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She was the best. She was there at 6:30 AM, ready to go. She texted you “Woohoo! Let’s go!!!” in the morning when it was gray and chilly outside, encouraging you to lace up your sneaks for a run. And she laughed with you when you fell flat on your butt during that one tricky move in kickboxing class.

She was your gym buddy, your partner in fitness-related crime. But for the last three weeks, she’s been flaky. And now your rhythm’s off, too.

Finding a companion on the road to wellness is awesome. Running groups, gym buddies, yoga communities – they all make a difference, because you don’t just get an endorphin high from the workout. You also get the positive benefits of creating and nurturing friendships along the way.

So what do you do when your buddy falls off the wagon, never to return? Or when your band of committed Wednesday morning joggers disbands? It may seem intimidating to recreate your fitness posse from scratch, but we’ve put together some key tips to help you start.

Target your search. If you’ve got a great friend who has mentioned wanting to commit more fully to an active lifestyle, or a gal from work who’s been raving about her running group, it’s definitely worth a shot to see if you can make something happen with a pal who is already in your circles. But beware – no matter how strong your friendship is, making the fitness thing happen with someone who isn’t motivated will drag you down. So be selective. And if no one comes to mind, or you’re just up for a cool new challenge, put on your active girl panties and branch out! You may find an amazing new friend, in and out of the gym.

Start with the obvious. The people that show up at the gym or class when you go are already at least partially committed! Even better: you already have something in common. A mutual love of Zumba can bring anyone together.

Find someone on your level, plus a little. Once you’re in the right place, pick someone who seems to have advanced one step further than you on the motivation ladder. Talking to the person in the corner who comes to class once every six months and half-asses the workout will not do you any good. It may be equally ineffective to recruit the peppiest lady in the room, who works out three times a day and can’t relate to your challenges with keeping your routines or enthusiasm up. Too far in either direction probably won’t work out long-term. Balance is key, and knowing where you’re at personally is the best gauge to begin with.

Use your words. This might seem intimidating, but it’s seriously not so bad: just find a simple point of common experience, and show interest. Have some questions in mind to get the conversation going, smile, and give it a shot:

  • “Hi! My name is [your name]. I’ve seen you in this class before. Do you have any other favorite instructors here?”
  • “I just joined this gym; I’m still getting to know all of the classes and everything here. How long have you been a member? Any advice for a newbie?”
  • “Out of curiosity, do you live nearby? I’ve been wondering if there are any places around here for a good trail run.”

For a couple of weeks, maybe the small talk is your basis. Once you’ve got that, growing from there is the easy part. Over time, explore conversations about your goals and challenges with commitment or motivation, and don’t be afraid to share accomplishments. 

Think outside the gym. Gyms aren’t for everyone. Maybe you just love being outside, or maybe you can’t really include gym fees in your budget right now. Do a Google search, ask around, check out the bulletin boards at the Y or groups on Meetup.com or something similar: it’s quite possible that a great yoga class in the park, community running team, or monthly swim group are right under your nose.

Get excited. Trying to form new connections can seem overwhelming, but keep your eyes on the prize: finding a great new person who can share your fitness journey. This is a person who can share your fears and tribulations, but encourage you through the tough spots. Someone who can check in on you when you miss a planned workout. And someone whose friendship you can associate with creating the healthy lifestyle of your dreams, which makes both of those things even stronger. 

Have you built a fitness crew? How’d you do it? What kind of challenges did you find? Sound off below! 

Mailande Moran is a musician, writer, and media consultant based in Durham, NC. She is a 2013 graduate of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, where she served as a Fellow for the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship's Impact Investing Initiative and the Center on Leadership and Ethics. In the summer of 2012, she worked with Enterprise Community Loan Fund to analyze and communicate the impact of green affordable housing and transit-oriented development in Colorado. While pursuing her MBA, she consulted with the healthcare NGO Healing Fields in India, the microfinance start-up Seeds in Kenya, and the for-profit maternity hospital LifeSpring in India. Prior to Fuqua, she focused on social entrepreneurship and philanthropy in strategy roles at Echoing Green and the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. Mailande graduated from Duke University in 2006 with an A.B. in Art History. She is passionate about creating a safer, more equitable world. You can hear her music on Facebook (mailandemusic) and follow her other adventures on Twitter (@mailande). read more about