Top 10 Reasons to Kick-off a Walking Routine with a Friend

Guest blog by Kim Murphy and Kris Carpenter
Author of The Best Friends' Guide to Getting Fit (Capital Ideas) 

After being casual friends for ten years we decided (somewhat on a whim) to start walking together five mornings a week. We knew that we probably should be exercising, but we were too busy being wives, mothers, and career women. Exercise was not a priority. In fact, it's rather amazing to us even today that we took those first steps out the door to meet each other.

But we did. And that first morning, as we hit a gradual hill in our neighborhood, we became winded. It made us laugh to think of how out of shape we were. Had we been alone, it might have made us cry and it's likely neither one of us would have continued on to walk another day. Something would have gotten in the way of being consistent-be it our personal schedules, our self esteem, or our lack of motivation. Yet, because we had each other to laugh with and we looked forward to our time together, we did continue. 

Now, all these years later, we can actually say that we have met consistently 5 days a week, for more 7 years, for some type of exercise-from walking, to running, to biking, to yoga, to strength training, and more. What has unfolded is a journey we never could have predicted, with destinations unimagined. We've landed at such amazing sites as the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon; and have experienced adventures like opening up a business, publishing a book, and launching a website together.

We firmly believe that each and every milestone we have reached was possible because:
· We had each other to lean on, to bolster, and to cheer;
· We had a consistent friendship-based exercise routine that fostered in us an incredible sense of confidence, clarity, purpose, and discipline;
· We learned how to transfer those skills-which were first developed during our walking routine-and apply them to other parts of our days in order to make major life changes.

We've spent countless hours analyzing what worked for us and creating a philosophy to share with others. Why? Because if it can work for us, it can work for you. 

Our philosophy is simple: If you connect with a friend, while you move your body, you can transform your life. 

The first step to experiencing success in your own life, utilizing our philosophy, is to understand why it works. Here, we present our Top 10 Reasons to Kick-off a Walking Routine with a Friend.

1. You know you should be exercising. 
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," we hear you saying. We all know exercise is good for us… and so, our point is? Our point is that we understand the disconnect between knowing what to do, versus, actually doing it.

When the list of commitments, priorities, and chores is long, taking time to exercise seems like one more job to add to the list. Maybe you find yourself saying, "Who has an hour to give to exercise, when what I really want is a shower?"

On the other hand, it's hard to deny that nagging guilt over what you know you should be doing for yourself. Why? Because, you're a smart girl. Ignoring the statistics regarding the benefits of exercise takes work. That, plus the fact that you may notice the longer you've gone without exercise, the more it shows. Maybe your aging body is sagging in ways that clothes no longer seem to cover. Or, you're facing health issues that exercise can combat. Or, deep down inside you wish you could be a better role model for your family or at least be in better shape to keep up with them. 

Partnering with a friend can be the key to closing the gap between what you know is good for you and what you do about it.

2. The friendship will seduce you into being consistent-even if you've never consistently exercised before in your life! 
When it comes to exercise, most people struggle to be consistent. Knowing you should "just do it" is not usually enough incentive (day after day) to head out the door for a workout. But with a friend at your side, you'll have someone to hold you accountable, who is expecting you. Then each day, you'll able to talk without interruption to someone who genuinely cares about you. You'll quickly get addicted to your time together, long before you begin to crave the exercise. One day will turn into 5, and then without realizing it, you'll look back in amazement and say, "Wow, I can't believe we've been in our routine for six whole months!". . . Six months will turn into a full year and then you'll be well on your way to a lifetime of fitness.

3. It's good for mind, body, and soul. 
Kicking off a walking program will allow you and your friend to chat and to connect on a regular basis. Women need to nurture and connect, "to tend and befriend", explains Shelley Taylor Ph.D., professor of psychology at UCLA, in her book The Tending Instinct. According to Taylor, having an opportunity to seek out social connection and support can lower blood pressure and tell our adrenal glands to stop producing corticosteroids. Fewer corticosteroids can reduce anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed and overwrought. 

Combine this "tend and befriend" approach with a routine that lets you move your body on a regular basis and you'll benefit mind, body, and soul-which can prompt life changing experiences for both of you.

4. It's the guilt-free approach to spending time with a friend.
Now that you know that even the experts say friendship is good for you, think back to how as you've gotten older, you may have placed friendships on the back burner. Where once we spent all our time with girlfriends, roommates, or sorority sisters hanging out and having fun, now we spend time tending to family commitments, work responsibilities, aging parents, volunteer duties, dirty clothes, dishes, and more. 

