Sometimes it’s difficult to stay committed to your fitness routine, and having a training partner or workout buddy may help you stay on track with your exercise goals.

There are many reasons why it’s good to have an exercise partner or training buddy; not least that you have someone to motivate you on days when you’d rather stay in bed or collapse on the couch. “When you have someone else relying on you to show up and put in the effort, it’s easier to stay committed and consistent with your training routine,” says Dr Edward Jonsson, a GP in Stellenbosch with a special interest in sports medicine.

“Your training partner can also challenge and push you beyond your comfort zone. They can encourage you to work harder or achieve higher performance levels than you might on your own.”

Lots of benefits

A training partner can also provide immediate feedback on your technique, form, and performance, Dr Jonsson adds. “They can observe and suggest ways to improve your movement, posture, or workout routines to enhance the effectiveness of your training and reduce the risk of injury. And if your training partner has different strengths, skills, or knowledge in a particular area, you benefit from their expertise. They may introduce you to new exercises, training methods, or approaches you hadn’t considered before.”

Another big plus is the element of safety. Buddying up for runs, cycling, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities means you’ll have someone to assist you if something goes wrong.

Most of all, though, training with a partner is fun. The aches and pains are halved, and the enjoyment is doubled when you have someone to share the moment. “It makes the experience more enjoyable and social,” Dr Jonsson says. “You can share your progress, discuss training strategies, and celebrate achievements together, fostering a sense of camaraderie and support.”

Drawbacks and how to solve them

You may encounter some downsides to partnering with someone else, says Dr Jonsson, but there are ways to overcome them:

Coordinating schedules can be challenging.

Solution: Look at your schedules, find a time that works for both of you, and put it into your calendars. Make it a firm commitment. If something unavoidable comes up, agree to check in with each other that you’ve both achieved a set goal by a particular time and day in the week.

Risk of overreliance. “Always training with a partner may affect your ability to train independently,” Dr Jonsson cautions. “This is a problem if your partner is unavailable or decides to stop training, leaving you without the support system you've grown accustomed to.”

Solution: It might not be ideal, but you’ll still have the structure to train by yourself while your partner is away or you’re looking for another training buddy.

Differing opinions. Your training partner may have different goals, fitness levels, or preferences that make it challenging to design a workout routine that meets both of your needs.

Solution: “It’s important to find a balance that allows each person to progress towards their respective goals,” Dr Jonsson suggests.

Inconsistent degrees of commitment. “One partner may be more dedicated to the training routine than the other. It can be frustrating if your workout buddy consistently fails to meet their responsibilities or puts in less effort.”

Solution: Communication is important. If that person lets you down regularly, ask if it’s because their other commitments have increased, or whether you should consider another partner.

Comparing your progress to that of your partner. It can be discouraging if you feel like you’re not keeping up.

Solution: “Everyone progresses at their own pace and has different starting points, so focus on your own journey rather than comparing yourself to others,” advises Dr Jonsson. A workout buddy is there to motivate you. If you still feel they’re too far ahead, or ignoring your needs, try to seek a mutual solution. If they’re not listening, you’re better off training alone until you find someone closer to your fitness level.

Enjoy yourselves!

Whether you’re training with a partner, friend, or a random person at the gym, enjoy the time together. “Many people find the benefits of training with a partner outweigh the challenges,” Dr Jonsson says. To maximise the advantages, he suggests:

  • Communicating effectively with each other
  • Setting clear expectations
  • Maintain a mutually supportive and positive attitude.