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Should You Have A Training Partner…

August 9, 2009

Fitness Experts always say that you are more likely to stick with your plan when you have a fitness partner.  They are right, at least depending on how you do the math.  You are much more likely to workout, train and do big events when you know that someone is depending on you to keep them going and that they are going to be there to keep you going.  In essence, you are doubling your chances of success because on days when you are down and don’t feel up to exercising, odds are good that your partner won’t be be down and he or she will pull you along.

This is all good in theory, but for us unfit people, that isn’t how the math works.  I strongly recommend that you don’t get a workout partner when you are starting out.  In fact I would say that is one of the most important rules for getting started with fitness.

You see the principles are all wrong.  It is very much like the concept of additive color and subtractive color.  Depending on which color model you are using, the answer to the question of what you get when you add all of the colors together is the exact opposite.

In terms of fitness for us unfit people, this isn’t an additive problem, it is subtractive.  You aren’t taking one person who will pull the other person up and combining it with another person who will pull the other up (which is how fit people see this issue), you are actually doing the exact opposite.  Us unfit people are unlikely to stick with an exercise plan in the long run if we can’t find a way to enjoy it.  In essence if we can’t find a way to do it for ourselves.  So, early on, before we have discovered this, if we end up training with another person, we are likely to use each other to feel better about not exercising.  We will depend on another person almost entirely to pull us up, but because our fitness friend is probably in the same boat we are, they will be depending on us entirely.  Anyone can see that this isn’t going to end well.  It is simply a case of looking at the issues of fitness through the right lens, the unfit persons lens.  For so long we have been sold on the fit persons way of training and it doesn’t work for us.

I can’t tell you how many times I was following a workout regiment with a friend and we looked at each other, both not wanting to exercise and next thing you know, we were going for breakfast or a beer or whatever.  I joined a gym once with my friend Eric.  We went together for a little while, then his girlfriend joined us, I dropped out and soon after, so did both of them.  We were depending on each other, and as soon as that fell apart, so did our exercise.  We were pinning our hopes on each others determination for exercise.  If our training partner turns out to be determined to stick with fitness, then you will benefit from this.  But why would you risk your fitness future on a friend who hasn’t shown any more inclination to work out then you have?  It is stupid!  It is just one step above a hail mary pass.

So, I recommend that you start on your own.  You set your own goals, develop your own plans (or better yet, get You Are Not A Fit Person and use some of the plans in there).  Find out what works for you.

Additionally, do you have any friends who are already fit and already exercise all the time?  If so, sit down with them and your program.  Ask them to join you on certain days of your training.  Set a date with them.

Another option, probably the best if you can afford it, is hire a personal trainer.  Tell them about your fitness plan.  Have them work with you to assist you in following your plan.  I do recommend though starting your program on your own, while your determination is strong and then bringing a trainer in.  In this way, the program remains yours, not your trainers.  This is actually very important because you want to stay fit for life, and not end up depending on your trainer any more than your lazy friends.  There  will come a time, quite possibly before you are ready, that your trainer moves on and it is important that your plan doesn’t leave with him or her.

I followed all of these techniques, and I would say the most effective for the long run was the personal trainer helping me to achieve my goals (The person running with me in the photo above is my trainer Kevin Leaker, at the end of my first Half Marathon, and I know I wouldn’t have crossed that finish line without Kevin’s support.  Thank you Kevin).

Just remember, what works for fit people probably isn’t going to work for you.  Later, when you know how reliable you are, then the workout partner becomes so important in keeping fit long into the future because he or she will extend what you already know.

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