As a single dad, Archel Ambrosio began working out so he would be healthy as his young daughter grew older. Five years later, he has gained strength and endurance. He also has gained something else: new friends.
Archel, 52, is one of six gym-goers who gather every Sunday morning at Gold’s Gym Prue Road in San Antonio, Texas, for a circuit-style workout. (You can find many circuit workouts on this blog, including one tailored to any fitness level.) He and Norman Gong, Sanman Redkar, Justin Pham and Dolores Castor and her husband, Carlos, laugh while they sweat. They range in age from the 20s to the 60s. The friends often talk about what their kids are up to and how the NBA’s Spurs played in their recent game. They chat about their diets and their constant battle to cut down on carbs.
Because these workout buddies know each other so well, they can push each other in a way that others can’t. “We say, ‘Keep going, don’t stop, don’t be a slacker!’ Archel says. “We joke around and have fun, but we motivate each other.
“It’s fun to work out with your friends.”
Dolores agrees, adding that the positive reinforcement from the group provides a boost. “You always have someone cheering you on,” she says. “It makes you really work hard.”
The group began when Archel and Dolores worked with the same personal trainer at Gold’s Gym. In early 2018, the two decided to work out together on Sundays. Soon, Carlos joined their workouts, and then Norman. Sanman and Justin became part of the group earlier this year.
Research backs up what they’ve all experienced: There are proven benefits to exercising with other people. Accountability is a big factor, because you’re more likely to work out consistently if you know your exercise partners are waiting for you to show up. Making the workout fun can turn even a challenging session into something that seems less onerous. People who work out with others tend to exercise harder and for a longer time than people who exercise alone.
And a 2017 study found that working out in a group lowered participants’ stress levels by 26 percent and significantly improved their quality of life; those who exercised alone didn’t see significant changes in stress levels and experienced only a limited improvement to quality of life.
More than workout buddies
Today, the sense of community they’ve built goes well beyond the gym. The friends often go out for lunch after their workout — a healthy lunch, of course — and Archel hosted some of them at his Thanksgiving party.
“It’s not only a workout group,” Dolores says. “We talk about our families and our lives.” She and her husband invited the friends to their son’s wedding.
“Because we are now family,” Dolores says.
What the members have in common is a commitment to fitness and a willingness to help others.
Their weekly workout isn’t easy. During the bootcamp-style session, they rotate between several stations for a total body workout. They mix high-intensity cardio with strength training, using bodyweight, dumbbells, a treadmill and other equipment.
During solo workouts, it’s common to want to quit when the going gets tough. But when you’re surrounded by friends, quitting isn’t an option — nor is slowing down.
“If you’re super competitive, you don’t want to be the one who’s left behind,” Archel says. “I know I wouldn’t push myself to really get significant results if I were doing it on my own.”
And working together makes the time fly. “You’re in a big group, and you’re going and going, and before you know it, you’re done with one circuit,” Carlos says.
When some of the newer members of the group struggle, their friends are there to help them modify the exercises.
The group has become such a fixture at their Gold’s Gym that another gym-goer who noticed the friends’ presence every Sunday expressed interest in joining them. Newcomers are definitely welcome, Carlos says. “Anyone who wants to join can join.”