If you clicked on this article, then I probably don’t need to tell you that having a workout buddy is the very best. Sweating it out with someone you love is motivating, mood-boosting, and makes hitting your fitness goals all the more fun. At Women’s Health, we even created a holiday, #NationalWorkoutBuddyDay, where we celebrate all the amazing workout buddies in our lives every year on March 1.
But this past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made synching up with a sweat sister to try a buzzy new workout class or trade sets in the gym near impossible. And WH has received DMs from so many readers who’ve found themselves in an exercise rut from doing the same things on a mat in their living room every day. It’s just not the same without your fit fam!
Three years ago, I shared the story of how my long-distance best friend, Jenna, and I managed to make working out together from multiple states apart work for us. We both wanted to get fitter and stronger, so we motivated each other via text, super-social fitness apps, and self-made Google Doc workout plans. I was really lucky that when the pandemic hit, we already had a virtual workout buddy system in place—we just kicked it into high gear. And now, with #NationalWorkoutBuddyDay approaching and a year of staying home behind us, we’re ready to share what we’ve learned along the way. Having a virtual buddy has been such a game-changer for both my physical and mental health, and I hope these six tips inspire you and your socially distanced besties to connect (and sweat!) in a new way, too.
1. Share your screen.
Video conference platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts have been a lifeline for pretty much everyone over the last year. #Truth. But they’ve especially changed my workouts. In the past, Jenna and I would just share Instagram and YouTube workouts we liked and do them on our own, but using the screen-share feature on Zoom to watch the same workout video at the same time next-levels our virtual sweat sessions.
With both of your cameras on, it’s basically like you’re in an IRL workout class together, except you don’t have to worry about the instructor hearing you say how much you hate pulse squats (just me?). I’m also so much less likely to wuss out in the middle of a 45-second interval if I can see Jenna pushing through it—and TBH, I don’t want her to see me quit, either!
2. Be flexible.
Jenna and my schedules could not be more opposite. She’s a middle school teacher, and whether she’s teaching remotely or in person, she has to be at work at 7:30 every morning. (How about a massive THANK YOU to all the teachers out there?!) Meanwhile, I’ve adjusted my work-from-home schedule to allow for a little more sleeping in than I used to. Hey, don’t judge me, it’s a pandemic.
But this past year has been unpredictable, to say the least, so we’re always in constant communication via text just in case our sweat sessions are able to line up—and we do our best to accommodate each other whenever we can. Think: “I have a meeting in 20 but can do a quick abs workout after;” “I’ll be ready at 4 if you want to do afternoon instead”; “I haven’t had enough coffee yet but I can be ready in 10.” And if it doesn’t work out? Life happens, man. We forgive ourselves, motivate each other to get it in on our own, and try again the next day.
3. Do your toughest workouts together.
Jenna is an absolute burpee champ, and I hate them. So when I found a workout video focusing on burpee intervals that I knew would challenge me in a good way, I saved it to do with her. When she told me how many she could knock out in 30 seconds, I pushed harder to try and match it. I…probably wouldn’t have done that if I was alone. (Let’s be real, I probably wouldn’t have done that workout at all if I was alone—but I’m glad I did.)
4. …But you don’t always have to go hard.
We’ve all been there. Some days, you just don’t want to work out—but if a friend is encouraging you, you’re more willing to stick it out for them. If one of us isn’t feeling it that day, we’ll scrap whatever workout we had planned and let the less motivated friend choose an oldie-but-goodie that’s fun, speaks to her strengths, and that she already knows will make her feel amazing afterward.
Yes, most trainers would tell you that sticking to a workout plan is important to reach certain goals, and it’s especially great if you have a friend helping you to stick with the program. But it’s also important to have fun, enjoy yourself, and listen to what your body (and mind) needs that day, especially in a global pandemic when it can feel like the world is crashing down around you.
Even if it’s just a quick 15-minute yoga flow—or a stretch session where we spend more time talking than working out—Jenna and I support each other with the mindset that any movement is good movement. We’ve even FaceTimed while going for walks around our respective blocks! No matter what, we’d never make the other person feel even crappier for needing a rest day.
5. Make it fun.
One of my favorite workouts that we do together doesn’t require following along to a video or a plan at all. We’ll set a timer for 30 minutes and invent our own EMOM (every minute on the minute) workout on the fly. One person will choose a move and we’ll both perform it for 30 to 45 seconds, then during the rest period the next person will choose a move.
When the next minute starts, we go again until we’ve worked out for 30 minutes. It’s the perfect balance between fun and challenging—you get to alternate between exercises you actually like and things you would never have willingly suggested. And since you don’t know what’s coming next, it keeps things from getting boring.
6. Stay connected between sweat seshes.
Since most of us are still relatively isolated due to *gestures wildly at the state of the world*, staying connected to people we care about is vital. Video-conference workouts are an amazing way to get some face time with family and friends, but so are the basics—phone calls, texts, Instagram DMs.
Jenna and I know it’s unrealistic for us to work out together every day, but we still keep encouraging each other both in our fitness *and* life goals pretty much 24/7. But having a best friend in my corner (even if it’s virtually) has made all the difference for me in keeping my physical and mental health in check this past year. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this, it’s that the best fitness-based communities and friendships are the ones that keep inspiring you long after the workout is over.
Grab your virtual workout buddy and join in on WH‘s Instagram Live workout marathon on Monday, March 1! You can access more than 10 free fitness classes back-to-back all day long. Head here for the details.
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