What to Do When You Can't Stand Your Workout Partner

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Friends in masks are using outdoor workout equipment. One of them looks...annoyed.

Photo: Reshetnikov_art (Shutterstock)

One function of the gym is to be a social place where we can interact with others as we do our workouts, but sometimes there’s a certain someone you just don’t want to chat with between squat sets. Whether your buddy keeps popping up at the gym, or you’re forced to share a home gym with them (hi, honey), here’s a tip to keep the friendship while working out on your own.

First, recognize that it’s totally normal to want to work out alone, or only with certain kinds of training partners. Elite weightlifter Mattie Rogers recently posted about how she doesn’t train with her partner Sean. Her coach, Aimee Anaya Everett, chimed in:

I think training with your significant other often results in unnecessary fights … I have rarely seen it work in my whole life because as you said- people have different levels of focus and need different things in their training. That being said- for some people it works GREAT. My advice is always give it a solid effort, communicate about needs, and if it doesn’t work, STOP DOING IT before it becomes toxic for your relationship!

Another flavor of this problem turned up on Reddit recently, where a lifter asked for advice because she keeps a consistent schedule at the gym, and her friend always shows up at the same time and assumes the two will train together.

Identify what you each want out of the situation

Communication is key here, but you need to figure out your own needs as well as the other person’s. Why do they keep showing up? They obviously want or need something from a gym-based friendship, and maybe you do too. You may just have to find a different way to fulfill that.

For example, if you’re mentoring your friend who is new to fitness, that doesn’t have to happen during your workout. Help them to be independent. Ask what questions they have before the workout, and then make a plan to connect with them afterwards, or maybe just once a week. Show them other places to find information.

If your friend wants somebody to chat with, and you’re more of a focused, get-it-done person, you’ll both have to acknowledge that difference in styles and plan accordingly.

If you need to share with somebody—say, you and your partner use the same home gym—come up with a schedule that lets you strategically avoid each other.

Consider connecting at a different time

You can also work out “together” without doing the same thing and being in each other’s faces. In the Before Times, I would go to the gym with my husband and we would spot each other on bench, but after that we’d each finish our workouts independently.

The Redditor with the ever-present friend decided to meet her friend for stretching at the end of the workout, which is a great way to connect and cool down after you’re done with your focused work.

If you’re a runner, you can meet a friend at the track. Maybe you’re doing 6×400 and they just want to get some easy jogging in—no biggie. You can chat during water breaks, then at the end of the day cool down together.

These days, my husband and I use the home gym at different times. I like to be focused and alone for my weekday morning workouts, and he does his own thing a few afternoons a week. But Saturdays are different.

Saturdays are our shared deadlift day. It’s more laid back than my typical workout, and I usually take long rests between deadlift sets anyway. We set up camp chairs in the garage, put on some tunes, and chat while we take turns lifting. It’s a fun time for both of us, and it’s all the more special because we don’t work out in this format during the rest of the week.

Even if you and your partner or friend can’t work out together, you can still connect in other ways. A post-run brunch is a classic, for example. That way, you get to share your interest in fitness without having to share your equipment, rest times, and every spare second of your attention.




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