Last week my alarm went off at 5:45am. My hams were tight, I had two little ones in bed – a kicker on one side and a cougher the other – and my run the day before had left me feeling almost arthritic. Getting up to row seemed like a younger man’s game. Two cups of Yerba Matte later (no jitters, all jive), I was on my way to rowers bliss- captured below. Had I been en route to work out alone – just a single waiting for me at the boathouse – I’m not sure I’d be writing this article. But I was able to pull myself from bed only because my rowing partner that day, Patrick Riorden, would be waiting for me. Because of this motivating factor, I showed up, attacked the practice and had one of the most beautiful rows of my life.

Why have a teammate?

It may be easier to do it alone – no scheduling with someone else, no back and forth’s. But there are three reasons it’s worth it: accountability, competition and support.

Let me introduce my favorite new term: “Positive Peer Pressure.” The gym is easy to “snooze” because no one really cares if you show up or not. But sleeping in on a teammate? Never. With accountability comes consistency – and this is true for athletes as much as average fitness goer’s. My mom and her walking partner pick days and times for their walks 3x a week and as a result, these walks actually happen! They get valuable time to catch up with each other and both are healthier because of it. Women have been blowing this particular horn for years; “find a workout partner!” is a familiar refrain in fitness magazines and at the conventions I attend, but it doesn’t seem to occur to us guys as nearly as often as it should.

Competition is next up. Being competitive with your teammate will only make you stronger. You may be a “smack talker” or the “silent killer” type, but either way it’s hard to resist stepping it up when you see their interval work beating yours by a couple seconds. You can also combine your competitive spirits and set goals like making the top boat or going sub 6:30 for 2k. it’s a unifying force to motivate and move your fitness needle.

Feeling supported by your partner is the one most of us blow off. Having a rough day? Overthinking your training? Taking life too seriously? Nothing like a teammate to put things back in perspective. I suggest finding one with a good sense of humor – a long season suddenly feels short with a few laughs.

So, who’s the right teammate?
If you’re already in a club or collegiate team you may have “easy-pickins.” But even within a larger crew it’s key to match up with the person who will push and hold you to your word as much as possible. I always search for someone whose stronger skill-set is my weakness and their deficit my strength. This creates a complimentary balance where neither partner feels too far ahead or behind.

If you’re feeling extra strong, pick a person who you know is stronger. This may crush your ego but do wonders for your split. This tactic has worked for me especially when jumping into a new sport like triathlon from rowing. At points in my training, it seemed as if just by being around strong swimmers I was able to make big gains in the pool. Open your eyes, ears and talent to what they can show and teach you.

For those of us not on a team who just want to to maintain an Adonis/Venus bod, training partners are as important as the right running shoe. A partner keeps you committed, consistent and able to fit into your college uni. Now if that isn’t motivation…..! Partner up – it’s worth it.