Two are better than one

Or are they?

This year I resolved to keep myself in better physical condition, so I’ve taken to jogging in the mornings. I duly kept my resolution for two weeks when (don’t worry I didn’t give up so easily) I received some unexpected good news. Someone in the neighbourhood had seen me jogging and had been inspired (or so I like to tell myself). I found this out when on my way back one day when I was stopped by a guy (we’ll call him Ratchet). So Ratchet told me he’d seen me jogging in the mornings and would like to join me. I was pleasantly surprised and agreed because from my past experience, most of the time, I end up giving up on the physical exercise when I’m doing it alone. It’s always been easier when there’s been someone with me.

I time myself when jogging. The distance is a little over 2 miles ( almost 3.5km) and I cover it in about 20 minutes. I run to a check point (a friend’s house), check the time (which is usually 9 minutes and some seconds) and run back. When I started, it used to take me over 22 minutes and the time to the first check point was almost 11 minutes. After two weeks, I’d managed to get it down to 19 minutes for the total journey and 9.5 minutes to the check point. But my world record (ahem) was 8 minutes 45 seconds to the first check point and 18 minutes 30 seconds for the total journey. Enter Ratchet…

I didn’t know what kind of shape he was in: Whether he was hopelessly unfit and he’d be wheezing after five minutes begging us to stop (this has happened before with someone who shall remain nameless),  or whether he was one of those ridiculously fit guys you see jogging in the mornings who had taken a short break and wanted to restart. The first day we went jogging, I checked the time when we got to the first checkpoint: 7 minutes and 16 seconds!!!!!! One minute may not seem like much but for those who go running, they’ll understand what it means to take more than one minute of your personal best.

I don’t even know how it happened, I don’t remember putting in significantly more effort and I didn’t feel any more tired than I usually did. Maybe I was trying to impress him by not looking like a sissy. But whatever it was, the advantage of human company was clear. When we got to my first checkpoint, I was ready to turn and head for home when Ratchet said we should take a detour and add some distance to the journey. Of course, I had to keep up appearances so I said why not?? We ended up running 3 miles (5 km) in 31 minutes. Again this may not seem like much, but I assure you my will power was tested to the extreme. At some point he had to slow down for me to catch up (for the record, it only happened once and he was only a few yards in front of me), but I believe I acquitted myself well.

When I got back I was exhausted, but I haven’t felt healthier. It got me thinking though about human company. I think the conventional wisdom is that it’s better two have company than to be alone. The Bible seems to suggest as much in Ecclesiastes 4, saying if one falls the other can help the other etc. And it’s generally true. It’s really good to have human assistance. If you can’t solve a problem at work or school, having someone help usually speeds up the discovery of a solution. If you’re having personal problems, it’s comforting to have someone you can share with. And if you have some self-improvement goal you’re aiming for (losing weight, reading more etc), having someone strive for the same goal along with you can make it easier to bear.

Of course it goes without saying that two is not always better than one. There’s the obvious reason. The person who comes along in the name of help, actually brings more difficulty because they are lazier or less disciplined. But there’s also another reason why two may not always be better. This is in the case where the person is so much better than you that they leave you discouraged.

You get a study partner and realize that s/he is so disciplined and dedicated and you simply can’t keep pace with them. Or you go on a diet with a friend and notice the drastic changes in the friend while you are struggling to shed a pound. These events can be so discouraging as to cause you to give up altogether.

I wonder which is going to be the case with Ratchet…

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