I recently enjoyed a long run on a beautiful mountain trail and reflected on how restored I felt afterward. There is just something about crisp mountain air, the sound of crunching dirt and rocks, and labored breathing that makes me feel ‘connected’ in ways Wifi can’t deliver. Solo efforts we pursue on foot, bike, water, etc., are critical to our mental and physical health, but for most of us it’s one part of an overall approach to maintaining a healthy mind and body.
Life is best lived together, and for most of us the need for community extends into our approach to maintaining physical fitness. Few people exercise consistently with any intensity when working alone. Even endurance athletes whose success is measured by hours or mile logged, will eventually turn toward other athletes or groups with shared goals. It is undeniable that people feel accountable to their workout buddies and will show up more often if they are meeting friends. We need our friends to encourage and support us; we need each other to push and motivate us to get better. Shared suffering, sweat, even physical discomfort during a hard workout unifies and binds people together in their efforts. Turns out, misery (of the best possible kind) loves company.
So take time for solitude and quiet, and certainly make it a core component of your exercise regimen. Long solo efforts are restorative, and essential for mental health, but also find a run or bike club that meets regularly. Surround yourself with people who love your sport, and for a sustainable life-long approach to fitness, find your people. Ideally, you find a group that blends exercise and community seamlessly, so you are “doing life” with one another while staying fit and healthy. It’s hard to feel like more than a membership number at a corporate gym, but small groups can form around specialty classes. In your search, consider small gyms and cycle clubs that offer the right balance of structured training and community. When you do find your people, ‘working out’ won’t feel so much like work.
-Chris Jackson, Group Fitness Group