Why Wednesdays? – Why the Workout ‘Buddy System’ Isn’t For Everyone (And That’s Ok!)

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  I have completed series on the topics of running, creativity, and food.  Now, I’m being a bit random and discussing whatever strikes me at the time!

 

I see a lot and I mean A LOT of articles and blog posts written about workout buddies.  A general theme present in these writings is the idea that working out with someone will keep you motivated, accountable, and provide an overall more positive fitness (and weight loss) experience.  Some of these articles cite studies that seem to support their claims.  Others rely on personal experience.  Through and through, though, there seems to be a prevalent belief that having a workout buddy is the optimal way to go.  Rarely do you see an article that argues the opposite.  I’ve looked.  I haven’t seen anything that says “Do it alone!  You’ll get better results!  You’ll be happier and more motivated!  Go at it solo!”

So I’m writing one.Me at start - sharpened a bit

Here’s the deal.  I have no doubt that training partners work wonders for some people.  I’m sure they really do provide a sense of accountability, fun, and motivation for some people.  But, it’s not for everyone.  It’s not for me.

When I set out to drop some excess weight, develop my fitness level, and eventually become a runner, I knew that the only way I was going to be successful was to do it alone.  In the past, when I had made similar attempts, I told people about them.  I followed the advice given in articles that in order to be accountable, I needed to announce my intentions to others.  The idea is that others could encourage me and help me follow through.  But, what really happened, was that I became so conscious of the expectations that others then had of me that I failed completely.  My goals turned into their goals in my head.  Even if they weren’t applying pressure to me, I applied it for them.  If I ate a big piece of cake, I thought, “Oh god, [insert name here] would be so disappointed in me right now.”  If I skipped a workout, I would feel embarrassed and like I had let someone down.  Eventually, I would crack from the pressure and just give it all up, because the idea of continuing to break the commitments that I made to others, to publicly fail at my goals was too much for me.  Essentially, what should have been a personal journey and process turned into anything but personal.

I truly believe that a key factor in making sustainable, permanent changes in my life over the last two years has been to keep quiet about it.  Two years ago (this month marks two years since I began), I set out on some simple goals.  First, I would start to eat healthier.  I would learn more about nutrition and would incorporate changes into my daily diet.  I would cook more.  I would eat less junk.  Then, after a bit, I would start to be more active.  Some time dedicated to walking and short fitness videos has turned into me now training for my first marathon, strength training a few hours a week, and being in the best shape of my life.  And, I did it quietly.

I told only two people about what I was going to do.  I told my partner and our roommate.  They had to know, because quite frankly, there wasn’t any way around it.  I live with them, so they would see what I was doing.  But, other than them, I didn’t tell a soul.  I just started doing.  What this meant was that my goals were solely my own.  No one else was telling me what I should do, shouldn’t do, or what they did that worked/didn’t work.  My successes were solely were my own – allowing me to truly feel accomplished and own the progress I was making.  And, my failures were my own, too.  When I ‘messed up’, it was my choice and my mess to clean up.  I didn’t let anyone else down, other than myself.  That was liberating.

Me running 1 - cropped a bit

Of course, over time other people saw changes and asked about them.  And, I would answer.  I didn’t lie or cover things up, but I answered questions simply and didn’t engage in extended dialogue about it all.  Now, two years later, I can talk about it all more openly because my entire way of living has truly changed and the things I’m doing now are part of my daily life, as ingrained in my routine as sleep and going to work each day.  But, in the beginning, being able to keep it to myself was crucial in my success.

Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert by nature.  Maybe it’s because I’m always thinking about how to accommodate the needs of others over my own.  Maybe it’s because I’m sensitive to critiques after years of enduring them.  I don’t know exactly why it was so crucial for me to make lifestyle changes privately, but it was, and I’ve got to figure that if it was for me, it may be for others, too.  So, while the buddy system certainly has its benefits for many people, it’s not the answer for everyone.  I suppose that my underlying point here is that what works for one, doesn’t work for all, and to have the courage to do things your way (even if it’s not the popular way) can make all the difference in the world.

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Some Previous Why Wednesday Posts:

Why Libraries Are Worth Saving

Why I Run – Instant Gratification and Immediate Success

Why I Run – For My Health, Silly!

Why I Eat . . . Series Recap

Why Creativity Counts – It Connects Us

Why Creativity Counts – Self-Sufficieny

Why Wednesdays? – Why I Run, Reason #3: Because I’m Able To

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on running

When I’m not blogging, running, cooking, or knitting, I’m working.  My regular gig is in the field of social services.  My first foray into this work was as a young intern, working on a program that helped match up socially isolated individuals living with HIV or AIDS with others for assistance and companionship. Then I worked for several incredible years as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and last year I shifted gears a bit to help provide services to elderly and disabled adults.

Photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com

I love my work for many reason, but it is hard, hard work.  I will not delve into all the reasons why I love it and why it is hard, because that could be a whole other blog, but I will focus on one thing relevant here:  my ableness.  At the risk of sounding a bit sappy, the hundreds of women and men I have worked with over the years who have had their ableness compromised (by injury, by violence, by disease, by genetics, by random freak circumstance) have definitely made an impact on me.

This can, at times, make you (okay, me) feel a bit uncomfortable, too.  Anyone who has ever taken a few minutes to recognize their privilege in light of other’s lack of privilege has surely felt some discomfort in that.  But one thing I have come to realize is that trying to hide or deny the privileges I have is not helpful to anyone.  So I try to do the opposite.  I use my privileges for the good of myself and others.  I vote.  I advocate.  I debate.  I buy local.  I donate when I can.  I boycott when needed.

And I run.

You may be wondering how running fits in to all of this, but it really, truly does.  I run because I am able to and celebrating that seems appropriate.  I celebrate it for myself and for those whom I have met over the years.

I run thoughtfully for the artist that I spent an hour with while he showed me his paintings – beautiful, emotional pieces – and told me how he used to earn a living climbing ladders, jumping around stages, and painting props until a random infection left his hip unable to support those activities any longer.

I run through the streets for the women who got up each morning to start a work-out group in the courtyard of the shelter where they lived, the one place that they felt safe and able to do so.

I run hard for the former athletes who can’t anymore and I run with joy for the elderly who reminisce about their younger days.

I run passionately for the 20 year old that I was privileged to know for two weeks before the cancer won.

I run for myself – because I can and I am able to do so at this time in my life.  I haven’t always been able to say that and I may not always be able to in the future, but while I can, you better believe that I’m celebrating it.  And I’m pretty sure that the women and men I have met over the years would cheer me on as I do.