As camaraderie and warmth beckon from the fitness studio, we hit the snow running and remember the reasons to be a tribe of one.
Our Sports & Fitness Editor Jahla Seppanen shares what motivates her to get out for a winter run, despite the plethora of alternative warm, indoor workouts.
A notification rings from my cell phone, waking me up. I tuck my feet under the blankets. Another “bing” prompts me to read the messages. There’s a series of emails and weather alerts that remind me the holidays are almost here. Cold temperatures and hot deals, family reminding you of holiday parties. The December run-around. Yawning a long stretch through my arms and legs, I think first and foremost about getting a workout in before errands and chores. Like many, it’s my way of creating balance.
On any given morning, sunshine, rain or snow, there are more than a dozen group fitness classes within a ten-mile radius of my home. With the rise of boutique workout concepts and expanding high-volume, low-price gym franchises, the options are pretty much endless. And I’ve tried them all, from Orangetheory Fitness to CorePower Yoga to Barre, Soul Cycle, CrossFit, Zumba, UFC boxing and more.
Just thinking of each fitness modality summons the image of its respective tribe, the suburban moms getting their Zumba groove on or the stoic meat-and-beer lovers of CrossFit. Although I don’t belong exclusively to one, I feel a kinship to many fitness circles. That is the beauty of today’s world of workout. It enables anyone to feel connected and find what fits.
Still indecisive on which tribe I belong to today, I get out of bed and open the blinds to an expanse of winter snow sagging the trees beyond my balcony. Much of the snow is untouched, as my neighbors opt to stay indoors where it’s warm. Drinking coffee on the couch while binge-watching the newest Netflix season is tempting, but I don’t hibernate.
Another chime from my phone breaks the calm and in an instant I know that today I am a tribe of one. Despite the much-touted benefits of exercising with a group, such as increased feelings of accountability, motivation and connectedness, there’s plenty of reasons to go solo, especially in the winter. Clearing time for the meditative solace of a run can promote detachment and peace — not the kind of detachment that separates you from the rhythms of the world, quite the opposite. It’s the kind that weeds out the static of electronics and social media feeds, connecting you to your breath and feet as they hit the earth. The elements of winter call for an even greater awareness, as navigating slick ice, slush puddles and falling drifts require a heightened consciousness of yourself and your immediate environment.
Yes, today I choose a lone run. My wellbeing requires it.
Suiting up in layers and hooking traction to my shoes, I feel unstoppable before even leaving the house. Although the sound is off, my phone lights up on that table as if saying, “listen to your playlist, track your distance, track your time; can you beat your best?” But sometimes a run isn’t about data and it isn’t about logging another entry to post on Facebook. I leave my phone and shed my wrist wearable. Sometimes running can be a secret between me and my shoes.
Outside it feels twice as cold as what the weather report said online. I thank myself for wearing the warmer hat and gloves, although they might not be the best looking. Filling my stomach and chest with breath, I take the first step, marking the sheeted snow as if I were the only person on earth. Cold wraps itself around me and for a brief moment I consider turning back. But as the saying goes, it’s only cold if you’re standing still.
What drives many to run, and run when the weather is cold and rough, has gone largely unspoken during the past year as group exercise rose to dominate the fitness conversation. And yet many consumers that walk into big-box or specialty running stores are not driven to exercise because of a group. Instead, it’s personal. This customer may be thinking less of style and more of fabric blends that promote greater breathability and heat insulation. They may be looking to sign up for a newsletter that includes expert tips on layering and traction choices instead of the latest Instagram hashtag contest. This season, we challenge you to not forget the tribe of one.