Trading in brunch for barre can boost your physical strength and the strength of your friendships

By Marnie Soman Schwartz
Updated: April 09, 2016

I've always treated exercise as a solo endeavor, and treasured the alone time it afforded. Even when I'm running in a packed park or riding in a totally full spin class, the experience still feels solitary because I'm surrounded by strangers-and to me, that's a good thing. I love that while logging a workout I can also clear my head and spend time thinking through challenges at work or in other areas of my life.

But recently, I started to feel like I never had enough time to fit in all my workouts and spend as much time with my friends and family as I wanted. (Is it even possible to fit in every workout... and still have a life?) So in an effort to hit the gym more frequently, spend less money and consume fewer calories eating out, and see my friends more often, I decided to try to plan more fitness dates with my pals and fewer dinner ones. With the advent of Classpass, I figured it shouldn't be too tough to coordinate workouts, right? After a month of tweaking the routine, here's what I've learned.

The Morning Is Ideal

My usual a.m. routine is all business-workout, healthy breakfast, shower, hurry to the office. (Here's How I Turned Myself Into an Early Morning Exerciser.) So when I scheduled a pre-work treadmill class with a friend, I expected it to be similarly quick and efficient. But afterwards, I didn't just feel accomplished for checking off a To Do list item. I was also happier and more motivated, which translated into an uber-productive day. Injecting some extra fun and friend time into that before-work window gave me a mood and energy boost that lasted for hours. And even though we were squeezing in our date before busy days at work, we actually had plenty of time to catch up. We chatted before class, while waiting for the showers, as we got ready, and then while grabbing coffees to take to our offices.

It Doesn't Always Save You Money

When I met my cousin at his apartment before a Sunday morning rowing class, the first thing he asked me was where I wanted to get lunch afterwards. And since we hadn't seen each other in a while and I had no other plans for the day, I didn't really want to just row and go. Our class meet-up turned into a Sunday afternoon of cousin bonding time (I stopped by his place first to play with his dog, we went to the class together, and then we hit up a nearby diner for post-workout eats), which was great. So while I didn't save any cash, I felt like I got more from our time together than if we'd just met at a restaurant, spent an hour there, and then gone our separate ways.

Studio Classes Beat Outdoor Workouts

I love the idea of meeting a friend for a run in the park or going for a long bike ride with my husband. But most of my friends run faster than I do (don't worry, my slow speed doesn't stop me from loving it!), and my husband is better than me at most sports. While that's frustrating outdoors, in the studio, everyone can go at their own pace. When I took my husband to Flywheel (his first time!), I kept peeking over at his monitor to check out his score. Instead of feeling competitive, I was actually proud when I saw he was keeping up with the class...even when he was beating me. (Find out what happened when one dude exercised like his wife for a month.)

It Won't Replace Real Friend Time-But It'll Do In a Pinch

After my morning class success, I was looking forward to meeting a friend for an after work spin class. But we both ran late and got on our bikes with no time to chat before the music started blasting. Afterwards, we awkwardly hung out by the gym doors catching up before leaving. On another day, we might have taken a leisurely walk home, but it was raining and so after a quick talk, I bolted for the bus. Although we didn't get to spend a ton of time together, my friend mentioned that she was about to go out of town for work, and would be back just as I'd be going on vacation. So even though our hangout wasn't ideal, at least we got to touch base before our trips. Silver lining, right?

Group Workouts Can Be Tougher to Schedule Than Brunch

When I told my friends that I wanted to start doing more exercising and less eating together, most of them were game. It wasn't hard to schedule one-on-one hangouts, but I was never able to get a big group together. I think part of it is preferences; if you go out for a meal, everyone can pick what they want from the menu, but not everyone likes the same classes as I do or feels like doing them on the same days I do. But that's okay: We can still have our gossipy Sunday brunches. I'll just meet a friend for barre class first.


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