The question: I go to the gym with a friend, and all she wants to do is chat. I feel like I am slacking. I am not sure what to do. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I also want to get a good workout.
The answer: This is going to sound corny, but I would try to put into practice advice my mom used to give me as a child: She told me to have realistic expectations of who my friends are, and what they can offer me, so that I could plan accordingly.
Based on this, I only schedule "workout dates" with friends who are not serious about their training when I know I need an easier workout such as a recovery run. That way, I am perfectly content to chat. On days I know I need a challenging workout, I train solo or with a friend who is equally dedicated. I meet my other friends after for a coffee.
When possible, work out with your friend when you are okay with an easier workout, and excited to catch up on all the gossip.
Finding time to workout can be hard, so I get that it's not always possible to accommodate friends with different training habits. When a relaxed workout is not realistic, try one of the following options:
Jump on side-by-side cardio machines so you can both go at your own pace. Ask lots of open-ended questions; let her chat, listen to her answers and try to work hard.
Do a group workout class. You don't chat during classes, so you are guaranteed a more focused workout.
Tell your friend you will warm up and cool down with her, but your main workout will be solo so that you can focus.
Be direct. Tell your friend your workout is important to you. Suggest grabbing a coffee post-training.
Trainer's tip: Maybe your friend would feel more focused if you established shared fitness goals. Sign up for a 5K race together, or decide on a quantifiable fitness goal that you want to achieve by the end of summer (like a certain number of push-ups or squats). Shared goals, and some friendly competition, might motivate her to stay on track at the gym.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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