Even with the best of intentions, we all bail on workouts from time to time. Work, a lack of motivation, and—let’s be real—shorter, darker days have a way of keeping us on the couch instead of at that yoga class.
Fortunately, workout squads—groups of people who exercise together—are popping up all over the country. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine’s worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2017 identified both group fitness and group personal training as emerging fields.
Having a group of people to move with has real perks. “I have found that my ‘regulars’ in classes notice when their friends have missed a class or two,” says Becca Lucas, owner of Barre & Anchor, a barre studio in Weston, MA. “Sometimes, that little bit of pressure can give you the motivation you need to attend your workout and can make you proud of yourself for attending.”
Plus, healthy habits are contagious, she says. Working out with others can also transform a workout from boring to fun. “There is nothing better than laughing while sweating. Having a supportive movement squad will help your workouts fly by, keeping things light,” says Allison English, a yoga instructor in Chicago.
But forming a workout crew isn’t always as simple as grabbing your closest girlfriends. Here, how to form a squad that will help you meet your goals—and even have you looking forward to exercise.
Assemble your squad
Margaret Harrison, an instructor at Boston-based indoor cycling studio The Handle Bar, says that if you’re interested in creating a workout crew, start by joining a gym or studio that works with your schedule and aligns with your fitness priorities. “Convenience is key. If the physical activity doesn’t work with your schedule, it won’t become a hobby.”
Then, try attending the same classes each week. “By becoming a ‘regular,’ you’ll start to notice other regulars,” she says. Introduce yourself and relationships are likely to transpire naturally.
Alternatively, start online, posting on social media sites and encouraging friends to share your idea with others who might be interested, notes Lucas. “By using your social media sites, you can reach more people in a short amount of time.” Sites like Meetup.com also list free fitness events where you can get together with likeminded people.
Look beyond your friends, urges English: “Sometimes friends are enemies to your workout routines. They might have the same blind spots that you do or encourage you to slack off and socialize.”
Make a plan
When working out with a group, you want to keep everyone’s goals in sight while also having fun.
One way to make sure everyone shows up: Pay up front for your workouts. “Maybe you and a group of friends sign up for a dance class together for eight weeks so there is a stronger commitment,” suggests English. After that, creating a Facebook group where squad members can post inspirational quotes or leave recipes or new workouts can help keep motivation high, adds Lucas.
As for how to sweat? “When deciding what workouts to do, always take your body into account, not someone else’s,” says Raisa Hoffman, an instructor and studio manager at The Handle Bar. “If you have bad knees, don't start out running. If you have bad shoulders, maybe avoid swimming at first.”
Focus on what you enjoy, too. “I believe you should only do workouts that make you feel good,” says Lucas. Not sure what you like? Do a little trial and error—dance, Zumba, yoga, or barre classes—can help you identify interests, feeding a desire to continue exercising. Change things up every now and then to stave off boredom.
Don’t discount the power of introductory classes either, says English. They provide a strong foundation for movement practices, help you build your skill set, and can help prevent injury.
Then, the fun part: Plan post-sweat activities—go to a yoga class, then grab a coffee; take a long walk, and go out for dinner after. “By making the workout more of a social commitment, people are less apt to cancel plans,” notes Harrison.
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Keeping in touch with everyone could be as easy as forming a group text and reminding each other of planned workouts or encouraging one another to stick with a workout, notes English.
It’s good to have some guidelines, too. You could, for example, start by committing to three workouts a week and build up from there.
Also, note your timing. “People are always super motivated to get into a workout routine in the fall, the New Year, or spring time as summer approaches,” says Lucas. Backtrack and try to organize people two weeks to a month before these milestones, she suggests.