There are a million ways to get fit, and many of them are free or very inexpensive. From walking and running to working out with an inexpensive DVD, all the way to joining a state-of-the-art gym or hiring a personal trainer, we have options.

But for so many of us, the key is motivation. We may plan a new workout schedule from the comfort of our kitchen tables, and we may even stick with it for the first days or weeks, the challenge is keeping it going.

Secret Weapon

Stroller2One of the best ways to harness that motivation is to exercise with one or more friends. If you’ve got plans to exercise with others at a particular time and place, it’s harder to skip that workout. And there are more bonuses:

Spending an hour with people who make you smile can also make the workout experience a whole lot more appealing. Exercise becomes socializing, and a workout is never boring if your best friend is cracking you up.

When you exercise with others, you may learn new skills or improve moves you already know. You get a mood-boost from the praise friends will offer you about the effort you’re making. You also get the good feeling of encouraging others in their pursuit of a healthier life. Working out with other military spouses means being with people who understand all unique stresses in your life.

A 2009 study done by Oxford University’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology found that members of the university’s rowing team who worked out together had higher levels of mood-boosting, painblocking endorphins in their bodies than team members who did the same type of workout alone.

The assumption is that pursuing shared goals in a group-bonding atmosphere is the secret to reaching those higher endorphin levels. And the benefits linger long after the day’s workout is done. That enjoyable endorphin rush is likely to motivate you to workout again and again. Studies have also shown that exercising in groups can lower your risk of post-partum depression, and even potentially improve treatment outcomes for early-stage
cancer patients.


Do you want to: Work out with an instructor or more informally with a group of friends?

Instructors are great because: A good instructor will have planned a complete workout that touches on all the areas you’re seeking to work. They’ll have knowledge about additional exercise that can complement the work you’re doing in their class, and they can show you if form isn’t right.

Informal groups are great because: There is an extra-special warmth and companionship that comes from gathering together with a group of friends for the
purpose of getting healthier. And while an instructor may have only one specialty (like yoga or Pilates), an informal group of friends can choose to change up their workout whenever they wish. Maybe Monday is a long walk, Wednesday is a workout dance party and Friday is an hour-long Pilates DVD.

Do you want to: Join an existing group or start your own?

Existing groups: Have done all the planning for you. They’ve found a good location
(indoors or outdoors), they’ve chosen a workout that people find appealing, and they’ve mapped out a schedule of dates and times. All you have to do is join up. Existing workout groups are also a great way to make new friends.

By starting your own new group: You can shape your experience exactly the way you want it. Is your group partly about exercise and partly about shepherding each other through your service members’ current deployment? Is your group just for moms, or just for spouses who don’t have kids, or just for spouses who are new to your installation? Do-it-yourself means doing it any way you wish.


Strrrrolller 222If you’re looking for a group workout, many military spouses will tell you that joining a walking group or running group is the very best way to do it. Among the most popular organized running groups you’ll find is Stroller Warriors, the fabulously motivational group founded by Stephanie Geraghty, who is also your 2012 Marine Corps
Spouse of the Year.

“There’s no question that military families endure challenges daily, forever in the midst of deployments, moves, loss and life,” Stephanie says. “My dream was to establish a free running club that would help alleviate stress for military spouses, providing a wealth of camaraderie, resources, and mutual support. The club would welcome the inclusion of children and supply a means to give back to our surrounding military community.”

In January 2010, she launched the first Stroller Warriors group. “I scouted out trails and parks appropriate for our needs and advertised through local media,” she explains. “Word spread and Stroller Warriors has thrived ever since. In 2011 alone, we hosted 56 workouts, sustained 178 active members, and gathered 1,400 total attendees. With each runner averaging 3.5 miles per workout, that amounts to 4,900 collective miles.” They established two new chapters in New Orleans and Okinawa, and continued adding more throughout in 2012. On an international level, Stroller Warriors Stroller Warriors now has more than 500 members.

Stroller4Each October, Stroller Warriors hosts a 5K race to raise money for Bubba’s Belly Run. “Thus far, we have contributed over $4,600 to this incredible cause,” Stephanie says. “We encourage participation in other charitable local races too, especially Run For The Warriors, a race that benefits wounded military veterans. In addition to racing, we donated home-cooked meals to a local women’s shelter and fed 25 women weekly.”

The group has also reinforced membership bonds by establishing a book club and supporting members in completing their first race or marathon. They’ve also been
instituting a workout incentive program called “I ran to Afghanistan” to encourage participation and goal-setting.

“We’re adding Wednesday evening runs to reach out to working moms and Thursday functional fitness workouts to build strength. We’re organizing a Bible study to nurture our faith and fellowship,” Stephanie says.

She also points out that Stroller Warriors is completely free to join and doesn’t require any particular fitness level. “We operate strictly on member contributions and volunteers. This club does not demand a standard. We welcome runners of all ability levels, beginner or
marathoner. We support each other every step no matter the pace. There’s never a
negative word uttered and they live each day with purpose,” she says. “Together
we laugh, we cry, we overcome, and we RUN.

Now when I head out the door for my run I have a friend at my side. She’s a Stroller Warrior and she would do just about anything for me and everyone else in the club. Proud does not even begin to describe what I feel for these women. They are the best teammates I’ve ever had and every single one of them is a Military Spouse of the Year in my book.
Spouse of the Year in my book.”

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