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How Friends Help You Stay Fit

As published on Ulysses Training

Before meeting my current group of friends, I’d only have workout phases. I’d be at the gym three to four times a week for two months, and then suddenly stop when it hit Thanksgiving. I did Spartan races by myself; I would go to the gym by myself; and at the end of the day, while I was happy with the gains I was making, there was no one to celebrate with when I got to a finish line.

Me with chubby cheeks! Or a stock image of your disappointed Asian friend. 

That’s when a rando on OKCupid invited me to take part in the Hash House Harriers (HHH) – commonly known as a drinking club with a running problem. I loved the ideology of the worldwide, slightly crazy community that prided itself not entirely on how many miles they’d run that day but also their unbreakable friendships. The group also gamifies running by following arrow marks on the ground and makes it social by ensuring that slower and faster runners end up at the same places around the same times. Suddenly I was running multiple times a week for a year as my friend group slowly morphed into runners, ultra-runners, and rock climbers. I’ve made life-long friends from that group who’ve encouraged me to push myself beyond my fitness and career goals. My gains also included two boyfriends (including the current love of my life) and a couple of great or terrible sex stories. In short, not only did my athleticism increase but my social group expanded to include people I wouldn’t normally meet.

From left to right: Christina Walters (ultrarunner, @Christinaglw), myself, my aching legs 

If you’re having trouble reaching a fitness goal, find people around you who have similar goals or already live an active lifestyle and spend more time with them. Not only will you motivate each other to wake up at an ungodly hour to get in a workout, you can use each other as a sounding board for different exercises. Sprain your ankle on that trail run? Oh no worries, here are fifteen different exercises and a training plan to get you back up on your feet. Slowly, your relationships will morph to include fitness instead of a hard separation between your social life and your workout plan. You’ll start texting each other asking to hang out only to find yourselves on a trail later that Saturday gossiping about the latest episode of Bachelor in Paradise. The group support system can also be found online. It’s a little tougher with online motivation since they can be literal strangers, but there are plenty of communities out there. Personally, I recently joined the Subtle Asian Fitness family on Facebook at the recommendation of my older brother. While there are the thirsty and thicc posts that I’m not objecting to, there is this overwhelming positivity that makes it safe to ask questions and for encouragement. Don’t hesitate to reach out to these groups and find the one that’s right for you. Or create your own with your current friend group! It’s amazing how a few kind words or a piece of advice can push you to get out of your apartment and into the gym.

Or onto an Urban Mudder race course! 

I’d also like to stress the importance of finding a workout that works for you. It took me a very, very long time to realize that I’m not built for running. It takes me a month to work up any stamina, I have exercise-induced asthma, my heart rate ratchets up to 175 on the regular and both of my ankles are on the verge of permanent injury (yes I’ve been to doctors). Compare that to rock climbing, where I can rock climb three times a week for two hour sessions and still be excited to climb outside on a Sunday, and it’s clear that there’s a type of movement and training that my body prefers. Maybe it’s the same way with yours as well if you’re not feeling your current training plan. There is such a wide plethora of activities I’d recommend trying out until you find one that fits your goals and gives you joy. With the activities come people who will eventually into good or best friends.

  • Trail-running is for those who love being in nature and enjoy the challenge of running up and down mountains.

  • Running/jogging is a great activity and a wonderful way to explore your neighborhood. There are way too many running groups out there to count, all with different types of people. Find your people!

  • Kayaking is an activity I recently tried, and I really enjoyed it because I was laying down and still getting an upper body and core workout in while looking at a beautiful, picturesque mountain covered in fall foliage.

  • Ultimate Frisbee is incredibly hard and requires constant cardio. Super fun sport until our organizer got WAY too into it and started shaming us for not making it to the Meetup every single Saturday.

  • Basketball is a common sport that people enjoy. I don’t, considering the last time I played a year ago me and all of my athlete friends got dunked on by a 12-year old, continuously.

This list only scratches the surface – there are several fitness options out there that are an entry drug into feeling good about yourself and the people you’re with. Hit me up on Insta at @alexthegreatproductions with any questions on how to surround yourself with others who are into an active lifestyle!  

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