Laird Hamilton’s Tips for Choosing a Training Partner

Exercising with other people, ideally those who have different strengths than you, is a natural performance enhancer. It’s easy to slack off when it’s just you and the mirror, but as soon as you put someone else in the room, your competitive side kicks in, and going hard becomes the only option. Push yourself like that for a few weeks—you’re guaranteed to see results.

When I’m home in California, on most days I train with a group of about five guys. While the specific mix of people has changed over the years, one theme has remained constant: everyone gives maximum effort. To me, that’s the most important characteristic in a training partner. If he doesn’t give it his all, it’s easy for me to walk away.

It’s also key to find someone who challenges your weaknesses. Our morning sessions run the gamut—hot and cold therapy, breath work, stretching, strength training in the pool, and a bit of cardio. While I’m dominant in the water, I struggle with some of the mobility work, which is when I turn to the guys who excel at that and can spur me on. Nobody should try to be the best at every discipline, especially not you. If you are, you’re bound to plateau. Instead, train alongside someone who can correct your form, keep you hustling, and force you to push yourself on the things you hate most.

Don’t forget about the mind game. Look for a partner who crushes not only their physical limits but their mental boundaries as well. The ideal person is someone who’s a little bit fearless, actively pursuing new goals, trying something that seems impossible, and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s a lot easier to embrace the pain cave when you’re doing it with someone else.

Remember that looking for a good workout partner isn’t all that different from looking for a new friend. (And often it lays the groundwork for a relationship that goes beyond the gym.) Find an athlete who has similar goals, shares your work ethic and attitude, and drives you to be your best. After all, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone.

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