The 2014 wellness article in usnews.com, “The Case for Exercising Alone” by Anna Medaris Miller, addresses a topic that Earned Runs fully supports: the benefits of solitude when it comes to fitness. It seems as though nearly every article with advice on how to persevere with a resolve to become physically fit identifiess finding a buddy or a tribe with which to partner during workouts as essential.
Definitely, some exercisers can’t find motivation without the support of another person or persons. If the buddy bails out, the class cancels, or the group dissolves there doesn’t seem to be a good enough reason to ‘just do it”, as Nike’s branding exhorts. For many, the presence of others provides the foundation on which enthusiasm for athletic activity is built.
Recently I read the best-selling book, “Girl Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis. The former celebrity party-planner, successful women’s lifestyle blogger, and author provides her mostly female audience with an interesting read and quite a few positive, uplifting, and empowering messages. There will be another, blog that discusses it at greater length in the near future.
In the Hollis book, each chapter starts by de-bunking a “myth” and ends by listing actions Hollis indicated helped on the quest to be her best self. A suggestion that appears at the end of several ‘Myth’ chapters is to find others who share similar attitudes, situations, and quests. Surrounding oneself with a ‘tribe’ is a frequent offered bit of advice that makes great sense. Hanging out with people who are neutral or, worse yet, unsupportive or discouraging, isn’t likely to help one become carried forward on a wave of group enthusiasm.
The issue that’s not mentioned in the book is availability. Hollis has lived in the mega-metropolis of Los Angeles since she was in her late teens. The opportunity to find and join diverse tribes in this area is nearly limitless. I’ve lived in LA and am of the opinion that the major obstacle to personal progress is the traffic! If Hollis had remained in her small hometown of Weed Patch, California (Bakersfield being the nearest big city, she explained) her experiences likely would have been shaped in an alternate social universe.
Of course, there can be reasons unrelated to geography for social isolation, but there’s no doubt that going it alone is the only option for some during specific periods in life, when it comes to fitness.
One of the most exercise-motivating chapters in the Hollis book is the last. In it, Hollis nearly yells at her audience (I listened to the audio book) to commit and not wait for a “hero” to come along before taking action. In her case it was finish running a half marathon.
Hollis’s myth-busting chapter, “You Don’t Need a Hero,” Medaris-Miller’s usnews.com article, and Earned Runs express a like-minded sentiment. That exercising solo removes, what might be for many, the most significant obstacle to personal athletic and fitness success, a requirement of companionship.
Is companionship your fitness ‘obstacle’? Answer these questions:
- “Has lack of ‘companionship’ in the form of a partner, group, class, tribe, organizational structure, or social media following caused me to abandon a meaningful health, fitness, or athletic goal?”
- “Have I not planned, started, or completed a program because of lack of real or virtual support from another/others?”
- “Has the importance of accomplishing a personal health benchmark been diminished or downplayed in my mind and heart because of the paucity or absence of others’ enthusiasm, in-person or online?”
While we wait to obtain explicit or implicit social ‘permission’ to initiate and move forward on fitness quests from our intimate and wider circles of family, friends, and acquaintances we miss opportunities to become our better selves. Perhaps within those circles are individuals like us, waiting to see action outside of themselves.
We can commit, start, and become accountable, alone. The advantages are laid out in Medaris-Miller’s piece, as interpreted by Earned Runs:
All this talk of going it alone does not imply every workout or activity needs to or should be performed alone! Loneliness is a looming big health epidemic, after all.
Taking charge of your personal fitness regimen without requiring the approval or companionship of others is a matter of independence. Enjoying physical activity as a social being is a bonus, an added motivation to persevere in difficult efforts as an individual, when necessary.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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