The Power of Two

You can multiply the benefits of your workouts. How? Bring a friend.

Maybe it seems like there’s something poetic about “the loneliness of the long-distance runner,” and other such mental images, in which you star as the singular hero building your body and fortitude all by yourself. Yeah, well, poetry’s nice, but in reality, sometimes there’s a better way. Turns out that bringing a buddy on board to sweat with you can make you more likely to stick with your workouts and reach your fitness goals. After all, making plans to lace up or hit the gym with a friend leaves you no choice but to show up mentally and physically. That’s a good thing, and a surefire way to succeed.

Jason Serapiglia, from Staten Island, N.Y., knows that firsthand. In 2008, he was as unhealthy as you could get, working over 12 hours a day, stressed beyond belief, eating junk food and not exercising. He and a friend had chatted about doing a triathlon – “we were both out of shape and knew we needed to dangle a big carrot in front of us to keep us motivated,” he says – and so they buddied up.

They spent roughly 85 percent of their training together, which made the difference for Serapiglia. “I knew that if I bailed on a workout, not only would I hear about it for the next few days, I’d also be leaving my friend to tackle the challenge alone,” he says. Teaming up helped him not only make it to the starting and finish lines at the triathlon, but his pal also helped him make exercising a habit.

Serapiglia discovered what Jenn Zerling, a California-based certified fitness trainer and the author of Breaking the Chains of Obesity, has been telling reluctant exercisers for years. “Having a workout buddy leaves you no choice but to show up both mentally and physically, and whereas you might cancel on yourself, you won’t on a buddy,” she says.

Many people who pair up to get fit also find that they ultimately exercise longer and even harder, adds Zerling. On your own, for instance, you might feel like doing only 10 push-ups, but with a pal, you might squeeze out another five. While you’re doing these exercises, your partner could also alert you when your form has slipped, she says.

Find the Right Partner

While the buddy system benefits are clear, know that not every friend is going to make the best workout partner. To avoid potential pitfalls, Zerling says it’s important to find someone who shares similar fitness goals so that you each come to the workout session equally committed. You both don’t need to have your sights set on losing 10 pounds or finishing a fun run with a certain time, she says, but you’ll want to find out ahead of time if your potential workout pal is going to view this time as simply a social hour. If so, you won’t get the motivational boost you’re after. Ultimately, you want to find someone who makes you feel good about your training, offering positive reinforcement where appropriate.

So where can you look for a workout buddy? You can often find like-minded individuals at your church, community center, business meetings, social events, or any venue that presents networking opportunities. Bring up your desire to exercise more to see if anybody joins the conversation. Or take a more proactive approach, with one of these simple ways to find a fitness partner.

Schedule a weekly run on Facebook.

Invite a bunch of your Facebook friends to meet up for a weekly run. When it comes to working out the more the merrier, but even if only one person can make it, you’ve still got a buddy!

Join a Mindful Mile.

Many of our locations now offer a mid-day one-mile walk right on your campus or near your office so you can squeeze fitness into your busy schedule. It’s a convenient way to pair up with coworkers to get fit. Learn more at mindful.sodexo.com/mindfulmile.html

Be part of a team.

Social co-ed sports teams are a great way to be more active, and they’re also a good way to meet other people who enjoy being fit. Sign up at Zogsports.com, the largest co-ed sports league in the county, and choose from activities ranging from kickball and bowling to softball and football. Once you get to know your new teammates, invite them to work out with you off the field.

 Tips for Success

Finding the right exercise partner is the first step, but to make your pairing a success you’ll want to follow this advice from Zerling:

•Be clear about your goals for training. Schedule specific times and days every week, and decide ahead of time if you’re going to give each other a grace period for tardiness.

•Check your progress once a month. Taking stock of the gains you’ve made gives you an extra motivational boost.

•Make your workouts fun. Every so often, mix up your routine by finding different walking paths or trying a new fitness class. While you’ll still have to do the work, you’ll be amazed at how a change of pace and scenery can get you excited to sweat.

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