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Why you need a workout partner

If you're finding it difficult to remain motivated about your daily workouts, you probably need a friend to exercise with

You can get more out of your workouts by having a fitness partner.
You can get more out of your workouts by having a fitness partner. (Istockphoto)

Doing a workout or a run can be challenging if you are not one of those people who can be endlessly self-motivated. Let’s be honest, during the lockdowns we have probably realized most of us are not. So what do you do to make sure you get your workout? Get a partner!

A partner workout can work in various ways. I am not talking about group classes where 30 people are doing Zumba together to the same music. But one-on-one partnership. Take for example, in CrossFit, a partner WOD can have two people sharing the total load of a workout equally, or according to their strengths. For example if the workout is 150 burpees + 100 push ups + 50 pull ups, it can be quite a lot for most people. But divide it between two people and it works out just fine. 

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“A partner workout lets you divide the pressure equally so that you get rest but also get a good workout. If you were doing the above workout by yourself, even half of it, you wouldn’t know when to take a break or to break it up in sets,” explains Sourabh Dubal, CrossFit L1 coach and co-founder of RepsRebound, a fitness service provider.

Partner workouts also ensure that you strategise to ensure that both of you are getting the most out of the workout. Do you want to divide the reps equally? Or do you want to divide your reps according to your strength and capacity? For example, if you are great at pull ups, would you do 30 pull ups, and let your partner do 20, but ask her to do more push ups so that you can conserve your upper body strength? “It’s also smart to discuss beforehand how you want to approach the workout. Maybe you can decide a switch between partners after every 10-15 reps. If you were to do it yourself, you would possibly burn out your muscles in one long set and get slower through the workout,” says Dubal.

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Research actually shows that people gravitate towards emulating the behaviour (very fit or very unfit) of those around them. There is also the Kohler effect, which essentially says that no one wants to be the weakest link in a group setting. This means that when you are working out with a partner, or running a race as a team, you will push yourself to perform at your best. A run with a team is a different experience as well. In a race, while everyone might be running together for the same goal, no one is responsible for the results of another person. But in a relay format, one person’s run can impact the time for the whole team. Do people like running with that pressure? Is it more fun?

“Running primarily is known for being a solo sport, however few event formats like Ekiden relay, drive spirit of cooperation. Working together as a team is a more powerful way of working out as one tends to find out ways to win through managing the strengths and weaknesses of other players. Personally, it has been exciting for me to see team mates pushing each other to complete their individual goals and win as a team,” says Rajat Khurana, managing director, Asics India & South Asia.

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Team sports cultivate mental toughness and bonding with other athletes. This ensures that the gap between a pro and a beginner gets diluted, believes Khurana. Asics recently organized a relay race, Ekiden, which saw over 5000 teams—each team had 6 runners—from around the world participate. It brought together runners of various calibers together. And with each runner doing a certain distance, from 5 km to 10km, each team completed a total of 42.2km. 

According to Bengaluru-based IT professional and running enthusiast Suhasini Menon, a relay helps her push more. “It’s not just because your team’s performance also depends on yours. But in most cases, in the relay—such as a 24 hours stadium relay—the other teammates are there on the sideline cheering for you while you run. And when it is there turn to take it, you do the same. At the end of the event, you both know what it meant. Like a shared achievement,” she says. 

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