No Valentine's Day date? No big deal. You can still spend the holiday getting hot and sweaty with someone special — a companion who's dependable, supportive and physically fit. Sounds awesome! But, who, you ask? None other than a trusty gym buddy!
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A great swolemate can have all the qualities of a great life partner, says therapist Michelle P. Maidenberg, Ph.D., president and clinical director of Westchester Group Works — "a person who's warm, supportive and communicative and can offer you strength, empowerment, reassurance and care. All the feelings we want to embrace on Valentine's Day."
Not convinced? Read on for all the reasons to trade in your sweetheart for a sweat-heart this year.
1. You Can Be 100% Yourself
Dating can be stressful, especially around Valentine's Day, the most overly hyped day for romance every year. There's so much pressure to impress. It's enough to make you break into a nervous sweat.
But on a gym date with your workout buddy, you can get as sweaty and stinky as you want. No need to don your fanciest duds — you can show up in comfy sweatpants and tie your hair back in a ponytail.
"A gym buddy helps you feel comfortable in exactly who you are," says Erin Oprea, celebrity fitness trainer and author of The 4x4 Diet. This way, you can focus on being you — and crushing your fitness goals — rather than obsessing over whether you sound witty or worrying about a gob of spinach stuck between your teeth.
2. You'll Push Yourself to Improve
Your heart might not go pitter-patter for your gym buddy, but working out as a duo will definitely get it racing faster. That's because a good gym partner can push you further when you you're tired or feel like giving up. "If you're working out solo, you must be your own internal motivator," says Maidenberg. "Most people are not naturally wired that way."
Because we're social creatures, people are very susceptible to the actions, opinions and influence of others, especially when it comes to working out, says Jonathan Fader, Ph.D., sports psychologist and director of performance coaching at SportStrata. That echoes the 2011 research published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise, which found that the exercise habits of people you know have a positive impact on your own.
A little friendly competition might act as a motivator, too. People who exercised with partners they thought were in better shape boosted their workout time and intensity by a whopping 200 percent, according to a 2012 study from Kansas State University. In other words, when your buddy works hard, your competitive side kicks into high gear.
Read more: 16 Workout Ideas for Couples (or Any Duo!)
3. They're Less Likely to Flake on You
Unlike some random person you met on Tinder, you can always count on your trusty gym buddy to show up and be on time. Working out as a pair is a commitment, and a good gym partner won't disappoint you or compromise your fitness goals, says Maidenberg.
And it goes both ways. Since your dependable pal always shows up for you, you want to do the same for them. "It's easier to let yourself down than to let down a gym buddy," says Oprea. That means that you're less likely to skip a workout.
In fact, accountability to others was a key predictor for regular exercise in women, according to a 2014 study published in BMC Women's Health. That's why gym buddies make the best Valentine's Day dates. They'll never stand you up! Plus, you can always bank on them going dutch on all "barre" activities, jokes Oprea.
4. It's More Fun to Work Out With a Partner
Let's face it: Even though you know working out is good for you, it can be a snore sometimes. And on particularly tough days, it can be downright grueling. Fifty mountain climbers can feel like Mount Everest!
Training with a fun friend who cheers you on can make exercise infinitely more enjoyable, says Oprea, and science backs her up. A 2013 study from the University of Southern California's Department of Preventive Medicine found that people enjoy exercise more when they do it with others.
Plus, exercising as a dynamic duo keeps things fresh. "We often get into routines, but having a workout partner can help push you out of your comfort zone and break those plateaus," says Oprea.
5. They're More Supportive
Nursing a breakup on Valentine's Day? Throwing around some heavy weights are great therapy, and your gym partner can help. Gym buddies are ideal spotters, says Maidenberg. Whether you're doing a bench press or a barbell back squat, your partner can help you maintain proper alignment and form, and ultimately prevent you from an injury.
Plus, since you trust your partner to have your back, you'll feel more confident to try a new exercise, lift heavier or tackle more reps. And like any good friend, your workout buddy is on hand to lighten your load — if you've reached the point of exhaustion and can't complete your last reps, your spotter can safely relieve you from the weight.
6. They're Emotionally Available
Just because you don't have a significant other on Valentine's Day doesn't mean you don't have someone who'll be there for you and when you're feeling down. One of the major benefits of having a gym buddy is the emotional support they give you.
Putting in the hard work to transform your body is emotional, and your workout partner, who's at your side every grueling step of the way, is the only one who truly understands what you've been through.
"There is something to be said about 'misery loving company,'" says Maidenberg. "It helps to 'suffer' and challenge oneself in the company of another person who's accomplishing a similar task and experiencing similar feelings." In other words, those who sweat together, understand each other.
Plus, during a workout, when you're fatigued, your walls come down and you tend to be more open, says Fader. Whatever ego you might've come in with has been sweat away, making room for real, deep connections between exercise companions that go way beyond the gym.
Maidenberg agrees: "The support inevitably extends to other life challenges. When buddies work out together, the conversation almost always takes a turn toward talking about life, career, and family." So, if real intimacy is what you're after, look no further than your swolemate!
7. They're Also Your Wingman (or Woman)
Forming a tight bond with your gym buddy may improve your social life, even outside of the gym. A supportive workout partner can help you (especially if you're introverted) come out of your shell and build self-confidence, says Maidenberg. If you're uncomfortable or anxious in social situations, interacting with a gym buddy is a great low stakes way for you to socialize and practice being around others.
That's because working with a gym buddy requires good communication, says Fader. You need to be clear about each other's goals and expectations regarding the time you spend together. This involves asking questions, listening and sharing your feelings. Learning these skills not only deepens your understanding of your gym buddy, but can enhance your other relationships, too.
BONUS: Exercise Is a Libido Booster
Whether or not you're getting any nookie this Valentine's Day, you'll be happy to hear that working out with a gym buddy might boost your sex drive. Well, indirectly anyway, since regular exercise has been linked with better performance in the boudoir.
Research published in the October 2018 issue of Sexual Medicine Reviews found that working out increased physiological sexual arousal and satisfaction in women. And there's good news for men, too. Moderate to vigorous physical activity improved erectile function, according to a 2018 study published in Sexual Medicine.
Since you're exercising harder and more often with your gym buddy, you'll likely experience a lovely libido lift!