To Group or Not to Group - Now THAT Is the Question!

It's me - Beginning Anew

Same ol' me but I finally changed my blog name to match my email.  Go me! It only took what, 10 years?  I'm still walking and now running - a little.  I'm still overweight but I'm gaining ground in health and fitness and I know, I will turn a corner and soon!

On my mind for quite some time is the dilemma, to group or not to group.  In fitness, in the effort to "stay in shape", "get in shape" or "be a shape other than blob shape" one question that keeps coming up for me is to join others in group effort or go it alone.  I have been working on this quest for health for several years and I have seen the scenarios play out on both sides. Some good, some bad and sure, some ugly.

Does it matter?  I think so... its actually a pretty big decision and for me, a decision I feel pretty fickle about and I'm pretty sure, when I get down to it, there ain't nothing pretty about it.  So what gives?

I started out with small efforts in a small group of one.  Well, as we all know, a group of one is great, until its not. As a solo exerciser there is no one to make me feel guilty if I don't show up, no one to suggest we walk at the one place I truly hate, no one to talk through the walk and expect me to respond even if I am barely breathing already and yeah, its all about me.  Which can be nice.  All the choices such as location, time, length of walk etc. are mine and there is no one to answer to.  Yay! Only problem is that group gets boring and lonely and discouraging.  That solo show tends to fizzle out.  The freedom to choose gives into the freedom to choose to do nothing... Yeah, group of one, the loneliest work-out group of all.

Enter semi-willing husband.  So I guilted my guy into walking with me.  He owed me and he needed it too, he just didn't want to admit it.  We went out several times a week and hoofed it around the dog park with our little fellas and they loved it.  We loved it.  But spousal work out partners can also be problematic.  When he was too busy, I wouldn't go, when he seemed unwilling, I felt discouraged. Then, when his schedule changed and he absolutely couldn't go, I fell off, for a whole year. I realized spouse work out partnership is good, but sometimes not sustainable.  

Back to the drawing board.  We have an annual, state-wide clinic in Arkansas called "Women Run Arkansas"  I had done it before and last year I decided to do it again in hopes of finding some like minded folks to join up with. All good and I did find a couple of groups and all was well.  Then I found that not all groups are created equal and the dilemma took another turn. Within the world of group running I found two distinct sub groups, the "we are friends on the road" group and the "we are a social group that runs too" group.  Side note:  I am not very good at the social thing. I am pretty much a loner with a family I hang out with for my social cup filling and runnething over... so I waded into the group waters hesitantly, watching for sharks in sheep's clothing...

I liked the looseness of the runners who did not keep tabs and did not socialize outside of running. Freedom to show up when you want to and do your thing. Freedom to miss a run or two and not feel guilt.  No obligations.  No socially challenging moments.  The down side is they do their own thing too.  If you don't run as fast as them, you run alone, which can be scary at 5 a.m. No one harasses you if you miss a run, as long as you give adequate notice, but no one holds you accountable either. Its a mixed bag.

Then I joined up with a social running group and it was really nice because you have folks that will hang back and pace with you.  You have folks that harass you a little and keep you accountable. But I find that in this group, I have to constantly be on guard that I don't fall into "people pleasing" and social pressures. There is an element of moving forward at the same pace, of committing to do the whole work out/get healthy en groupe, which is so important to some folks but not so much to me.   The bottom line, is I do this for me, for my health and I need the autonomy to come and go according to my needs and not always worry about what pace others are doing or miles they are doing, or goals they are setting.

I believe in setting goals but also listening to my body, mind and soul.  I don't want my inspiration to come totally from others, I want it to come from me.  From deep inside me.  I found in the social group I started to loose my way a little and my motivation - until I just said - NO - I cannot always make choices based on what is best for the group...I have to do what feels right for me.  I can be considerate to a point and be a group participant, so long as I can be true to myself as well. I think that is going well.  I haven't been kicked out - yet.

No one ever asked me to give up my autonomy, it is just a hazard for me, my personality, to submit to group mentality even if it doesn't feel right for me.  So I am finding I can join in some group goals and say no thank you to others.  I also have kept ties with runners from the other less social group.  I will keep going out with them as well.  Freedom to be me is important.  It is a huge part of my process.

In the end, hovering somewhere in the middle.  Every week as a walker/runner is a new week.  While I would like to be more scheduled, more dedicated, more everything, as a recovering perfectionist I have to be honest, sometimes less is more and as long as I am moving forward, I am happy with my progress.

To group or not to group?  Honestly, it depends on the day.  I'm too social to be a total loner and too independent to rely solely on a group.  As long as my feet hit the pavement though, I think I can be a fickle pickle and leave the definitive answer to the question for another day.  Some days sweet and some days sour. Variety I can live with and hopefully my groups will be kosher!

That's all ~ Thanks Y'all!

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