Working out with a friend can deliver great body benefits. In fact, a 2012 study conducted by Kansas State University found that if you exercise with someone you perceive as more athletic than you, you’re more likely to go at a more intense pace and work out longer—which equals a bigger calorie burn. Another perk of having a fitness plus-one? A bud holds you accountable (you can’t ditch out if you promised to meet a friend at the gym at a certain time), so a workout routine is easier to stick with. But meeting a workout partner you mesh with—both in physical abilities and in personality—can be a challenge. Here are 10 ideas for finding a new workout partner:
1. Raise money for charity: Charity training groups, like Team in Training, have two things going for them: 1) you get the benefit of their coaching expertise, and 2) you’ll be put in a training group with people of your same skill level and can get support from them. Oh, and don’t forget about the bonding that comes with raising money for a good cause!
2. Meetup.com: The online social networking site’s fitness channel is an easy way to connect with fellow workout buffs in your area. Love Zumba? Want to get in on a bootcamp? Want to get fit enough to survive a zombie apocalypse? No matter how unique your exercise interest, you’re sure to find a fitness meet-up group that fits your needs.
3. Mingle at a race: Whether you run 5Ks or marathons, you’ll be surrounded by individuals who love the same thing you do: running. Before the race, chat up the woman next to you (wish her good luck!); if you’re in the same pace group, maybe you can run the race together. After collecting your medal, head to the post-race even to party with other runners.
4. Use an app: Online communities are filled with users who cheer each other on through the ups and downs of meeting fitness goals. One such online forum, SparkPeople, has a “Buddy Finder” feature that allows you to search for likeminded exercisers (via criteria like goal, age, gender, location).
5. Sign up for a 30-day challenge: Gyms and yoga studios often run promotions like a 30-day yoga challenge (the idea that you go to class for as many days as possible during a set time period). You’ll become a regular (and get to know the instructors better, too), which makes it easy to meet other regulars.
6. Volunteer: Animal shelters need volunteers to walk dogs—and some even have weekend group running programs with pups in need. You benefit by getting exercise in, meeting other volunteers, and exercising dogs means they show better—and get adopted faster.
7. Try a free class: Popular stores like Lululemon often offer freebie yoga classes. They’re great for newbies who want to try out a certain style of yoga. Meet a fellow beginner and make plans to hit up your first real class together.
8. Facebook: Try a simple “anyone going for a run after work?” or “anyone running the 5K on Saturday?” to find a last-minute bud to work out with.
9. Bust your butt in boot camp: Sign up for a small group boot camp. The intimate setting and “we’re in this together at 6 a.m.” attitude lets you commiserate with fellow classmates and motivate each other to crank out one more pushup or sprint.
10. Start your own! There’s no reason that you can’t start a New Mom Walking Group or Saturday Doubles Tennis Group if there’s not one already in your area (or if there is one but you think you can do better). Plan both social and fitness-related activities to boost bonding, such as pre-walk coffee dates.