By Don Otis –
I set out on a mountain bike ride recently on the back side of Pikes Peak in my home state of Colorado. It was atop this behemoth of a mountain that Katherine Lee Bates wrote “America the Beautiful” in 1893, first as a poem. The peak dominates the west side of Colorado Springs and is the easternmost 14,000-foot mountain in the United States.Tucked behind the mountain are limitless trails, mostly undiscovered and unspoiled, with views that are worthy of National Geographic. It was on a 20-mile ride that a friend of mine and I stumbled into a physician who was riding the trails alone. Ordinarily, this is not a good idea, especially when you are plummeting down single track trails at speeds that can reach 30 miles per hour.
In the 40-plus years I have been running, most of it has been alone. On rare occasion, I have companionship but it is infrequent. In the mountains I often hike alone, not so much because I want to, but because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have anyone to join me.
Six years ago while standing at a trailhead in the remote Selkirk Wilderness in North Idaho, a sign startled me: “Warning! You are entering Grizzly Habitat.” I paused for a moment, took inventory of my life, and proceeded on alone to complete a 13-mile hike. Along the path, as I heard rustling in the bushes, the adrenaline pumped new energy into my step!
Through the years I have met people who would never venture out alone. And in some instances, especially if you are a female, doing so is unwise. If you love to hike, bike, walk, or workout in a gym and you have no companionship, what are you supposed to do? This is a question I settled for myself long ago. While we live in a culture where people want their independence, they rarely do their fitness or exercise routines without the companionship or camaraderie of others nearby. I understand this. A workout partner provides both motivation and accountability. If you have a spouse or friend in your life who enjoys what you do, consider yourself fortunate.
In most communities there are hiking, biking, running or walking clubs. These include people of all fitness levels who enjoy the same activity. If you prefer companionship when you workout, even if it is occasionally, find a group and become a part of it. In San Diego, where I worked six months this year, the San Diego Track Club puts on regional races and offers companionship and training support. At most fitness clubs, you can find group classes for spinning or aerobics.
If you are new to working out, look for others to join you in your journey. Look at fitness the same way you do other major areas of your life–your marriage, children, spiritual life–and recognize it takes time and commitment before the results ensue. Be patient and perseverant. If you don’t have a workout companion, find creative ways to keep yourself accountable. For example, develop goals and write these down. Keep track of everything you do by maintaining a log or workout diary. Then, prioritize your workouts by letting others know of your pledge to start or maintain a healthier lifestyle. In other words, use a preemptive approach to any obstacles (and there will be plenty), that get in the way of your long term success and commitment.
Don S. Otis is the president and founder of Veritas Communications, the author of Staying Fit after 40, and Whisker Rubs: Developing the Masculine Identity. He is a certified fitness trainer.