Training by yourself, solo, or with a partner is a decision that you will make on and off for as long as you work out. There is no one answer as to whether you should have a partner or not because there are way too many variables that can influence that decision. And what you decide today may also not apply later on down the road.
What kind of person are you?
The answer to this question will be a good determining factor as to whether you go solo or with someone else. If you are a self starter, can push yourself, can usually accomplish goals with a set game plan, do not like to be bothered by others, have a hectic and unpredictable work/family schedule, then more than likely, you will be more productive training by yourself.
If you need motivation, guidance on staying focused, are starting out for the first time, and/or need to develop discipline, then you will gain more by having a workout partner.
Whichever is the case however, EVERYONE must develop the skills necessary to train solo since you can not always guarantee that a partner will be available.
Challenges of training with a partner…
If you are one that prefers to train with someone, finding a partner can be as difficult as finding a spouse! Here are some things to consider in choosing the right partner:
1. Same schedule. It is hard enough carving up time in the day to get a good work out in. With work, family and friend obligations, you have to fit training into your day. Sometimes, the time of day may change or even the days of the week. Now double that if you have a partner. You now have to schedule around two peoples family, work and friends.
2. Same goal. Your routine is based on your goals. I am not saying they have to be exact but they have to be similar. Someone that wants to train to improve their swimming will have a different training program than someone that wants to become a better runner for example. Having a partner means having similar goals.
3. Same focus. The last thing you want is someone with the same schedule and goal but loses focus constantly and you spend the bulk of your time keeping them on track. This is mentally and physically draining.
4. Compatible personalities. You will be spending a lot of time with your partner, you might as well have compatible personalities. For example, two people with two completely different views of the political spectrum and who love to debate about who’s right or wrong, will more likely than not, turn their training sessions into debates with little or no attention being given to what your goals are.
5.Same or different gender? I leave this as a question mark because it truly depends on the individual. Some people just find it more pleasant training with another gender as opposed to the same one while others would never train with another gender. It is a matter of preference.
Over the years I have trained with both and it makes little difference to me but I will note that when I have trained with females, they seem to have a more gung-ho attitude while guys tend to slack off and wander off in side conversations. Again, just my opinion based on my experience.
6. Age difference? There are advantages to training partners that have a large age gap between them. The younger one may learn things that the older one has already experienced. The older one can get a boost in training by being with someone that has fresh motivation and energy.
Personally I prefer to train with people much younger than myself. I find it invigorating. Being 56 years old and been training for 42 years, I have a very hard time finding anyone at or near my age that can keep up. If I have a partner they usually have to be 10, 20 or more years younger than myself. They learn from my experience and I feed off their energy. It is a mutually satisfying relationship.
When to train with a partner…
Even if you are a ‘hermit’ by trade, there are always circumstances where you should have a partner in order to get the most out of your workouts.
If you are going to start exercising for the first time ever, it is necessary to have an experienced work out partner, coach or trainer. Learning the basic techniques, philosophies and training methods up front is invaluable for continued progress, avoiding injury, and learning new routines.
If you are going into some sort of competition, it is always an added benefit to have a training partner attempting to achieve the same thing. Gearing up for competition in any sport involves going through training cycles. There are ups and downs in each cycle, you want to have someone with the same goals and focus in mind to push each other through those highs and lows. It also helps to have someone that can watch your technique, tape it, and vice versa to give constructive criticism on how to improve.
You will also need a spotter that knows your exact strength levels in order to provide the proper spot. I have injured myself over the years ‘grabbing’ an inexperienced spotter in the gym when attempting a heavy lift.
There may be certain training days that are more difficult than others. While you may be able to train alone most of the time, try to find a partner for a particular training session where you may need that extra push.
For example, I can blast any body part pretty good in the gym but I find training legs is the hardest body part to get motivated to do at the level that I normally train. Finding someone that is willing to keep up or even be more advanced in you in doing legs and also providing that mental push, can be very beneficial.
Advantages of going solo…
While training partners has its’ advantages, so does training alone. Some of these are:
1. No time schedule constraints. You train when you can based on your schedule and it doesn’t have to be matched with someone else’s.
2. Do what you want. Each work out, each exercise, each set is done based on how you feel that day. It doesn’t have to be voted on by your partner to add a set, change an exercise or change the routine.
3. Pair up on occasion with someone else in the gym. While training with a partner you may notice someone that trains in a way that interests you. When training solo this is a perfect opportunity to pair up with someone for a single work out just to keep things different.
4. Creates mental toughness. No doubt a partner can help you through a tough work out when you are feeling down. However, I have found training alone is a way to develop mental toughness. It’s like the old saying ‘mind over matter’.
Training alone helps you focus on getting through it one set or even one rep at a time if need be. You learn to psyche yourself up. This toughness will carry over into your life.
5. Problem solving. One of the biggest pleasures I get when training alone is that I can think freely about things and problems I need to take care of without being interrupted. The blood is flowing through the muscles while working out which also makes the mind more alert. I have solved so many problems at the gym while working out.
Developing a soloist mentality…
Regardless if you train with a partner, there will be times due to scheduling or life events where you will be training by yourself. The last thing you want to do is miss training sessions just because your partner can’t make it or moved and you are trying to find someone else. After all, the purpose of training is for YOU to get or stay in shape, not to get someone else in shape. It makes no sense to stop just because someone else had to.
If you want or need to train solo and are the type that always has to have someone around, you will need to develop soloist skills. Like anything else you do in life that is not in your nature, it will require mental willpower and stepping outside your comfort zone.
One can take baby steps by training alone once a week. Make it your easiest work out.
Focus and visualize beforehand what it is that you want to accomplish in that work out and mentally show it complete as you finish each portion.
Spend the time between sets thinking about what you are going to do next. Prepare by psyching yourself up. Sort of your own self motivator. Keep reminding yourself why you are doing this and the consequences if you fail.
If you are tired and don’t want to go in but normally would because you knew you had a partner waiting for you, find the will to drag yourself in the gym anyways. Just get in the gym. Once there, the environment will usually pick up ones energy level and motivation. Start doing something, anything! The key is getting blood in the muscle to wake your body up out of the slump and get it going.
Hope some of these very basic ideas help in determining if and when you should have a training partner.
Going solo or with a partner is one way of being…. Fit Forlife