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Spot On....... Or, How To Be A Good Workout Partner

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

So..... You are one of the lucky ones who has found a compatible workout partner with the same workout style, who respects your boundaries, and who has the same time availability. Blessed indeed you are! Here are some things I have observed and experienced that will help you be a workout partner they will appreciate and respect:

1. Firmly establish at the beginning what your partnership will look like. Are you doing the same program and taking turns doing sets so that you can assist and encourage one another? Doing the same program and working out NEXT to each other, in cadence? Simply going to be at the gym at the same time to support each other in your separate programs and spot the other when you need it? A combination of these? Make sure you know what his or her definition of "partner" is.

2. Show up on time. If you are going to be late, text or call and tell your partner. That way they can get in a little extra warm-up cardio while they wait for you. Nothing is worse than sitting in your car or on a bench in the gym thinking "Where is she? Is she Okay? Did she get in a car wreck? Oversleep? Should I get started working out, or wait?"

3. Let your partner know ASAP if you aren't going to be there one day. My partner tells me often a week or more in advance. I appreciate it. It lets me know I don't have to be there if I want to sleep in a little longer (we usually work out in the early AM), and also lets me mentally prepare for a workout alone- It's not going to be a heavy day if I'm flying solo!

4. If you are going to change your program, discuss it with your partner. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I've actually heard of people walking into the gym and informing their partner that they are starting something different that very day. This means the partner either has to change gears on the fly to accommodate or finds they are left out completely and in a very abrupt fashion. That's not fair. You are a team. Let your teammate know if you want to switch things up. Which leads to......

5. If you are going to implement a program that requires you to go solo, or you want to stop working out with your partner either permanently or for a period of time, let them know about this well in advance. This will give your counterpart time to adjust and regroup. You had time to think about the change you are going to make, now he or she needs time to think of what changes they will need to make in turn to adjust to not having you around.

6. Leave your phone in the car. If you must bring it in for emergency reasons, explain what is going on to your partner. This way they'll be supportive when you have to answer or call mid-workout. Plus, they'll be looking out for your phone and are less likely to step on it!

7. Ask how they prefer to be spotted. A lot of guys lifting heavy weights want to be spotted right above the elbow. Women often want to feel a set of hands more mid-upper arm. Some people want to hear "It's all you!" when lifting a heavy load, while others want you to lie and say "I've got it!", when really you are applying minimal pressure to help them. You will get to know their needs and preferences in detail as you continue to work out together, but at the beginning you really need to ask.

8. For Pete's sake, pay attention (and I mean rapt attention) when spotting your partner. This means no talking to other pals, looking at the hot member of the opposite sex saunter by, admiring yourself in the mirror, or anything else that is not staring right at your partner. And put the music in your headset on pause so you can hear your partners signal (often difficult breathing) that it's time for you to kick into action and spot them. Texting and calling shouldn't be an issue, because you left your phone in the car, remember? And even if you brought it in for an emergency per #6, talking and texting should wait until your partner is NOT mid-set. They are depending on you for safety. Don't let them down.

9. Help them switch out weights, even if you are using different lifting aparatus'. It's considerate and besides, lifting with a partner already takes longer than lifting solo- this will help you both get out of the gym a little quicker.

10. Encourage, but not to the point of urging them to do something that could hurt them. It takes time to figure out when your partner is not pushing themselves hard enough and when they are stopping because their body truly can't take anymore. But until you get to know each other a little better, here's a clue: Phrases that are doubtful, like "I am not sure if I should move up to the 45's for the next set", usually mean they are simply unsure of their own strength. If you feel they can do more, tell them to go pick up the 45's and you will help if it's too much. On the other hand, if they are making a definitive statement like "My elbow can't take that weight", respect it. You don't want to be responsible for your partner getting injured.

11. If you decide you aren't compatible as partners after all and find it in your best interest to "break up", it's best to be up front about it. Are their feelings going to be hurt? Probably a little, at least. But it's a lot kinder to let them know they are free to find someone else to work out with than to let them stumble awkwardly around the gym wondering if they have a partner or not. Saying something along the lines of "I am finding that our lifting partnership isn't working out the way I had hoped. I'm so sorry, and I do appreciate what I have learned from working out with you. I think it's time we looked for other lifting partners. In the meantime, if you need a spot, please don't hesitate to ask!" should suffice. If they ask for specifics, tell them. It might help them in future lifting-partner relationships. Otherwise, keep specific reasons to yourself. It could wind up adding insult to the injury.

12. Above all, treasure your partner. Often we have to look years for someone that has that magic combination that works in the gym. Treat them with respect, and expect to be treated with respect in return. Who knows? You might find yourself with a life-long friend.
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