to exercise. Someone who is relatively new to exercise may work out just fine, if he or she is enthusiastic about exercising. However, if you’re both on the fence about being active, be careful that your buddy doesn’t become a reason not to go to your workout. If you call up your friend and plan to meet at the gym, only to have your friend suggest going to a movie instead, you may want to reconsider your choice. Selecting a friend who has been exercising consistently for some time can help you avoid this potential pitfall.
You might also want to consider whether you and your partner’s fitness levels are compatible. For instance, if you’re just starting to walk, but your buddy is an avid runner, both of you may end up frustrated. Your buddy will likely have to decrease the intensity of their routine, while you may struggle mightily to keep up with their pace, possibly overdoing it. One solution to this obstacle is to exercise in a gym setting. Studies show that you and your buddy need not participate in the same activities while at the gym. Instead, simply going together and leaving together boosts your ability to stay on track. Even better, you might choose to exercise side by side on a cardio machine. This allows you to work out together and enjoy each other’s company, but allows you to go at your own pace. Choosing classes that you both enjoy is also a good option, as most instructors give cues on ways to adjust the intensity of the class, making it possible for both parties to enjoy the workout.
Finally, evaluate whether you have something in common outside of exercise. The more you enjoy the person’s company and have common interests, the more you will look forward to seeing the individual and the more fun exercise will be.
However, you can’t always rely on others to motivate you. If your buddy is sick one day or on vacation, or if you can’t find an exercise partner, don’t allow yourself to use that as an excuse not to be active. You can keep yourself motivated by keeping a journal or log of your exercise regimen, either on the computer or in a notebook. Logging your activity makes you very aware of your exercise habits! You might also enlist the services of a personal trainer. Even just a session or two once a month may help provide that extra motivation you need. Another way to maintain motivation: reward yourself for exercising by treating yourself to a movie or another special reward when you meet a specific exercise goal. Just be sure you’re not rewarding yourself with cake!
So, use the buddy system and team up with an exercise partner! You’ll find it makes working out more enjoyable and that goes a long way towards helping you stick to an exercise routine.