As I’ve mentioned here in the past, I didn’t learn to enjoy exercise until adulthood in large part because of my negative experiences in physical education classes.
To summarize that post for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, my gym teachers never explained why exercise was an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. It was something we were compelled to do without being told why it was important.
They also put such a heavy emphasis on competition and team sports that I didn’t realize there were many other options for those of us who have no interest in winning or playing on a team. While I understand that my school districts weren’t wealthy ones and couldn’t afford specialized equipment, in the post I linked to above I did come up with quite a few alternative forms of exercise that they could have incorporated into gym classes without breaking the bank.
It was only when I discovered all of the solitary, non-competitive ways to get a workout in that I began to look forward to this part of my regular routine. Not everyone has these same needs, but I’m happier exercising alone for the following reasons:
1. Peace and Quiet
Some people are energized by loud music or the cacaphony of sounds that occur when a large group of people are all using the same facilities.
I am not one of them. While I do spend time in loud, crowded places, they are never the first place to come to mind when I’m deciding where I’d like to go. To me, this would be like going to your dentist’s office just to hang out and listen to the distant hum of the dentist drilling someone’s tooth to fix a cavity.
If that’s something you find amusing, fantastic. I can think of a very long list of places I’d rather be instead, though, and none of them involve drills or ear-splitting gym tunes.
2. No Scheduling Conflicts
Many of the people I know do not greet mornings with joy. While I’m leaping out of bed and feeling my highest energy levels of the day, they’re drinking coffee and barely keeping their eyes open.
If we were to attempt to synchronize our schedules, it would be tricky to balance their sleepy reactions to the morning with how I tend to behave in the evenings. There have also been times when my workouts lasted for shorter or longer periods of time than I thought they would based on how I was feeling that day.
Exercising by myself simply makes more sense until or unless I meet another unapologetic morning person who takes the same approach to fitness that I do.
3. Personalized Fitness Goals
As I mentioned above, competition does nothing to encourage me to exercise. In fact, it discourages me from pushing myself harder due to how much I dislike the winner vs. loser approach to getting fit.
What does work for me is to set personalized fitness goals that I can easily measure and track. This could be a short-term goal like increasing my step count or a long-term goal like reducing my body fat percentages. I like the process of keeping track of numbers like these and seeing how they change over time. If a friend wanted to see my statistics for some reason, I wouldn’t have a problem sharing them.
It’s the competition I’m really trying to avoid, and keeping my goals personalized is an excellent way for me to do just that.
4. Shorter, More Efficient Workouts
Occasionally, I have exercised with other people. It’s been my experience that a lot of folks enjoy talking throughout their workouts.
I enjoy conversations in just about any other setting, but I really don’t like pausing a workout in order to chat. If I’m lifting weights or walking briskly, I want to focus on how I’m moving my body instead of what so-and-so said last week.
Socializing is important, but I’ve found that I get much better results when I completely separate that from staying fit.
Do you prefer to exercise alone or with a group of people?