In praise of community

Image description: 2015 Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon pre-race, Tracy, Anita, Rebecca, Julie, and Helia smiling with arms around each other posing for the camera, wearing their race gear and bibs, with people under a canopy behind them.
Image description: 2015 Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon pre-race, Tracy, Anita, Rebecca, Julie, and Helia smiling with arms around each other posing for the camera, wearing their race gear and bibs, with people under a canopy behind them.

One of the most dramatic shifts in my life from when Sam and I started the blog in 2012 to now has been from solitary workouts to training with others. I got to thinking about this because Anita is back after a year in the UK! And we are running together Sunday. And Morgan who we used to run with but moved to Ottawa is joining us (just this once; she’s visiting). And Julie who we used to run with a lot but who has been sidelined from doing more than short distances for months is going to jump in for 5K of our 14K outing.

And then we’re all going for brunch. And I get a warm feeling just thinking about it because I really, really, really, really, really missed the Sunday routine. I didn’t even realize how much until we threw the plans together this morning!

I’ve done a lot of stuff on my own this past year. And I’ve stuck with it, partly through virtual mutual support with Anita, partly through Linda’s mentoring and coaching, and partly out of self-awareness (knowing that training is one of the pillars of my routine, and my routines keep me grounded).

But despite being an introvert who values alone time, I also love being a part of supportive communities. Most things are easier and more fun when done with others.

I reflect, for example, on how enjoyable it was to write the book with Sam. We look back and it wasn’t even what we would call work. Yes, we had to put in some effort, but the overall feeling when I think back on those times is how relaxing and enjoyable it was. And yet writers often regard writing as a daunting task. Writer’s block plagues the best of us.

Training can be similar. Sometimes, a long run feels like an impossible challenge (in prospect). But when I know I’m going out with friends it’s that much easier. It’s even something to look forward to. The longer the better (within reason) because more time to socialize!

My theme this week has been about helpful suggestions for people starting out or who might be in a slump. I talked about starting small. And that’s for sure. But finding others who you can train with is similarly smart. It’s motivating to have a meeting time where not showing up means you’d not be following through on a commitment. It’s easier to complete the tough bits with other people who are suffering through the same challenge.

And it’s gratifying to find groups of people who care enough about the activities we do to talk about them. Non-runners, for example, don’t really care that much (or appreciate what it means even) about intervals and paces and race times and the humidity that day when you had those repeats to do! But fellow enthusiasts will haul out their own stories. Over brunch. What fun!

I’ve also found great support and energy in the wider community that has sprung up around the blog. Sam and I often marvel at what has organically (well, Sam has worked hard at keeping many means of connecting with Fit Is a Feminist Issue going — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — and managing the schedule, the guests, and maintaining a sense of community among the blog regulars as well) developed beyond what we ever expected when we set out to blog about our Fittest by 50 Challenge almost six years ago.

All this is to say that community holds us up. Yes, there are times where it has to be done alone. No one will climb that hill for you when you’re on your bike and struggling. No one can finish that marathon for you when you’re barely managing to put one foot in front of the other. And no one can push out those last two reps of the set but you. But even in those times, community can get you further. Maybe a more experienced or stronger cyclist will let you draft. Or a friend will join you for that last 5K and run in with you. Or your buddy who is spotting you on the set will utter a well-timed, “you got this!”

And in all cases, when there are people around you, you can share the achievement at the end–either in person or virtually.

When I consider now the importance of place my various communities have in my life, it’s tough to imagine how I got along without them.

How important (and in what way) is community to you in your fitness activities and sport?


4 thoughts on “In praise of community

  1. Love this post. I remember us arguing about working out alone or with others when this all began. It’s been fun to see the change. My theory is that fitness becomes more a part of your life you need to blend social time with workout time. But then you get to see all the benefits too to working out with others. Anyway, glad you’re loving your various fitness communities.

  2. This post hit a nerve (the smile nerve). I don’t do team sports, but at least half of my friends are from one of the communities associated with my activities. My closest friends are fellow swimmers. Both my oldest and newest friends are fellow dancers. And though I no longer ride with them, I get together with a few dear friends a couple of times a year to volunteer at a local equestrian competition. It builds community at work, too – our newest thing is the twice-a-day planking break. We all get together in the open area and do a series of exercises together, even in dresses.

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