Two friends make exercise a part of their friendship and make the leap "literally" from inactive to active.

Submitted by: Jessica Daly

Kate and Jenny's Success Story

This month's Ocean Blue Fitness success story focuses on the power of friendship and how two friends made some important changes in their lives. Kate and Jenny joined Ocean Blue Fitness in May for a community fitness fundraiser to benefit the Lincoln Academy Music Program. They have been attending an hour-long boot camp class three days a week now for 16 weeks. Despite their busy schedules neither has missed more than two classes in this time period. Both women have made remarkable gains in their strength and endurance and more importantly have made fitness a part of their life that they would no longer consider living without. In my mind this is an incredible life-changing accomplishment.

It's well known that having an exercise buddy can improve adherence to a workout schedule. I recently interviewed Kate and Jenny to find out more about their fitness friendship and how it's worked for them.

Whose idea was it to do the May Fitness Fundraiser?

Kate: Mine – my son Sal brought home the flier for the Lincoln music program fundraiser, and I thought, why not? And then I told Jenny about it.

Jenny: It was a happy coincidence in that I'd read about last year's fundraiser in the Lincoln County News so I had a context for hearing that it was happening again and, happy circumstance, Kate had decided to join this year.

Did the recommender encounter much resistance?

Kate: Not really!

Jenny: No. I think we were both at a point where it made sense as a starting point to dealing with extra weight/health concerns etc. -- what did we have to lose?

Do you think it was easier to start boot camp knowing your friend would be with you?

Kate: Yes, it was a definite plus. I think most activities are more fun when you are with friends, and it was good to know I'd see at least one familiar face.

Jenny: Most definitely yes; and I would recommend it as a way for anyone to get over that initial psychological scariness of starting something new, new people etc. You know ahead of time you're going to be "bad" at it, so... Definitely, definitely it helps to have a familiar face. The early days are the hardest (of course) and even before actually signing up to do it, there is that big psychological barrier mentioned above, and for me -- I'm fairly independent and there's a lot I'll do alone -- it was like my own personal support group (because really for a lot of us exercise/weight "issues" are about confronting our own some level....). The one thing I'd have to say, though, is that not all friends would make good exercise buddies.

How long have you known each other, and what kinds of things do you typically do together?

Jenny: We met in the late summer of '09 volunteering on the campaign to defeat the veto of the marriage equality law. Actually, to my mind ...this is why our Boot Camp experience has worked out:  we're not hang-out friends or long-time family friends, that sort of thing, so it's been a nice complement to the serious work we do to have this little side thing we're both doing for ourselves.
Kate: We still spend a lot of time volunteering together (we're coordinating the Lincoln County effort on the statewide campaign to get marriage equality on the ballot in November 2012). We occasionally attend plays and sometimes go out to eat together.

You have both been very consistent in your attendance at classes.  Are you motivated by one another to show up?  Is it something you talk about- do you call one another- text etc?

Jenny: We do talk about it somewhat and yes, knowing that Kate will be there is a draw for me -- partly peer pressure (!), but really mostly just checking in with a friendly supportive person.

Kate: It definitely helps motivate me knowing that Jenny will be there. We do mention boot camp in emails if we are emailing that day, but we don't do a lot of reminding of each other.

What's your favorite thing about boot camp?

Jenny: Definitely the variety of exercises and that it is adaptable to levels of ability -- great concept. And, I'd have to say we both think you are great at what you do --- really. You have the right combination of elements that make it a challenge but satisfying, safe but fun etc; and it's so clear that you put thought into each session -- I think we both appreciate that a lot. And speaking for myself -- and my Mom would have to add her 2 cents in support here -- if you've been able to keep me active 3 nights a week in the summer for 4 months: that is quite an accomplishment!

Kate: Besides feeling healthier, I really like the camaraderie of the group and the way we all support and encourage each other. And you set the tone for that, Jessie, with all the positive reinforcement.

What is the hardest thing about boot camp for you?

Jenny: Pushing myself on the cardio stuff. I think I have a hair-trigger OMGYou'reGoingToDie!StopNowOrYouWillPassOut! Specific discomfort in muscles doesn't seem to affect me so much as the sheer exhaustion of keeping my limbs going when I can't seem to get enough air... And that feels like such a failure for me, this inability to hit "the wall" (2 minutes into the gig!) and just want to collapse. That's the challenge for me -- strengthening that inner voice that keeps me going....

