As I traversed a beautiful landscape in southern Utah yesterday I noticed how profoundly alone I was. In a terrain void of trees I saw no other humans against the horizon, and heard nothing other than my own breath and shoes crunching on the loose rocks underfoot.
I’ve come to cherish the paradoxical feelings of alone-ness.
The subtle fear that arises when I convince myself that a mountain lion could well be stalking me. And the breathless awe I feel when I stop moving and can hear the flap of a bird’s wings overhead or the river gently trickling meters away.
The melancholy longing for a friend or loved one to be by my side to share in the wonder. And the power of resetting my sense of resiliency and resourcing inner peace when I heed the call of needing alone time.
I will always cherish the physical, spiritual and sensory experience of exercising and exploring nature alone, yet I can not ignore the balanced need to share these same activities with loved ones.
A couple of days ago I took a yoga class with my nephew and marveled at how connecting it felt to participate in this type of movement together. Later that night we stayed up until after 3am talking about everything under the sun and moon. Perhaps the sense of relating to one another, quietly side by side as we followed an instructor’s lead opened a new layer of closeness that allowed our conversation to flow into deep and personal territory later on.
I’ve noticed the same seems to happen when I’m riding bikes with my dad around the country, or taking miles-long walks with my mom, or hiking with my partner and my close friends. I’ve had some of the most meaningful conversations in my life with each of my loved ones in the midst of those moments. I’ve also felt the most beautiful moments of kinship in the silent pockets between.
We so often focus on the singular physical benefits of exercise when it comes to personal self care that we neglect the many benefits that happen when we engage in activities with others.
Beside the deep connection and conversation that may arise, consider several more reasons why you may wish to build in physical activities in community with others:
- Motivation: Exercising with others can provide motivation and accountability that you may not be able to resource on your own. When working out with friends or in a group, you are more likely to stick to your exercise routine and push yourself harder.
- Socializing: Physical activities can be a unique and different way to socialize and spend time with your friends or family, especially if your typical hangouts tend to be on the sedentary side. Taking classes or being out in nature can also provide an opportunity to meet new people who share similar interests.
- Fun: Doing physical activities with others can make the experience more enjoyable and fun for you. Laughing, chatting, and enjoying the outdoors or a workout class can naturally boost your mood and reduce stress.
- Safety: In certain activities such as hiking or team sports, it is safer to have a group of people to watch out for each other and provide support in case of an injury or emergency (you know, when the mountain lions strike!).
- Learning: Working out with others can provide you with an opportunity to learn new skills, techniques, or tips from others who may be more experienced than you.
Overall, doing physical activities with others can have many perks beyond just the physical benefits of exercise. It’s a perfect way to enhance social connections, provide motivation and accountability, and make the experiences more enjoyable and fun.
I personally will continue to relish the benefits of both solo and group exercise and nature exploration. In either case, I always feel as if I get to know myself and my body, to tap into my spirit, to sharpen my mind and to nourish my heart in profoundly beautiful ways.
Written by Cari Rogers, co-owner of Tribe and founder of HealThySelf. Cari loves to partner with people who believe that the body has an incredible capacity to heal under the right circumstances and with the right support.