Find your tribe, they said. Get an accountability partner. Join an online group. Follow an Influencer. Get plugged into a community. Try CrossFit. Join a hiking group.
These suggestions (or insistences) can make it easier. But what if, in the interest of getting fit, you don't fit.
Are you still here? Good. Because I want to tell you a secret - I don't fit either.
Lunges for the Loner
Sometimes a goal to move the needle on your wellness is met with greater resistance because you aren't a joiner. Or maybe you prefer to call it introverted. Or socially awkward. Anti-social? Can I get an amen for Frugal?! Or over-scheduled? I've used all of those monikers to describe myself to the puzzled enquirers. Guess what...they still don't get it. They may shrug and say that you just haven't found your people yet. Or you haven't properly prioritized your health.
I've joined regular group classes before. I've enjoyed it, made some acquaintances, achieved progress. But I never felt comfortable. Do you know why? Because I don't define myself by the physical activity that I engage in. I'm not one of those people.
Don't misunderstand, I'm not denigrating those people. If you run marathons on the regular you'll spend a significant amount of time training - it would make perfect sense to me to call yourself a Runner. If you are a member of a competitive dance team and you spend whole chunks of your week in the studio, you can understandably call yourself a Dancer.
But if you're like me, and you like to try different ways to move your body and some of them are enjoyable but you aren't IN LOVE with the idea of the cost-benefit ratio that accompanies defining yourself as a cyclist, then pull up a chair and I'll pour you a tall glass of solidarity to ease your saddle-soreness.
So what am I even saying here? It's harder for people without the support (nay, the companionship) of one or more other people - like, real life people.
It's harder to show up when no one is expecting you.
I'm going to make it all about me for a minute (fair warning): my husband works away from home over half of every year. You might think that he is my natural wellness companion. He basically promised to do my rep counts at the altar, but he isn't here for most of them. It's okay because, to be totally honest, I'm more committed to MY wellness when he's not here. When he's home I'm strangely consumed by my concern for HIS wellness. Which is good because I'm not totally sure he is ever worried about his wellness until three days before his annual physical. Truly, why would he be when his wife worries about it enough for the both of us? But I digress...
So in the absence of my wedded workout buddy I'm on my own. I could join a gym but I have a thing about spending money and gym childcare and germs and stuff (I realize I'm a weirdo, let's move on...), so what I've done is created a home gym. What no one tells you about a home gym is that unless you do it right, you'll never use it.
I hear you in the back, "do it right, Chay?!" Ugh, I'm literally like every other self-described fitness influencer out there telling you what THE way is (for the record I find it amusing that when I type "influencer" my computer suggests "influenza," I think they are suitable synonyms). But doing it right means not setting up a gym in your basement next to the box that contains the photos you never scrapbooked and the needlepoint you never finished. It has to be visible, intrusive even! And if you aren't ready to trip over your kettlebell on the way to the coffeemaker each morning then I suspect you'd be better served by a gym membership. Unless you have ironclad motivation; my sister-in-law visits her basement home gym darn near everyday but she probably isn't reading this...
But getting solo swole is possible without a home gym and stubbed toes. If you don't have the circumstances or aversion to locker rooms that I do then working the gym into your routine can be an excellent way of giving yourself a treat. Yeah, I said it, the gym can be a way to treat yourself!
I don't have to tell the moms of small children that an hour of toddler-free clinginess is heavenly. I've seen a girlfriend post a photo of herself just sitting in a lounge area of the gym relaxing while someone else wrangled her three girls for an hour. I don't know if she burned a single calorie in that hour and I don't care - she is surviving. And anytime you place yourself in an environment that promotes wellness is beneficial by osmosis, like charging up a battery to be used later.
But what about the working women who are moving from the chaos of the office to the chaos of home? Wouldn't 30 min of calming yoga or stress-reducing power lifting produce a welcome transition? Or the women hustling to climb that occupational ladder? Take 45 to show that stair-stepper whose boss while making your hair tall and checking your nails (that was a song reference for those unfamiliar with Lizzo, so dumb when you have to explain).
What about the woman recently diagnosed with an illness, or been given some other terrible news? Friend, I cannot tell you how therapeutic it is to work that out. I've been there; you feel completely out of control. You are torn between wanting to just give up and wanting to rage at everything and everyone. I promise you that a sweat sesh is a beautiful marriage of equal parts surrender and dominance.
How about personal development? I listen to podcasts, books, or just process the insanity of life while working out. Let's not forget that gyms have televisions basically attached to each cardio machine. Why not catch up on current events while improving your cardiovascular health rather than doing it while improving the width or your derrière on the sofa?
And why, pray tell, would you want to wait for a plank partner to realize the benefits of these very personal reasons for slapping on those luxe Lululemons?
What if I told you that the secret to real lasting change IS individual. Say you're a key member of a Crossfit "box" (that's what they call their gyms), and you have a falling out, or they close the doors, or some other such hiccup. Do you quit? I've known a few people who just stopped. They weren't sure who they were without their crew. Without your tribe will you still show up for only yourself?
This is why I believe that being a solitary exerciser is the most important fitness skill. It's fantastic if you've found a group - it can be incredibly motivating on the days when you just don't wanna. But having the get up and go when riding solo is the difference between a lifetime of uninterrupted health and one that starts and stops dependent upon your tribe.
So don't be sad, Valentine, you may not be able to smell the sweat of your closest friends but you aren't alone. The best way to ensure a lifetime of contentment is to be okay with being "lonely." Besides...if you get this thing down, you can eat those chocolates guilt-free.