How Exercising with Others Keeps you Moving
Kelly Spreha, president of HARRC
Getting motivated can be the hardest part of developing a workout routine, but thanks to a push for group workouts, it’s never been easier to get off the couch.
“When you’re so used to walking with somebody three nights a week, and you go down to not seeing them, it’s something I miss,” says Shelly Eby. “I might get grumpy because I have to do it, but once I start, it makes me feel so much better that I actually got out and did it.”
Eby is talking about her walks with Kathleen Eves who, despite living only a half mile down the road from her, didn’t know Eby until they met as part of a Facebook walking group started by Eby’s friend, Mark Seaton. Now, two and a half years later, Eby, Eves and Seaton all work together to organize walks with the group “Walk, Central PA, Walk” (WCPW), which anyone can join via meetup.com.
“It’s a nice website because I can post everything in advance, and it allows for RSVP so we know who’s coming,” says Seaton.
It all began with Seaton’s mission to “protect the health of the nation,” however, he credits a friend in Jordan with the idea of a walking group.
“There was this guy there who started these walking groups,” says Seaton. “And they started with five people, and now if you go on their site, it’s thousands of people. ...They have to wear vests and block traffic to protect the walkers.”
Eby laughs, “He suckered me in.”
WCPW doesn’t slow down for much. Only on a few occasions has inclement weather stopped the group from their brisk pace.
“The only reason I canceled last year was if the roads were icy because I didn’t want anybody risking to drive, but even if it snowed, if it was even just a nice little snow, we would walk. Eves and I walked in a hailstorm,” says Eby.
It’s easy to wonder why Eby, Seaton and Eves, as well as the other 1,436 members in their meetup.com group, are interested in walking in a group when they can walk alone, peacefully contemplating their life’s goals or troubles. It is much easier to hide in the comfort of anonymity, so why engage in an activity such as walking for miles – an exercise that is typically free of technological distraction and that encourages spontaneous conversation, with others, sometimes strangers – instead of working out alone?
“I do it because of the camaraderie,” says Eby. “You know, walking alone is OK. I can talk to my dog, but she’s not going to answer me.”
Eves adds, “It’s also like a commitment.”
“Accountability,” says Seaton.
Kelly Spreha, president of the Harrisburg Area Road Runners Club (HARRC), agrees with the organizers of WCPW. “You’re a lot more likely to follow through if you know either you have at least one other person or if there’s a group that you’re planning to meet. ...I think also just the camaraderie – you know, the social aspect. It’s a lot more fun.”
There’s no reason to feel intimated either, because there’s no level of fitness required to join the WCPW or HARRC.
For example, Seaton schedules a “stroll” on Friday nights, and Eby and Eves organize fitness walks during the week with miles-per-minute goals.
“I don’t want to discourage anybody from joining us,” says Eby.
For those who are interested in a more aerobic workout, HARRC welcomes runners of all levels as well.
“We have people who are just starting out and definitely do more of a walk-run,” says Spreha. “And then we have some people who are more competitive. They’re faster, but I would say those are fewer.”
Regardless of the social and physical benefits of exercising, it is tempting to opt for sitting on the couch under a fleece blanket instead of strapping on sneakers and heading out into the cold. Even so, the motivation to get moving is only a thought away.
“I like thinking at least that I’m providing some sort of service to the community,” says Seaton. “It’s neat to catch up with them week-to-week and see what’s going on.”
Eby shares her experience when she was in Weight Watchers as her motivation for joining the walking club. “I was bellyaching about having to exercise. I got to a point where I wasn’t losing any weight without exercising.”
That’s when her instructor said that if Christopher Reeves could get out of his wheelchair and exercise, she was sure he would.
“That shut me up, and I started exercising shortly after that. …That’s always in the back of my mind, that there are people out there who aren’t able to do it. I am able to do it. So I get out and do it. Be thankful that I can.”
And for Eves, it’s not just the social interaction; it’s the “getting out and moving.”
“You know, I’m one of the oldest ones in the group,” says Eves, “so I just figure I have to keep moving because once you stop, then you can’t do it. You have to do it as long as you can because you just never know what’s ahead.”
And isn’t it better to walk into the unknown with a friend?