Strength in Numbers

By Don Otis –

The Santa Rosa Plateau is a beautiful oak and Manzanita-strewn area hugging Riverside and San Diego Counties. The countless trails wind up and down canyons and provide views of 11,000’ peaks and Mt. Palomar Observatory to the south.

For the last three winters, I have made my way from Colorado to that beautiful spot. Two years ago I bumped into Rob, a chiropractor who happens to be a Christ-follower and avid mountain biker. While each of us ride alone most of the time, when we have company, we enjoy the experience even more.

Any time you start a new workout routine, having companionship can be the difference between success and falling back into old patterns of inactivity. The struggle for most of us is to find someone whose schedule meshes with our own. If this is the case for you, focus on the weekend where the time pressure is not a factor. For most of us, joining a gym may not be enough. Many gym memberships remain dormant shortly after a person signs up. Still, most gyms have programs or group activities–aerobics, spinning classes, or Silver Sneakers. If the energy from joining other “partners in pain” is helpful to you, then plan out your week or month to include some of the classes they offer.

There are some activities where partnership is important–not just for the motivational benefits, but also for safety. In North Idaho where I lived for fifteen years, my hikes in the Selkirk Mountains often included trailhead signs which read, “Beware! You are entering Grizzly habitat.” Since I often hike or climb alone, those signs caused me to think about what I was doing.

If you enjoy the outdoors, awareness of your surroundings is essential. Turn off the ear buds and focus on your environment. This applies equally for running, walking or biking in urban environments as well.

Team sports are another place to find camaraderie. You can participate in league sports though a gym or YMCA. Most areas also offer adult sports through Parks & Recreation. By joining others to work out, you gain not just a partner who keeps you accountable; you also push one another to improve.

In his book You Can Get There from Here, author Bob Knowling says, “People who don’t know what sports can do think of it as an endless collection of games with scores and stars and failures and winners and losers. For me, it was learning of lessons, hour by hour, that carried straight off the playing field and into my life.” i

Just as Bob Knowling discovered, we learn from sports, from teamwork, from being in the presence of others who share a common experience. I learned, as countless others have, that sports don’t have to stop in high school. Nor does one automatically have to get fat or out of shape at a certain age or stage of life. We have bought these lies that childbirth, turning 40, getting older, or becoming injured means we are washed up. This is simply untrue. We have also bought the lie that just because we were never an athlete in the past, we won’t be one in the future.

I want to encourage you this month to put aside the old stereotypes. Put aside the notion that you are “washed up” and can’t possibly get back to where you once were. I want to encourage you to find a workout partner or join a group activity that will keep you motivated even when you don’t feel like doing anything.

Comment below and let me know how it goes!

i Penguin, 2011, p. 38

About Don S. Otis

Don S. Otis is a personal trainer, the author of five books, including Staying Fit after 40. He stays active by running, climbing, mountain biking, and lifting weights. Don is the founder of Veritas Communications, a Christian publicity and marketing agency based in Canon City, CO.
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