Working out alone and with others

51v5+SxQxyL._SS500_This morning when the alarm went off at 6:15 for our Monday workout my husband hit snooze. We are trying home workouts for awhile because we feel as if we have worked with our trainers long enough. So, we have committed to being each other’s training partner.

One of the reasons I’ve worked out with trainers or training partners at different times in my life is accountability. Many a time, I wouldn’t have made it out the door if I hadn’t promised someone I’d be there.

During this morning’s snooze, I found myself hoping, wishing, almost praying even that my training partner would suggest that we sleep in later. I hoped this, knowing full well that if we did sleep in later we would be less likely to work out (time pressures). But I didn’t want to be the one to suggest it. After ten minutes, the snooze ended, the alarm came on again, and Renald said, “Okay, let’s get up.” And we did. And within a few minutes (because I’m the kind of person who, once out of bed is pretty much good to go), I was really glad I did.

And that’s been my experience with just about every workout, yoga class, run, swim, bike ride, walk of my life. Get me as far as the gym, mat, door and I’m in! But my general disposition in many things, including running and swimming, is to do it in solitude. As valuable as a partner might be for getting me past the initial irrational resistance, one of the real allures of these sorts of activities for me is the time alone.

I’ve been reading Haruki Murakami’s running/writing memoir, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running. Some of the things he says about solitude resonate strongly with me. For example:
I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on it, I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring…

…the hour or so I spend running, maintaining my own silent, private time, is important to help me keep my mental well-being. When I’m running I don’t have to talk to anybody and I don’t have to listen to anybody. All I need to do is gaze at the scenery passing by. This is a part of my day I can’t do without.

I feel the same way. When I see packs of runners going by, I occasionally feel a bit of envy for the camaraderie, but my more visceral reaction is aversion. Why? Because I love this time alone. I have always sought solitude and silence, and running is a perfect opportunity for it.

The first endurance sport I did with any commitment was swimming. I know you can swim with groups. Samantha pointed out in the comments on her great post about working out with others that she would never have done alone the drills she did with the Master’s swimming group. She mentioned something similar in her post about training with groups. And that may be. I myself am thinking that for specific drill work, the energy of doing it with others might be necessary. But in general, what I loved about swimming was settling into a silent rhythm.

Before I practiced meditation, swimming had a meditative effect (I’ll be writing about meditation in a separate post later this week). I’ve found the same with both walking and running, and more recently with cycling.

I don’t want to sound completely anti-social, so I will add a qualifier. What I liked most about Samantha’s post about running and riding with friends was her suggestion that it forces you to mix up your pace in a way that doing these things consistently alone will just not do. Alone, I know that I am going to settle into my own pace and rhythm, and that won’t be all that different from what it was last time unless I am *very* conscious of it, as for example when I do intervals.

Doing these activities with friends who are either slower or faster, or who are better at maintaining a recovery pace or a fast run as the day’s plan requires, can make the world of difference. It can also just be a fun thing to do with a friend instead of going out for lunch or coffee. In other words, the benefits don’t have only to do with benefits to training.

Samantha recently emailed me some information about group runs. There is one club that meets just at the top of my street and has regular programs. I got as far as reading about their 10K training workshop. And if I wasn’t traveling so much over the next couple of months, I might even have signed up. But I didn’t.

They have group runs every Sunday morning, right around the same time I head out the door myself. I could wander up the street to join them, but so far I have not felt inspired to do that. Sunday morning is my favourite time to run alone. At this point in my life, I feel as if I would be giving something up, not gaining something, by joining a group.

I won’t really know what it’s like until I give it a try. And I’m not averse to trying at some point, most likely when I embrace a more serious distance goal beyond the 10K.

11 thoughts on “Working out alone and with others

  1. I struggle with similar issues. I realize that working out with others can often lead to improved performance. I also enjoy the comraderie sometimes. But I actually don’t want the company some of the time, as working out is also a means by which I re-connect with myself, and both let out aggression and gain serenity. The “serenity” part is more difficult to attain when working out with others, for me anyway. Putting into words what I get out of working out alone is actually very difficult. I think the spiritual nature of it makes me think that to express it properly, I need to be wiser in some ways and most certainly, a better writer!

  2. Or maybe I can use the old cop-out, and call the experience ineffable.:)

  3. I’m going to write about this more later this week, when I talk about meditation and working out. I find working out with weights alone can be just as meditative as running or swimming. I used to do it a lot more than I do now. In that sense, there is certainly a spiritual element to it that goes beyond just connecting with myself (though there is definitely that). Sounds as if you experience something similar.

  4. Definitely. I get it from both weight training and from interval training. Problem I have is expressing it properly. The more zen-type language you use, the further you seem to get away from the fact that a great deal of it is tied to rage – controlled rage for sure. Speaking about such things in the same breath as serenity and spirituality isn’t easy, that is, describing it in a way that nails it or at least has the ring of truth to it I find to be difficult, despite that I experience the truth of both. Hoping you can do it better than I!

  5. If rage is a major fuel for you then I’m not sure you’ll find my post helpful in expressing your experience accurately. It’s going to be published on Thursday, so I guess we’ll see! I think it’s pretty normal to use weights (especially) as a healthy outlet for stress and anger. But that’s not what my post is going to be about.

  6. I’m not sure what I’m referring to is an “outlet” for stress and rage, at all. While exercise in general might serve as such an outlet, I think that focused aggression and even controlled rage plays a major factor in pushing oneself to exceed one’s own limits – to become more fit. I think that’s more what I’m talking about. Think about Sam’s talking about how to live larger and yell louder in Aikido. Doing so has both a physical and psychological effect on you, your opponent and your performance!

Comments are closed.