Ruben Fuentes, looking to expand his social contacts as he approached retirement, joined the Everglades Bicycle Club three years ago.
“I consider that the best decision I ever made, hands down,” said Fuentes, who lives in Miami Shores.
Fuentes likes the club’s training rides, which leave every Saturday morning from Miami City Hall in Coconut Grove. “When you come back, you socialize with everybody,” Fuentes said.
He started with a mountain bike in the beginner’s group and quickly graduated to the group riding 16 to 18 miles an hour. A year later, he bought a road bike, and now he leads the 20- to 22- mph group.
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“I’m 67 and in the best shape I’ve ever been in. The young kids, sometimes they can’t keep up. That stokes your ego,” Fuentes said.
Raquel Lopez, 26, an athletic trainer for Miami Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute of Baptist Health South Florida, said that training in a group increases one’s motivation. “Having a workout partner can double performance,” she said, referring to one of numerous studies on peer motivation in exercise.
A study by Indiana University found that couples who worked out together in a gym had a 6.3 percent dropout rate versus a 43 percent dropout rate for those going it alone.
Lopez has been a Pineapple Pacer with Baptist Health’s free running clubs for two years. She runs along with the group, offering encouragement and advice.
“Sometimes all you need is a simple ‘way to go’ or ‘good job,’” she said.
At the Brickell run club, “anywhere from 200 to 300 people” come out. “It’s a great way to see the city,” Lopez said.
Having runners offer words of encouragement every time they pass another runner creates a friendly feel, Lopez said. “It’s a social event. Everyone is supporting one another. It’s a beautiful thing to see,” she said.
“When you’re in a group, you’re motivating each other,” added Lourdes Rodriguez-Barrera, communications manager for Memorial Healthcare System and a 5K runner. She’ll be working with the press corps at the Tour de Broward in February, a cycling and running fundraiser for charity.
“You’re doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for the long term, and you’re doing it for a good cause,” Rodriguez-Barrera said of the Memorial Milers training for the 5K. “It’s like a goose-bumps event,” she said.
Cristina Moreno, a single Miami Beach attorney, finds the running clubs Baptist Health sponsors ideal. The clubs meet the same time every week and runners just show up. Depending on her schedule, she runs with the Brickell or the Miami Beach club.
Moreno started running in high school, participating in cross-country and track at Lourdes Academy. “I wasn’t particularly good,” she recalled.
“I always did love running. It’s such an efficient workout, a great stress-reliever and way to catch up with friends,” Moreno said, adding, “I don’t get the same benefit when I run on my own.”
“I’ve made friends with people who are faster than I am,” Moreno said. When she started, she would “run at a comfortable pace, a 10-minute mile. If I run by myself, I’m not pushing myself,” Moreno said.
Now with her friends, she’s running faster than a nine-minute mile.
Improved performance like that is called the Kohler effect in which people try harder when paired with partners who are stronger or faster. Kansas State University researchers found that people who exercise with a stronger workout buddy will increase their time and intensity by as much as 200 percent.
Friends also make it harder to skip a session. Sometimes when Moreno isn’t sure she’ll run after a stressful day, she’ll get a text message from a friend asking if she’s going.
“I always feel better when I do it,” Moreno said.
It’s also a great and safe way for a single woman to meet people. “At a minimum, it will be someone who’s interested in running and likes the outdoors,” Moreno said, noting how she has met people from other countries who are visiting South Florida.
Taking up running, biking or working out can be doubly hard for those with family obligations. Lori Hart, an instructor at Memorial Regional Fitness Center in Hollywood, has heard about push-back from the people she trains.
“Sometimes you have to create your own fitness family,” suggested Hart, who is the head running coach for the Memorial Milers, the group training for the Tour de Broward.
“That’s what the Milers are — a fitness family,” Hart said. They support and encourage each other over the months that they train.
“A lot of times, I say, ‘Just take your spouse to the 5K.’ I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had spouses say, ‘He’s doing this,’” Hart said.
“It opens their eyes,” Hart said. Many people who don’t work out think those who do have no fun. Hart said they don’t realize the group “likes to have a good time but likes to feel good and work out.”
And, she added: “If you feel better, you’ll be a better spouse, a better brother, a better sister.”
How to get involved
Free running clubs
Baptist Health South Florida sponsors running clubs from Weston to Homestead. Go to BaptistHealth.net/RunClubs
Training rides for cyclists
The Everglades Bicycle Club holds training rides every Saturday departing from Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr., in Coconut Grove. Riders must wear helmets, sign release forms and be ready to ride at 7:30 a.m. sharp. The beginner group averages 14 to 16 miles per hour and learns rules for safety and etiquette for riding in a team. Speed increases with each group up to 20 to 22 mph. More details at evergladesbc.com
Tour de Broward
What: Charity event to benefit Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
100K and 50K bike rides, 5K timed run, 3K walk, kid’s play zone
When: 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Feb. 28
Where: Miramar Regional Park, 16801 Miramar Parkway, Miramar
Registration: $10-$40 depending on event
To pre-register, go to tourdebroward.com