Yesterday I slid off the leg press machine and kneeled on the floor, dizzy. As I steadied myself, I couldn’t help but smile. I’d smashed my old PR (personal record) by 20 pounds, for reps. Wow, I thought. Last week I couldn’t even budge the machine at that weight. This week, I got 8 reps. I probably could even have gotten 10 if I wasn’t so worried about my back.
I looked around, wondering if anyone had noticed. Across the gym, a pack of guys was lifting (the same pack that always lifts at the same time I work out, pretty much the quietest time of day at the gym, mid-morning). A retired guy walked by me on his way to a different machine. “Are you OK?”
“Yeah,” I said, gripping the side of the machine. “I feel awesome.”
Except I kind of wanted someone to high-five. I wanted someone to say, “Good job.”
Sometimes I want a lifting partner.
Studies show that most of us like to work out with other people. Exercising with others helps motivate us, keeps it fun, pushes us to work harder, and also helps us stick with our fitness program. That’s why exercise classes are so popular – they’re fun.
And here’s a little food for thought: That pack of guys who work out together at the same time every day, the guys who wouldn’t be caught dead in a group ex class? Well, technically, they participate in group exercise, as they work out together in a group, right?
So anyway, yes, sometimes I want a lifting partner. I mean, it’d be great to have someone spot me on certain lifts, someone to help move things along and motivate me when I’m having an off day. But that’s never happened for me on a consistent basis. And despite those times I would kill for a spot (like today, when I had to drop the dumbbells on the floor halfway through a chest-press rep because my right side needed an ounce of assistance) or would like an atta-girl, it has occurred to me that I probably am best served working out alone.
It’s time to fully (and further) embrace this lone wolf vibe I’ve got going on.
People don’t want to hear this next bit, but whatever, it’s true. As we get older, we need to be smarter about our workouts, especially if they are intense and focused toward specific goals. We need more recovery. We get more weird aches and pains. We have to work around little tweaks and old injuries. We can’t give into them – we have to find ways of coping. This happens at a fairly young age for anyone who uses their body hard (like athletes and those who engage in physical labor), but it escalates once you get past a certain age. And yeah, I rock my age (if I do say so myself), but I crossed that threshold a while ago.
Take today, for instance. I had great plans going into my chest and shoulder day. I quickly had to come up with another plan when my neck decided it wanted the day off. I ended up having to scale the workout back and then ended it early. If I’d had a workout partner, knowing me I’d have felt bad about cheating them out of their workout, and chances are I’d have kept on going, and my neck would hurt a lot more than it does right now.
And also, face it, as a trainer, I don’t shut off when I watch someone lift. Maybe it’s a woman thing, maybe it’s part of being hypervigilant, but I tend to worry about everyone, and when people do work out with me, I end up training them. I don’t get to recover between my sets. So yes, having a lifting partner probably isn’t the best for my long-term goals, unless the right person walks through the gym door. I’m not holding my breath.
But come to think of it, I do have workout partners. I teach Zumba, yoga and sometimes other classes, too. Everyone who comes to those classes is my workout buddy – they’re in the pack. We all sweat together, and we have a blast in the process. In fact, doing those workouts with them makes the time fly, and often I forget to count those classes as workouts for myself, because they are so much fun.
There’s really no snappy ending to any of this, except that working out with other people is fun. Working out on your own can be fun, too, if you can motivate yourself to push hard while at the same time staying safe. You just need to be prepared to give yourself an atta-girl on days you earn little victories.
Heck, give yourself an atta-girl every day, for getting it done. You are part of an elite group that works out on a regular basis. High-five!