Seven tips to help you find a workout partner
"I get by with a little help from my friends."
Right now, a military spouse with a small child (or children) at home is aching to work out and for numerous reasons the challenges involved in starting on the path to wellness appear insurmountable.
I know because I have been there, with two children under the age of 22 months, exhausted, wanting to live a healthier more active life, unable to obtain a consistent slot at hourly care, and surrounded by other spouses whose children were already school age. For someone who played two sports in college and spent over a decade coaching college sports, I was overwhelmed with how unmotivated I was to work out. I also grasped how much I missed the support and competitive atmosphere that my teammates and coworkers had always provided.
So I stole the “If you build it they will come” quote from Field of Dreams and launched MOM FIT, a stroller fitness business, structuring it to provide military spouses the opportunity to pursue health, wellness, and fitness in a supportive team environment with children present. Everyone is welcome with or without children, but anyone who attends must be child friendly!
I built in workouts, social outings for spouses, breakfasts at members’ houses, coffees at local cafes and play dates for the little ones all in an effort to provide a team environment for our members. The lessons I have learned during the growth and development of MOM FIT have been eye opening but the number one take away is that everyone needs a team.
Here’s how to create your team:
- Find a buddy. Statistics prove time and again that having a fitness buddy increases the likelihood of remaining committed to working out and a permanent lifestyle change. Don’t be afraid to knock on a neighbor’s door, ask another spouse at a social event, or a parent at school drop-off if she wants to meet for a walk or jog with you and your child. I am still touched by the memory of Christina doing hills with her young child in the stroller and a childfree Sharon helping her push the stroller up the hill. Spouses want to support other spouses!
- Think before you invite. The individual you ask to join you on your path to fitness should share a comparable schedule, be committed, and be someone who is slightly more fit then you and willing to push and compete with you. When I coached college sports we always paired our freshmen with upperclassmen for the year to provide mentorship and support.
- Be Creative. Think Outside the Box. Is the snow deep and wind chill brutal for infants? Invite several friends over, push back the furniture, and throw in an exercise DVD. Rotate houses three times a week, share a cup of coffee afterwards, and strengthen your team bond for when the weather allows you to get outside. Ask if your Physical Education teacher at the elementary school will host an afterschool program two times a week that includes parents and children. Be willing to pay for the services of the teacher and I promise you will get a great workout while setting an outstanding example for your children.
- Utilize social media. Almost every installation has a Facebook page run by spouses. Post a request to start a walking/running group by meeting at a local park. Post your location on our MOM FIT page and we will attempt to find another spouse on your post looking to work out. Check to see if InDependent offers a community near you. Don’t see one? Volunteer to start one. In the middle of nowhere? Invest in a Fitbit. This handy tracker allows you to compete with your friends halfway around the world by tracking your calories and steps daily. Go old school and use the telephone! Stanford University found that one phone call a week from a designated fitness buddy who specifically asked you for a log of your exercise for the past week and your goal for the upcoming week increased the likelihood of exercising by up to 78%!!
- Step outside of your comfort zone. You never know whether you like something until you try it! I have tried Zumba, Yoga, Body Pump, Cycling, you name it, all in search of something new. Last year I participated in a mud run with several friends, one who started out as a participant in my MOM FIT class. At one point sliding down a hill of mud into a river I heard her yelling at me, “You are slower then my guinea pig. Pick it up.” What could be better then being surrounded by people who aren’t afraid to push you? Of course it would have been much more motivating if her guinea pig wasn’t dead.
- Recognize that your needs will change. Eventually your child will head off to school, a day care spot will open, or you will move. How will you adapt? My winter team in Germany is much different then my fall and spring MOM FIT team. It’s ok to have multiple partners! During the winter months I lift at the gym with my husband, my favorite partner. I stop in at CrossFit classes to be tortured twice a week by Coach Jaimin, and swing by my friend Heidi’s house for an exercise video while her little girl plays around us. The one constant is I always have someone waiting for me to work out and push me.
- Don’t forget where you started. Once you are on the road to fitness, don’t forget to turn around and see who needs a push. One MOM FIT participant didn’t show for several days after attending consistently so I threatened to bring the entire team to her house if she didn’t show. Follow the example of Amy, one fantastic lady (who should currently be tearing up the trails at Ft. Leavenworth) who can easily run 13 miles on any given day, but is always willing to run with people looking for a partner to push or teach them, completing her own workout later if necessary. She left numerous women behind in Vilseck, Germany who never would have started running had she not extend a hand and their lives are infinitely better because she took the time.
My 20 years of experience as an athlete, coach, and personal trainer have taught me time and again that there is one factor that contributes to success -- the strength and cohesiveness of a team. Your team doesn’t have to be extensive, but it must be comprised of individuals who are supportive, hold you to a standard of accountability, and provide motivation and a certain level of competition, so that you continue to progress.
I would love to hear from any spouse who elects to reach out and find a partner so that we may share your success story with other spouses!