5 Ways to Cope With Missing Your Workout Buddy

It takes a little extra work, but you can still train with your gym friend!

Even if you’re not concerned at all about personally catching COVID-19, limiting your travel and people time can be a really important way to protect folks who are immunocompromised and more susceptible to getting seriously ill or even dying. That might cramp your gym style, sure — but people’s lives are worth it. 

Your mental health is important too, though, so if you’re having a lot of psychological trouble dealing with not being able to get that boost of exercise endorphins and socialization energy you get from seeing your gym partner every day, you’re going to have to come up with some strategies to help get you through this. And you will get through it. You just might have to be a bit creative about it. Here are five ways how.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

1. FaceTime Workout, Anyone?

You’ve done it (you can admit it, there’s no shame in it) — you’ve put YouTube on your smart TV or set up your phone or laptop in some type of awkward position so you can follow along with some YouTube phenom or other’s workout. So what’s wrong with using that same setup to bring your friend’s face into your living room so the two of you can work out together?

Trick question — there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, and everything is cool about it.

Maybe you both have the hilarious experience of trying to press “start” on a YouTube kickboxing video at the same time while on video with each other. Or maybe you decide in advance what bodyweight movements you’re going to do and in what order.

Perhaps you go really wild and, every minute, you call a new move, and the next minute, your friend calls the next move. (You call a minute of jumping lunges, and the next minute, your friend gets back at you by calling a minute of tricep pushups). 

2. Create An At-Home WOD And Go Against Each Other

Hear me out before you say isn’t this the same as FaceTiming each other while we work out? I mean, sure. Technically. But also not really. My most consistent workout buddy and I are fundamentally different kinds of lifters. He’s always focusing on bodyweight movement and mobility; I’m always focusing on anything and everything barbell.

barbell overhead
antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Each session, I learn from him and he learns from me — it’s a beautiful relationship. But sometimes, we program workouts that we do together. And it is the most beautiful kind of hellish.

We’ll make sure to get weightlifting and bodyweight moves in there, and it’s all circuits, and it’s the most heavenly kind of torture. If that kind of thing sounds like you and your buddy, create your own at-home WOD. Before your workout, pick some of your favorite moves and some of their favorites moves — mix them up together, agree to not cheat on your reps (possibly use FaceTime or Google Hangouts for accountability if you low-key don’t trust each other — see above). Write that crap down (so it’s Official) and see who can get the best time.

At a loss for what moves you can do at home? Mountain climbers, wall handstands/handstand pushups (clean feet and socks off, please!), archer pushups, couch dips with your feet elevated on a chair… you name it, you can figure out a way to do it at home. Set your rep scheme and your timer, and see who wins.

3. Watch Some Weightlifting Together

Who says you need to be live and in person to enjoy some weightlifting? YouTube has a nearly endless supply of old CrossFit Games, Weightlifting World Championships, and Strongman Classic live streams.

Pick your poison and live-text each other your reactions — or just FaceTime each other so you can see your reactions live and in person. Boomeranging your reactions to missed lifts and record breakers can also provide endless amusement long after your isolation ends.

4. Text And Call — A Lot

Sometimes, your gym buddy is the person you bump chests and lift with, then go off to your separate lives. Other times, your gym buddy is… your best friend. If you’re both socially isolated, it can be super tough to cope. So make sure you’re texting and maybe even — gasp — calling each other.

It’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, and that sweet buzzing when you get a text from someone you actually like can make a welcome dent in loneliness. It doesn’t even have to be about fitness. You can send each other everything from cat memes and anxiety-texts to oh my God behold the glory of my cheat meal and can you believe I’m watching Frozen 2 for the twelfth time.

5. Be Vulnerable

I know, I know. You want your lifting pal to see you as tough, so the next time they’re standing behind you with three plates on your barbell, they’re not going to assume you’ll miss your lift. But here’s the thing — vulnerability is strength.

Anxious Tired Gym
Photo by Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

If you’re finding yourself anxious, or stir-crazy, or just generally scared… that’s okay. And it’s okay to express those fears, to let yourself be vulnerable and express whatever’s on your mind and in your heart. 

Still skeptical? Be real. Trusting someone to make sure the bar doesn’t come crashing down on your chest while you’re going for a max bench? To keep you safe while you are squatting heavy? That’s vulnerability, and that’s intimacy, and that, my friend, is trust.

So if you’re not feeling okay with missing the gym, or with anything or everything else going on in life, try to let yourself be as vulnerable off the platform as you are with your gym partner on the platform. Your lifting relationship will probably only get better, and being able to share what’s scaring you will do wonders for your mental health, too. 

You’ll Get Through It Together

Whether it’s coronavirus or being separated by the holidays or other life circumstances, it can take a real psychological toll to not have the control to decide to work out with your gym buddy during your regularly-scheduled meathead session.

It’s not just you — plenty of folks are feeling the strain. You’re allowed to reach out and get support. Whether it’s to work out together (even from your own separate homes) or to just share life together, you deserve exactly as much support as you need.

Feature image from Flamingo Images / Shutterstock

Jay Polish

Jay Polish

Dr. Jay Polish is an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer, and holds an additional certification in Kettlebell Athletics. A competitive powerlifter, their personal training practice focuses on empowering both new and experienced lifters with body positive training methods of strength and circuit training.

They teach Theater and English in the CUNY system, where they received their PhD in English. They live in California with their wife and their fantasies of having multiple puppies. Their website is here. You can train with them through Trainerize.

When they're not in the gym, they moonlight as the author of two young adult books, LUNAV and LOST BOY, FOUND BOY (March 2018, NineStar Press).

Their debut novel, LUNAV, a lesbian enemies-to-lovers faerie tale, features dragons that grow on trees and friendship amongst rebellion. Their debut novella, LOST BOY, FOUND BOY, is a scifi re-telling of Peter Pan in which Neverland is a holomatrix, Hook is a bisexual cyborg, and Tink is an asexual lesbian computer interface.

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