Work and working out are better with friends


Some co-workers head home after a day at the office.  Xin Hunt, Sr. Machine Learning Developer, Ralph Abbey, Sr. Manager - Advanced Analytics R&D, Michael Lamm, Sr. Research Statistician Developer, Ricky Tharrington, Machin Learning Developer, head to our campus Recreation & Fitness Center for a workout and laughs.  The friendship they've gained through thousands of reps in the gym has helped create a productive and fun work environment.  I had a chance to interview this inspiring group and ask them about work and working out together.

How did your group form?

“Years ago,” Ralph explains, “My wife had been encouraging me to go to the gym, but I kept putting it off because ‘I didn’t have a gym buddy.’ Mike and I had previously shared an office together and one day when I was talking to Mike he mentioned that he was going to the gym. I asked if I could join.” That was in 2015.

Ricky joined SAS in 2018 and in January of 2019 he started going to the gym himself.  While he was on the treadmill one day, he saw his co-workers working out together and decided it was time to add some strength training to his routine.  As Michael jokes, “he worked up the courage to ask if he could join us lifting”.  Like Ralph, having the support of his co-workers made it easier for Ricky to try something new.

Next Xin joined the group.  Her motivation was to do a pull up.  She realized that Ralph, and Ricky, who she worked with, along with Mike were going to the gym so she asked “can I go too?”  Since that day, Xin went from doing no pull-ups to 7 in a short time.

How do you describe one another?

“The best word to describe Michael is consistent!” they exclaimed at once. Not only has he been roughly following the same workout routine since his high school cross-country days, but he’s been wearing the same gym shirt since that time as well, they laugh. A quick and unanimous “competitive” describes Ralph. When it comes to Xin, words to describe her are "beastly" for the beastly gains she has made over the last two years…or perhaps “most improved” as the group reflects upon her pull ups.  They finally land on “motivated”.

Then there’s Ricky.  “Ricky is the hard one to describe,” declares Xin.  Followed by Ralph who jokingly says, “I’m trying to think of positive words to describe Ricky.” As you can tell by the good-hearted teasing, they are close friends.  The group eventually lands on “challenger” as Ricky is the one to encourage them to try different fitness challenges.  “He’s the one who got us to sign up for a 5k.  I would never have thought to try running if it wasn’t for the group,” Xin shared.

How has working out together affected how you interact in the office?

“When Ralph frustrates me at work, I can really use that anger to push through that last rep!” says Ricky with a laugh.  Ralph jokes “they make jokes about how they’re not going to spot me that well.”

On a serious note, they run ideas about work past one another while working out in the gym as well as planning their work activities.  They also shared that trust and strong communication has been a benefit of working out together. It’s easier to have more of those frank discussions that might otherwise be difficult.  Additionally, “you have more opportunity to glean things from one another,” Mike reflects.

What advice do you have for starting a healthier habit?

“Find someone else to do it with.”  ~ Ralph

“Routines are powerful and reinforcing. Once you have routines, then you can start tweaking and expanding on them.” ~Mike

“Have support and social connection.  We have that support at SAS with the staff of the RFC who offer advice and education, so we don’t injure ourselves.  They also encourage us to participate in programs like March Mania, the SAS 5k and the St. Patrick’s Run on campus.” ~Xin

Mike and the rest of the group exclaim that having the gym and the café open up, helped get them all back into the habit of working on campus and we’re happy to hear it!

Feeling the need to rebuild your social networks?  Grab a friend and head to the Recreation & Fitness Center or your local gym to strengthen your body, mind, and relationship!  SAS employees can find out more about all our well-being programs both on and off campus here.


About Author

Pam Cole

Sr Manager, Recreation and Fitness

Pam has been at SAS Institute for over 20 years and has worked in fitness for over 25 years. An avid Tarheel fan, Pam graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a double major in Communications and Radio Television Motion Pictures. She began teaching group exercise classes while in Chapel Hill and still loves it. In addition to teaching group exercise, she is a certified personal trainer with the National Sports Performance Association as a Pre and Post-Rehab Exercise Specialist. In her spare time, she likes to garden, do rehab projects on her home and cook.

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