Back to Fitness: With a Little Help from My Friends…

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I love training alone. Running in the mountains for hours, all by myself, is one of the ways I get peace and solve a lot of the day’s problems. Training alone is also a time to check in and see how intrinsically motivated you are to keep up in your fitness journey.

Let’s face it, intrinsic motivation—how committed you are to achieve your fitness goals—is the most important thing that keeps us going. If you are truly motivated for your own reasons, then really, nothing can stop you from accomplishing what you set out for. However, if your motivation is mostly based upon other people’s expectations of you or pressures from external sources, then when the work gets hard. There isn’t much keeping you in the game.

That being said, I can also say that I wouldn’t be anywhere near the runner I am without my friends. Our shared experiences have given me the perspective, camaraderie, and external motivation that I needed to keep my fitness journey growing without limits.

So, let’s say you’re motivated to get back to fitness. Maybe you’ve signed up for a 10k running race.  Or a boot camp class. Or you got a gym membership or pool membership. Here are some ways that having some “fitness friends” can keep you on track:

They keep you from snoozing.  I wake up at 4:30 a.m. three times a week to run.  Fortunately, I have some equally time-crunched and motivated friends who meet me at 5 a.m. to get some miles in before our kids wake up. When I know they are meeting me, turning the alarm off is not an option. Let me be clear, waking up at 4:30 a.m. STINKS. It is NEVER easy for me. So, on those mornings when my friends can’t join, hitting that snooze sometimes happens. Having a friend meeting you keeps you accountable to them and to yourself.

You learn that you’re not the only one who struggles. Sometimes keeping straight on your fitness path becomes discouraging because life is always getting in the way. Stress at work, parenting challenges, arguments with your spouse, slow progress—so many things make “getting fit” hard to prioritize. But when you have a friend joining your journey, it won’t take long to find that they likely struggle with similar things. Consider it group therapy. On every run I go on with my close running buddies, we commiserate, and it definitely helps me to keep my chin up.

They share in your accomplishments and victories. One particular morning my buddy and I had a fantastic run. We took pride in the fast time we ran our long morning route. We were joking how surely as soon as we entered our homes, our spouses would be pouring over how impressed they were. True to our joke, my friend was handed a cranky 2-year-old as soon as he stepped in his house while I was met with paper towels—our dog had just puked all over the stairs. When we are trying to get better, we do need some external validation, and we may not get that at home. Your training buddy shared that experience and you can pat each other on the back.

They teach you things. Whether you are the experienced one or are the novice, your training friends have different lives than yours. You are sure to learn new things about your fitness path – maybe it’s a motivational story that gives you hope, or maybe it’s just something that helps you avoid a big training mistake. I try to listen to every person I train with. I want to get better and I don’t want to have to figure it all out myself.   

They expand your circle of friends. Your friends have friends, and if you hang out enough, soon they’ll become your friends too. Expanding your circle of training partners is very important. You don’t want to just depend on that one friend—your schedules won’t always align and sometimes you need a break from each other. I am fortunate now to have a pretty large circle of training partners I can call up. Years ago, it was two people. They remain two of my best friends, but enlarging the circle of fitness friends has been very enriching to say the least.

So, what if you don’t have any training friends?  Perhaps you live way out in the country. Or you just moved here. Or maybe you’ve been so busy that you haven’t connected with anyone:

Go to group runs/rides/classes. Whether boot camp, cycling, swimming, or running, there are a lot of opportunities to do these things with other people. Search online to find opportunities to connect with other people through classes, group runs/rides, etc. You’ll be surprised how much you may have in common with a few other people that you connect with. Don’t be afraid to come out. All too often people feel that they are too slow, too new, or too easy going to come out to these group events when in reality, most people promoting group events and classes want new people to join!

Ask the local experts.  If you want to know how to meet cyclists, go to the Crozet Bicycle shop and ask Cor how to get connected. If you want to know about running groups, head over to Crozet Running and we’ll give you some pointers. Don’t hesitate to ask people who are “in the know.” Most of the time they are thrilled to introduce their sport to newcomers. You will quickly be at ease and encouraged to pursue something new.

Don’t forget to find your “why”; why do you want to grow your fitness? It is crucial that you WANT it. But then use your friends to help you get there!

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