Like exercise, spending time with a girlfriend is easy to put off for another day. You'd never allow yourself the luxury to meet daily for coffee-it would seem too extravagant. And who has time to spend an hour on the phone chatting with a girlfriend? If you do manage to grab some uninterrupted time with a friend, it's probably only once a month (or less).

Yet, kicking off a friendship-based exercise routine gives you a guilt-free way of spending time together, while you both do something positive and healthy for yourselves.

5. You deserve to reclaim an hour a day for yourself. 
Getting lost in the details of the day is a common mistake women make. We remember how proud we were of ourselves for keeping everything going. We'd love to say, "We have all our balls in the air and none are dropping!" Little did we realize that each ball represented something or someone other than ourselves. As the years passed, we lost sight of our own personal vision and sense of who we were.

Today, you may no longer even know what your dreams for tomorrow are.

Having an hour a day to reflect, talk, and explore your thoughts with a friend may help you rediscover yourself. There are 24 hours in each day. You deserve at least one of them to meditate, center, prepare for the day, and explore your dreams and wishes. Your soul will feel nourished when you give it that time. At a bare minimum, you will set yourself on solid ground for the rest of day and all the hours you will spend juggling.

6. You'll have a built-in support system, someone to share the struggles, the laughs, and the triumphs with. 
Even though you may have a mom, husband, dad, children, boss, or work peers to provide you with support, a close girlfriend can support you in ways that few other people can. A girlfriend can know about and understand all aspects of your life, and yet, not be heavily invested in them. 

As you spend more together on your walks, you'll share good times and laughter; but also help each other through rough times. Your friend can be your true advocate, and you can be hers. You'll inspire confidence in each other, so that each of you helps the other to become the best that she can be. 

7. Your body will benefit. 
When you're in a friendship-based fitness routine, something funny happens slowly over time: your body starts to benefit. Perhaps you and your partner begin to walk a bit faster. Or, you try to jog a little bit in addition to your walks. Soon, one of you will mention that you are sleeping better at night, or that you're not suffering from as many headaches. Reflecting back, you'll realize that your bodies are changing. You're getting stronger, healthier, and more capable as a result of your routine. You will finally start to see the positive, wide-ranging effects of exercise. You'll be pleasantly surprised and proud of what you have accomplished. Most of all, you'll want to continue to build upon what you've started. 

8. You will develop greater confidence and discipline, which you can then apply to other areas of your life. 
As you gain a better sense of yourself and you become physically stronger and healthier, you'll become increasingly confident. This confidence has a way of spilling out into other areas of your life. You may no longer fear asking your boss for an alternative work schedule to better meet your needs. You may revamp and take control of your eating. You may start to say "No" to people who you've always, reluctantly, said "Yes" to. By feeding your body, mind, and soul, through daily connection and movement, you are being transformed!

9. You'll have more fun doing it together, than you'll ever have doing it alone. 
Just as we explained in the beginning of this article, even the miserable moments that can occur when starting an exercise routine-like the feeling of being winded-can be made more enjoyable when you have a friend to laugh with about it. And all of those initial awkward steps-be it joining a gym or trying a new class for the first time-are made more comfortable when you have a friend beside you along the way. Best of all, the achievements you experience are that much sweeter when you are able to share and rejoice together. 

10. Partnering with a friend may be the very formula you need to finally succeed at being consistent. 
If you've struggled to find a way to exercise consistently, this approach may be just what you need to break that cycle. It's what we needed. Before we decided to join forces, neither one of us had ever succeeded at establishing and maintaining any type of exercise routine. But once we made a commitment to each other-even though it seemed a small promise at the time-we discovered a formula for success. 

If you're ready to make it work for you, then grab a pencil and make a list of friends nearby. List neighbors, co-workers, other moms (any woman you feel a natural connection with.) You don't have to start out being "best friends". Review your list, then pick up the phone and call one of them. Ask her if she's interested in walking on a regular basis with you. Explain the concepts behind a friendship-based fitness routine. If she's not interested, review your list and pick another friend. There are women all around yearning to connect with others and to find the key to getting fit and living well. If you're persistent, you will find the right partner.

Once you do, determine the time and location each day that you will meet. Begin with a single goal: to meet each day (or at least 5 days a week) for a walk. Make the small promise to each other to show up every day. Then enjoy, as your own friendship-based fitness journey unfolds.

©2005, Murphy and Kris Carpenter