accessibility · athletes · body image · fitness · training

Come join in the fun

It’s a familiar theme among both beginners and more seasoned athletes, the idea that you need to train on your own in order to be fit enough to join in with others. I’ve fallen prey to this reasoning myself and it’s almost always a mistake.

If you like to work out alone, that’s one thing, but if you’d rather train with others but you don’t because you fear you’re not fit enough, then you might be making a mistake.

If groups say they welcome beginners, all levels, they mean it.

Here’s one example: I keep meeting people who say they want to join Crossfit but who think they have to get in shape first. Crossfit, they say, is for fit people to get even more fit. And in the case of Crossfit, I’d say their own advertising doesn’t help. And so these aspiring Crossfitters slog away, on their own, training to meet what they think of as the entrance requirements of a group that actually doesn’t have any.

There are Crossfit beginners classes, personal training programs, and boot camp classes that serve as entry points for new people. All the workouts are scalable and there’s a pretty big range of levels across the members.

Here’s another example: Among cyclists, I’ve met lots of people who buy bikes, ride on their own for years, waiting to get faster, hoping someday they’ll be fast enough to join a group. (Trade secret: if you ride your bike at 20 km/hr for 2 hours all you’re doing is getting better at riding 20 km/hr for 2 hours. You need to push yourself and other people help.)

There are groups that welcome beginners and you’re much better off riding with other people than you are on your own. Local bike shops often offer group rides for new bike owners too. In London, you can check out the London Cycling Club. Group rides are faster, safer, and much less dull for longer distances. You learn about riding in a group and learn lots about riding and bike fitness from more experienced riders.

Runners might be the only group that gets this right with a wide range of learn to run and 5 km programs that are obviously geared to beginners.

If you want to run, ride, or lift weights in your own, that’s terrific. But if you’re avoiding groups because you think you need to get in shape to join, for most groups that’s a mistake.

Come out and play with us!

7 thoughts on “Come join in the fun

  1. Great post! I think this is a major barrier for a lot of people either trying to get in shape or trying to get back into shape. I’m facing something similar- I’ve been an athletic and active person for years, but this year I am recovering from a major illness and suddenly I can’t do what I used to do- its nice to remember the beginner groups are out there and that you don’t have to be a beginner to benefit from them.

    1. Yes, it can be hard to go back. That’s the mistake I made, training on my own rather than joining a group below the one I was in. Silly pride.

  2. Too true on the running front.

    My beef with the running groups I’ve tried is that the 5K groups were _only_ geared toward beginners.

    I’m a middle distance runner. I don’t want to run marathons. I want to get faster at running 5K and 10K. But everyone else in the 5-10K training groups were only using them as stepping stones from Learn to Run (Which is a great program for absolute beginners, but truly is geared toward brand new, just-getting-up-off-the-couch beginners. Most people only do it for one session.) to the marathon/half marathon training groups. People kept asking me, “Laura, you’re so good. Why are you still in the 5K group?” as if I was somehow voluntarily choosing not to “graduate” to the real deal.

    1. I’m with you on liking the middle distances, 5 and 10 km. For awhile the Running Room had two five km groups one for beginners and one for people who wanted to improve their time.

  3. In my town, the LRS (local running store) has a few regularly scheduled runs, and accommodates all levels. I’ve found it nice as I’ve advanced from beginner to advanced beginner to intermediate. Newbies are always welcome, and the group size is such that there’s a critical mass of all paces.

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