It’s raining. You’re tired. It’s been a long week, and your boss has gone full dictator at the office. Come Saturday morning, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym and exercise. In fact, you have more excuses not to exercise than a 6th grader has for not doing his homework: the dog ate your gym shorts, your sneakers, and your motivation. But then your phone lights up. “We’re still going to the gym, right?” says the voice on the other end of the line. “Meet you there in an hour… don’t be late.” Before you have time to come up with an excuse as to why you’d rather watch paint dry than go to Pilates, your friend hangs up. This is why you have a workout buddy: motivation. Getting to the gym can be the hardest part of exercising.
Get yourself a workout buddy! Here’s why:
According to Jeff Breckon, an exercise psychologist at Sheffield Hallam University, “an exercise partner can work as healthy competition or as a role model who can get you out of the house when you don’t feel like it. It creates a sense of responsibility and social cohesion.” Healthy competition is different than a competitive competition -the latter brings to mind the kid at school who gets picked last to participate in sports. Healthy competition, on the other hand, is pleasurable; it drives you to keep pace with your workout buddy, tests your physical and mental endurance, and provides the encouragement you need to succeed. Exercising with a friend is like exercising with a cheerleader or life coach.
The Distraction Hypothesis
When you exercise alone at the gym, time can stand still. The methodical repetition of the treadmill is like a slowly ticking clock. And watching the calories peel off as your ride the stationary bike feels like a slow-motion journey through hell. When you socially engage with someone while exercising, however, your experience of time is different; socializing makes time go by faster. You exercise longer, and the perception of how much you exert yourself is less. Exercise psychologists call this a “distraction hypothesis.” Exercising with someone breaks the monotony. You’re no longer walking on the treadmill. At the same time, researchers at Kansas State University found that people who exercise with someone who is fitter and in better shape work out for up to 200% longer.
The Fun Factor
Getting in shape with a gym buddy isn’t supposed to be a form of active warfare or a Game of Thrones death match to see who’s left standing after a marathon weight lifting session. Exercising with someone is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to take the work out of the workout. Exercising with a group creates a tribal effect, a “we’re all in this together” vibe that’s supposed to encourage and motivate you even when it’s raining, you’re tired, and the last thing you want to do is lace up your sneakers and go to the gym.