National Friendship Day 800x300National Friendship Day is this week! Having life long friends and community connections has numerous proven health benefits. Likewise exercising and participating in strenuous activities are beneficial to improving your relationships, but do all of your clients really want to bring their bestie to their next sweat sesh? Let’s weigh the pros and cons to exercising with a significant other, friends, and groups.

Benefits of Working Out in Numbers

In 1954 a psychologist by the name of Leon Festinger suggested that people have an innate drive to evaluate themselves, often in comparison to others. This theory became better known as the Social Comparison Theory. 

Research studies have demonstrated that individuals exercise to the intensity of those around them. If your client shows up to their session with a training partner that they perceive as having a high level of fitness, the Social Comparison Theory says that they will match their buddy’s exercise intensity. Likewise, if you client shows up with a buddy that they perceive as having a lower level of fitness, they are likely to workout at a lower intensity.

Other studies have shown that for some individuals, exercising alone may be more beneficial than exercising with either a high or low fit individual when trying to secure a relaxing exercise experience. Identify which experience your clients are looking for.

In addition, I have surveyed my own personal training clients and friends, and they have mentioned that exercising with a significant other, friend or group provides: 

  • Bonding experience
  • Quality time
  • Accountability
  • Energy
  • Opportunities to meet new people
  • Variety to an exercise routine 

Cons and Things to Consider When Buddies Workout Together

Fitness level – If 30-year-old clients comes into a session with their 65-year-old mother, you likely have two clients with very different fitness levels and training needs. The difference in fitness level is something to consider when training couples, friends, or groups. 

*Solution: Set-up superset exercise stations that clients can switch back and forth from. That way, they can each perform the same exercises at different times but at the appropriate weight, speed and intensity for their fitness level and still be able to interact with each other.

Competitive Nature – I happen to be married to someone who is highly motivated by competition, but we can’t exercise together because I am not motivated by competition and it causes me stress during a workout.

*Solution: If you notice a difference in enthusiasm about competition with clients who are training together or in a group, suggest one-on-one training as an alternative or create a circuit where members are too focused on their own exercise to notice what the others are doing. 

Potential for overtraining – For clients doing exercise with individuals of a higher fitness level, they may be motivated to exert themselves more, but make sure they don’t overtrain.

*Solution: Remind your clients that every body is different and their fitness journey is their own. Goal-setting is a great way to differentiate client needs in a group setting.

How to Make the Most of Training 

For clients who choose to train with a significant other, friend, or group, make sure to incorporate activities that let them work together, encourage one another, hold each other accountable and celebrate their achievements.

Here are some ideas for training multiple clients:

  • Do partner movements like wheel-barrow walks, medicine ball tosses, and relay runs.
  • Encourage clients to high-five and congratulate each other.
  • Encourage accountability by asking clients to count each other’s reps, or carpool together to the gym. 
  • Encourage clients to recognize their partner or class-mates by posting their achievements on a white board. 

For clients who prefer to exercise alone, at-home, or in one-on-one sessions with you, make sure that they find their experience relaxing, self-reflective, and encouraging.

Here are some ideas for solo clients:

  • Ask the client to keep a journal, tracking app, or jot down workouts in a calendar to help keep themselves accountable. 
  • Encourage them to focus on the feeling of getting stronger, faster, or flexible etc. and celebrate their own success. 
  • Just because they want to workout alone or in a one-on-one session doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate hearing, “Great effort!” and “Keep it up!”
  • Encourage your clients to keep pushing toward their set goals and re-assess when appropriate. 

Life is best lived with people that bring you joy, so whether you workout with others, or challenge yourself alone, find ways to celebrate your close relationships this week. 


Plante, Thomas G. “Effects of Perceived Fitness Level of Exercise Partner on Intensity of Exertion.” Journal of Social Sciences

Festinger, Leon. “A Theory of Social Comparison Processes.” Human Relations

Hanna Riley

Hanna Riley B.S. in Kinesiology, NFPT CPT is a passionate trainer, writer, and graphic designer. Hanna’s greatest passion is working with people who want to better themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. She believes that we are all stronger than we think and she aspires to extend patience, kindness, education, self-motivation, confidence to her clients to help them unleash their strength. For more from Hanna, connect on social media on Facebook as Hanna Riley and Instagram as @house.ofhanna.