Lunchtime workout hui offers coworkers support, encouragement

(L to R) Kevin Crow, Laurie Matsumoto, and Anna Manuel

HMSA coworkers (from left to right) Kevin Crow, Laurie Matsumoto, and Anna Manuel pose before jumping into the water for a swim at Ala Moana Beach Park.

For many, lunchtime on weekdays means making a pilgrimage to the neighborhood lunch wagon. For others, it means eating at their desks.

But for one group of Honolulu office workers, the midday break means a run, a swim and some support of healthy choices.

Anna Manuel, Laurie Matsumoto and Kevin Crow are members of an informal workout group made up of HMSA employees who have been meeting once a week for the past three years.

“It started with a few coworkers who would always go up to Makiki Pool to swim and we all just started joining in,” Matsumoto explained.

Shortly after the group was formed, the members spent one day a week swimming in a pool and another day in the ocean. The members eventually preferred to exclusively swim in the ocean, which is how I found myself interviewing the trio at Ala Moana Beach Park.

Manuel, Matsumoto and Crow had just completed a 15-minute run from the office and were about to reward themselves with a group swim.

Though they get a great workout from the routine, they say the meet-up mostly offers mental health benefits — a chance to get out of the building and enjoy the beach. Every once in a while, Matsumoto will see turtles swimming or a paddle boarder with a dog.

Manuel adds, “Even when it’s cold or rainy, we’re grumbling to get here but once we get out of the water, we’re like thank God we have this.”

So why work out in a group? Any of us can get up from our desk and head to the beach, right?

This group says it’s not that easy. With deadlines for work and the comfort of an air-conditioned office, it can be difficult to get up and get out. That’s why the group dynamic is so important. The HMSA group participates in a weekly e-mail thread where they motivate each other to pry themselves away from their desks for a swim. The messages offer “friendly peer pressure.”

So all of us are at our desks right now … feeling inspired.

How do we get a workout group started with our cubicle comrades? Matsumoto says, “It’s always good to just start small. If you have someone who you just want to talk with, that’s a starting point – you’re getting out and around. It’s always good to find someone who has common interests.”

Crow adds, “I block my [workout] time in my calendar so that it shows up as a conflict if anyone tries to schedule a meeting around it. It’s important to me as any other meeting.”

Of course swimming may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Which is why Manuel says it’s important to find something you enjoy. “Not everyone is going to want to swim because a lot of people aren’t comfortable in the water. Find the thing that you like to do and make yourself do it.”

If ocean swimming sounds fun but you don’t know where to start, Manuel says, “Take a class in the ocean with an instructor. Don’t take a class in the swimming pool because it’s not the same.”

As the group donned their swimming goggles, Manuel tossed out this reminder:

Step out of your comfort zone and don’t get stuck in a rut, whether it’s your workout routine or life in general.

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