The buddy system

A couple of decades ago, I took advantage of a new job to join a fitness club, as the company subsidized membership. My plan was to work out after work, but there was always some reason why I couldn’t go—usually a computer emergency (I worked in user support). If I didn’t leave right at 4:30, which was the end of our work day, I figured there was no point in going.

Consequently, for the first eighteen months, I went to the club only sporadically. Then I got a memo from the benefits department, stating that unless I was going to use my membership, they would cancel it. (I wasn’t the only one who received the memo, honestly!) That was so embarrassing, I decided to try to get into a routine.

About the same time, a friend of mine at the company joined the fitness club. We made a pact to work out twice a week after work. Since I had some experience with working out and she had none, we didn’t try to work out together—the point of the pact was simply to get us both to the club. Amazingly, most of the computer emergencies that had kept me from leaving on time turned out not to be emergencies—if co-workers saw Barbara standing at my desk, waiting for me, they usually told me the problem could wait until the next day.

That first year, we didn’t always make it to the club twice a week. Frankly, we skipped workouts at the drop of a hat, for reasons as insignificant as having a hangnail (okay, that’s an exaggeration) or feeling tired. The next year, we did better—we set our goal at three times a week—twice during the work week and once on the weekend. We also started saying, when we didn’t feel like working out, that we would go anyway and if we absolutely hated being there after ten minutes, we’d leave. You can probably guess what happened—most of the time, once we got going, we kept going until our workouts were completed.

When the club issued a fitness challenge in our fourth year that required putting in a specified number of miles on five different cardio machines, we took it on, increasing our workouts to four a week in order to complete the challenge. My friend, who had never done anything other than walking, got into spinning and I, the least naturally athletic person on the planet, trained for and completed a sprint triathlon. The buddy system worked!

Several months ago, my sister and I started using this kind of buddy system in a different way. She wanted to start writing regularly and I wanted to catch up on editing and cataloguing my photos. We live over 1500 miles from each other, so meeting in person every week was not an option. However, thanks to the wonders of technology, we are able to meet online.  Twice a week, we sign into Skype, tell each other what we’re going to be doing during that session, then make ourselves ‘invisible’ and get to work. At the end of the session, she sends me what she has written and I let her know how much photo work I’ve done.

As with my fitness club experience, there are days we don’t make it—either one of us has a conflict or we spend the time IMing with each other (which is valuable too). Overall, though, we get a lot more done having this twice-weekly commitment than we would get done without it.

I recommend the buddy system!

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