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Why everyone needs a fitness buddy

on January 20, 2012

Jocelyn and I after running the KY Derby half-marathon, 2010

Jocelyn and I met through a local running club. We knew each other only marginally, until we both decided to train for our first half-marathon in 2010. Our running club president paired us together and devised a training plan for us, thinking that we had similar fitness levels and would be able to keep each other committed. He was right. Jocelyn and I did not miss one single training day that season and had a great time running our first big race together. Best of all, we have become and remained great friends.

Much has been said about the benefits of shared accountability through a workout buddy, and the benefits are not overrated. It is much easier to get out of the door for a run (or any exercise) when we know there is someone waiting for us. And, it is a lot harder to call it quits early or slack off when someone is running beside us and helping to keep up the pace.

Jocelyn and I were perfectly suited for running together. We are about the same size and have about the same stride. We had logged about the same amount of miles before embarking on our half-marathon training. We were just competitive enough to keep the other on task, but not too competitive so as to leave the other behind. We made a deal that we would run the whole race together, no matter what. So when one stopped to use the bathroom at Churchill Downs, the other went along with it. The camaraderie made it all fun, and we both walked out with finisher’s medals and a smile.

We both agreed we might not have made it to our goal if it weren’t for the other. But having a running partner turned out to be much better than reaching a fitness goal. Running side by side creates the opportunity for plenty of talks. We talked about everything while we logged our miles. The conversation made the runs more enjoyable, and the activity made the conversations more intimate. Having become such fast friends (no pun intended, haha) ensured that we would maintain our relationship and fitness accountability beyond our half-marathon goal.

Two pregnancies (and babies) later, we don’t get together as often as we used to. When we do, it’s usually for a run. And here is the beautiful part about having a fitness buddy: when we carve out time for our friendship, we are also encouraging each other to stay healthy and do something good for ourselves. Too often we meet friends for dinner or coffee. I am not at all against such practice, since I certainly enjoy food and the act of breaking bread together. Done too often, however, that may not be the healthiest of practices. And there’s something wonderful about meeting for a run, or a hike, or even a leisurely walk.

I just got back from running five miles with Jocelyn. I hadn’t done five miles in a while, and chances are (high) I wouldn’t have done it tonight if Jocelyn and I hadn’t agreed to meet. We both complained we didn’t feel exactly psyched about the run when we started, but agreed we enjoyed the run and the time together at mile 5. We still talk about everything in our runs, by the way — it was Jocelyn who suggested I might be experiencing some “post-lactation blues” during one of our runs (see my previous post about post-lactation depression).

Here are some tips for finding yourself a fitness buddy:
– Join exercise groups such as a running club or even an exercise class.
– Make your fitness goals/interests known to friends, especially those who have accomplished similar goals. Let them know you are looking for support, and they are likely to know others with similar interests.
– Start your own fitness group if you can’t find one that suits you. This is what our friend Chris did when he couldn’t find a running club in our town. He created the club and invited people to informational sessions. Word of mouth spread and now there is a great group of people who train, race and even organize races together.
– Look for someone with a similar fitness level and with a similar workout style to your own. Some people do not like to talk while running or exercising and would find Jocelyn and I very annoying!
– Make your fitness goal concrete and give yourself (and your buddy) a deadline. Figure out how to determine progress, and make your goal achievable. You can always work toward a bigger goal once you reach the deadline.
– Enlist your family’s support. Spouses or significant others can potentially make great fitness buddies. Todd and I have done a lot of exercising together. Now that we have a child, we need to alternate our exercise schedule so that one of us can take care of Lucas. We have to work extra hard to be supportive of the other’s need to exercise.

Does anyone have other tips? Leave us a comment with your ideas!

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One response to “Why everyone needs a fitness buddy

  1. […] few months ago, I wrote a post about my running partner, Jocelyn (read the post here.) We started running together while training for our first half-marathon in 2010. At that time, […]

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