Power of the Group – Exercise Together

SAMSUNGFor about six years now, I’ve been lucky to be part of a small group of women who regularly hike together (along with some yoga, cycling, etc.) We call ourselves OEBs, short for Obsessive Exercise Buddies. Okay, maybe “committed” would be a better word choice than “obsessive”…but the benefits are huge!

There are four of us, so even if two can’t make it, I still have a workout buddy. Together we try new things. None of us had cycled on anything but a cruiser a few years ago. Yoga was a bit of a stretch for one of us (pun intended). We’ve been there for each other, talking through problems up and down mountains, and we’ve had some doozies, from death of a spouse to breast cancer.

For anyone wanting to create a consistent and enjoyable exercise routine, joining a group or finding a workout partner with a similar fitness level and goals is going to practically ensure your success. I urge my coaching clients to find this type of support, but it’s not always easy, so here are some tips:

1) There are countless numbers of exercise groups out there that offer not only fitness but also a great social component. For hiking, check out local groups online. Mayo Clinic offers advice on How to Start a Walking Group. If you’re into cycling, almost any bike shop organizes regular group rides.

2) Classes are a great way to stay motivated. You meet new people, time flies by, you’re challenged well beyond your regular 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, and most gym offer a variety of cool classes.

3) Chances are you and your spouse or partner share some similar interests. Capitalize on those by gardening, biking, or taking early morning walks together. Even just sharing what kind of exercise you did that day is a positive way to give and receive support.

Fergus Closeup4) Dogs are the BEST accountability partners. Who can deny that face when he wants to go for his regular walk? Establish a pattern, and you can be sure that he’ll remind you when it’s time to go.

5) A friend in another city or country can also be your buddy. I know of a man who trades texts with his brother each day about their workouts. It’s not a contest (at least he says it’s not) but it’s a motivator as well as a nice way to connect.

6) Signing up for a 5K, participating in a bike race, or a charitable walk puts you in touch with others who have a common goal. Sign up with a friend and train together. A few months of that may make the difference in creating a positive habit of regular exercise.

It’s hard to overemphasize how enriching and helpful sharing your exercise routine can be. The physical benefits of exercise are well known, but adding a social component takes it up a notch. The PERMA theory of Well-Being created by Positive Psychologist Martin Seligman shows us how. Exercising with a buddy or a group touches each of the five elements proven to increase flourishing or happiness.

P – Positive emotion — the endorphin rush, and the satisfaction you feel when you’ve completed your workout along side your friend, or the feedback you get when you report your activity to your partner,

E – Engagement — being committed to and invested in regular exercise with others,

R – Relationships — meeting new people, deepening existing relationships, and growing together,

M – Meaning and Purpose — sharing goals and reaching them together,

A – Accomplishment – following through on your workout plans, making it happen, and getting it done.

P.S.  I had some interesting feedback on this post. One client said her exercise time is sort of sacred–a time to be alone with her thoughts. Another said it was just too hard to coordinate schedules, accommodate another person’s pace, and to be at the whim of someone else canceling at the last minute. She prefers to get it done alone. I want to acknowledge that side of the coin, and reiterate that you have to DO WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU! For more on that, you might enjoy a great post by one of my favorite bloggers at Move, Eat, Create – Why the Workout ‘Buddy System’ Isn’t For Everyone (And That’s Ok!)

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SOURCES

Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press.

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7 thoughts on “Power of the Group – Exercise Together

    • Thanks for the feedback! I’ve looked into MAPP a little bit, and I’m so intrigued. Just wish the program was at least in the same time zone…I’m in Arizona.

      • : ( that sucks. However, are you aware how the program works? It is 3 days on (9-5 classes) and then 3-4 weeks off during which you write and read. This allows people to commute from all over the world. Typical years have a few people commuting from various parts of Asia! This year we had people coming in from Wyoming, Idaho, etc. It would be do-able if you could make it work…its for working professionals.

      • That’s cool that students come from near and far. I’ll definitely keep it in mind for a few years from now when my kids have both flown the nest. I love to keep learning new things.

  1. Oh, and personally, I think that physical activity is quite neglected by PERMA and to an extent across positive psychology. I think it is quite key! Thanks for emphasizing it. (I’m also a personal trainer, and love group training the best!) Congrats on having such a great group training experience.

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