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Traits You Want in a Training Partner

Written by:  Kara Douglass Thom - triathlete, freelance writer and mother of four

Ultimately self-motivation is what drives us to accomplish our goals, but the journey is often more enjoyable with a little help from our friends. In Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom, (Andrews McMeel 2011) Secret no. four is “People can sabotage your fitness faster than a cookie binge.”

Truly, the effort to get and stay fit can be a struggle if the people you are close to peck away at your priority to be healthy (like the eye roll when you announce you’re headed to the gym or a co-worker who brings a box of donuts to your meetings). But the opposite of that is true, as well. With the right support, living a fit life becomes second nature.

Finding people to work out with can set you up for success. What should you look for in a workout partner? Here are traits I believe make sharing the sweat really rewarding:

  1. Sense of humor. Some people prefer talkers, others don’t. Whatever your preference, most people like to laugh. Almost always, a workout among friends will result in laughter at some point. And laughter is as good for us as exercise. But, whether or not you need to talk/laugh, for most workouts you should be able to talk/laugh. If you don’t work out with a heart rate monitor, the “talk test” is one way to know if you’re exercising at the right level. The effort should be difficult, but at a level where you can still breathe and talk/laugh. Of course, it’s a good idea to mix up your workouts, either within the workout or on different days — and bump that level up a little higher so you have periods during which you’re breathing a little too hard to talk/laugh. This will boost your calorie expenditure but, more importantly, train your heart to become more efficient. There will be more time to laugh during the cool down. There’s nothing like finishing a workout with a smile on your face.
  2. Similar schedules. Finding time to connect with someone else for fitness is indeed challenging, especially the more you have going on (and who doesn’t have a lot going on?) With kids and their schedules, coordinating with a friend can become even more problematic. However, scheduling one or more workouts during the week with friends holds you accountable. Plus, if you have the date and time locked in, you don’t have to spend time planning your workout or coordinating with your workout pals. The time of day that seems to work most for everyone is early morning. What else conflicts except sleeping in? Even when I’m tired, I’ve never regretted getting up early to exercise. However, I have regretted sleeping in and missing my only opportunity to work out (and see my friends).
  3. Enabling (in a good way). Most people like to have workout partners because it keeps them accountable. I’ll take that a step further. I want my training partners to be enabling. Yes, enabling someone usually gets a bad rap, but it shouldn't when it comes to finding time to exercise. This enabler can come to your rescue so you can work out even when you thought you couldn’t. I have had times when my regularly scheduled workout couldn’t take place. Instead of giving up altogether, my workout partner and I have met later in the day to take turns watching each others’ kids so we can take a turn running or bike riding. No, we’re not running or riding together, but it’s the next best thing. If the set schedule fails you, an enabling training partner will still help find a way to make a workout happen for you and encourage you to do it with or without them.

Kara Douglass Thom and Laurie Kocanda are the co-authors of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom. Her blog, Mama Sweat, chronicles her pursuit to find fitness in the chaos of motherhood.

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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