7 Things to Consider When Finding a Workout Buddy at Work

If you end up hitting the snooze button instead of the gym most mornings, or you're tempted to head out for lunch with co-workers instead of heading out for a walk, perhaps what you need is a workout buddy. An accountability partner can help keep you focused, especially when motivation wanes and so sticking to a consistent workout routine is in jeopardy.

If you've tried recruiting family or friends in the past and failed, maybe it's time to look elsewhere. Perhaps in place where you spend the majority of your weekdays? Finding a workout buddy in your workplace can be the perfect solution, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Do you really want to sweat with your co-worker? How do you find someone with your interests and fitness level? What if it doesn't work out and you have to face them every day at the office? What if they see you leaving for a lunchtime workout without them?

Before you approach your office mate heading down to the gym and ask to join them, here are seven important things to consider.
  1. Instead of sending an email to your entire office asking if they want to work out with you, take note of co-workers exercise habits and approach individuals directly. "I heard you talking about how you are training for a 5K. I'm training for a race, too, so if you're ever interested in running at lunchtime, let me know." By leaving the offer open-ended, they will feel less pressured to accept, and if they do, it's likely because they really want to do it.
  2. Kyle Hoffman, the founder of Noob Gains, says you shouldn't feel hurt if a co-worker turns down your invitation. "Fitness is a pretty personal thing and not everyone has the same opinion of self-improvement," he explains. "Some run toward the idea [of becoming healthier], while others are trying to hide from it. Some might even find the very mention of exercise in their presence [to be] an insult. Just make sure you broach the subject with professionalism so the rejection doesn't hurt your working relationship."
  3. "Just because you may not know a lot about someone or you don't have the best relationship with them, don't count them out," advises Benjamin Smith of BestCompany.com. "They could be the best friend that you didn't know you needed to find.  After doing your research, bring up conversations that discuss the gym or maintaining balance in one's busy life. This will help you to see with whom these conversations spark interest."
  4. Even if you don't find that one person to be your exercise buddy, you can still find ways to add activity at the office. Do you have a regular Tuesday meeting with your boss to review the week? Ask if you can turn it into a walking meeting. Could you plan an office workout and turn it into a standing appointment for those who wish to continue? From there you might find someone who wants to take the workouts a step further and meet regularly.
  5. Personal trainer Lauren Seib suggests finding someone who is not necessarily at your same fitness level. "You want to look for someone who is dedicated, and potentially even a bit more 'into' fitness so that they will not only hold you accountable but push you to challenge outside of your comfort zone," she describes. "Working toward a fit venture together can also be fun and health-friendly to keep the mojo going. [For example,] a race of some sort is an achievable [goal] that will help keep your eye on the prize." 
  6. Jeanette DePatie founder of EveryBODY Can Exercise, recommends trying a class together as a way to test out a potential workout relationship. "Since you will need to continue to work together even if your workout buddy status wanes, [trying a class together] can be a way for you to get to know each other gradually without being tossed into the instant connection of [a workout that's just the two of you.]" As an added bonus, DePatie points out that if one of you can't make it, the other person can still get a workout in and be surrounded by the social support that a class atmosphere provides.  
  7. Be upfront that this is a "trial run". If you're ready to approach someone and ask if they want to work out with you, be clear that it's not a lifelong commitment. Suggest that you try a class together or go for a run and see how it goes. Point out that it would be great to keep a regular schedule, but if it doesn't work out on either end for whatever reason, it's okay and it was fun to try something different. That way neither of you feel locked in if schedules, interests or personalities end up conflicting.  

Work Buddy Benefits

According to Ashlee Van Buskirk, the founder of Whole Intent, there are a number of reasons your office mate could make the ideal workout partner.
  • Increased Accountability. "You may see your friends on a regular basis (once or twice a week), but you interact with your co-workers on a daily basis. If you skipped your Monday workout, you likely won't hear the end of it from your co-workers for the rest of the week."
  • Improved Relationships. "Business is all about connections these days. You can develop stronger connections with your co-workers by exercising regularly together."
  • Better Productivity. "Gym time allows you to get in some personal chit-chat outside of the workday, which reduces the amount of time you spend gossiping at work. There are positive correlations between your physical fitness and your mental capacity, as well."
Once you've found a good match, Van Buskirk says it's a good idea to set boundaries about the kinds of things you discuss during workouts. "Work talk is hard to avoid," she cautions. "The time you spend in between sets or exercises is usually the perfect time for friendly conversation. But, if your mind is still on the workday, it can be difficult to avoid work talk. Try to make 'gym time' a space to escape the work talk."

The added accountability of a workout buddy—whether it's a co-worker, friend or family member—can be the perfect way to stay on track with your health and fitness goals no matter what obstacles life throws at you. The more you surround yourself with others who support you, the greater your chances of success.