Kate: The hardest part is not letting me talk myself out of the time commitment ("It was a hard day at work," or "I have so much else I need to be doing," or "It's rainy, or hot, or cold..."). I'm always feeling stretched for time, and it is a challenge for me to put my own well-being as a priority three times a week.

What is your fitness goal (s)?

Jenny: I'd just like to keep gradually getting better as I have been; increase my endurance; keep losing weight at the slower, more moderate but realistic rate I have been -- I watch what I eat but it's sustainable and not unrealistic, and that's very encouraging for me.

Kate: I want to stay active and healthy and to keep pushing myself beyond what I used to think were my limits.

Would you recommend to others that they join an exercise program with a friend?

Jenny: Again, I think it's kind of important in the long run what type of friend, but actually in the beginning it probably doesn't matter. If we're talking about people like Kate and me who had completely fallen off the regular physical activity wagon and onto the couch of mid-life complacency, then definitely, definitely it helps to know that there will be a like-bodied/spirited person to help you over the initiation jitters. But I suspect that at this point, if for some reason either of us had to stop coming to class, the other would stay on.

Kate: I say yes, join with a friend - but don't put it off if you can't get a friend to join with you!

Jenny: I agree, even if you can't find a friend to start with, don't wait, just make the effort and start -- the problem is that from our side of the Big Decision now it seems like such a win-win proposition, but of course when you're a total stranger it's different.

What are the benefits of working out with one another?

Kate: We can commiserate when it's hard, laugh at ourselves when we're uncoordinated, and celebrate when we make it through a tough workout. I've tried doing programs on my own, but for me it's working so much better to have made a commitment to the group.

Jenny: I'd have to say that I think I've lucked out (hope Kate feels the same way!) in that Kate is a great person to do these sorts of things with -- reliable and a sense of humor, takes it seriously but not too seriously (I think the other ladies are that way too). So it's just nice to have someone who's going through the experience but isn't preachy or whatever about it! It's a fun way for me to expand my friendship with Kate and I think this is something other people might find too. It's a positive, healthy, feel-good alternative to regularly meeting for coffee and whining!

What would you say to someone who thinks that boot camp will be too
hard for them?

Jenny: So, so, SO not the case. If I have been able to plod along and make it work, anyone can! That's the really cool part about it (among others, I must say -- the range of workouts, range of muscles/;parts; worked on, the mix and match etc. -- it's all good) -- I can consistently be the last person on the run but I know that they're getting the workout they need at their own speeds and that I'll just plug away as I can.

Kate: I was afraid ahead of time that it would be too hard and that I would be embarrassed at being out of shape. It was obvious from day one, though, that you would push us and challenge but not punish us. I really like the way the class accommodates us at whatever our level of fitness but doesn't let us stay at that level.

What would you say to someone who is reluctant to start any kind of  
exercise program?

Jenny: That was me however many months ago. And it's weird because I sound like an infomercial for some kind of overpriced faddish worthless equipment or diet, BUT - it's really true: So many of us -- women and men alike, have allowed ourselves to slowly sink down into the couch of laziness and comfort (comfy clothes, comfort food etc....) and without a good prod from your doctor you kind of end up staying there thinking it's too late and you've outgrown the need/ability/motivation for exercise. We all have had a thousand excuses. But here's the thing -- when Kate and I started in May, we both figured, "Well, it's 3 hours a week for one month; it's very reasonably priced; why not just try it?" And that's one way to think about it --- just try it for the month and see if it works. The couch is going nowhere!

Kate: Give it a try! All the cliches about exercise and how much better it will make you feel are true.

A big thanks to Kate and Jenny for sharing their story with us. I’m sure many of you can relate to the challenges of starting an exercise program and sticking to it. Perhaps you have held similar fears about not being able to keep up. Consider finding a like-minded friend and starting a program together. Having someone to feel new and awkward with may just give you the confidence boost you need. Exercise sessions will then have the added benefit of being social time with your friend. No worries if you can’t convince a friend because at Ocean Blue Fitness there are lots of new friends waiting for you who know just what it’s like to be the new guy.


Kate and Jenny Before


Kate and Jenny After