Why work out alone when you could be playing pickleball with your new best friends? Spring is a great time to join one of hundreds of free or low-cost fitness groups, offering everything from coffee and biking to hiking and happy hour
By JANINE FRANK
Spring brings the promise of more time spent outdoors. Instead of hitting the treadmill or spin bike at the gym, you can get back to some of Colorado’s most spectacular outdoor locations for your favorite fitness activities.
If you’re looking into ramping up your exercise regimen and you enjoy the company—and, perhaps, accountability—of having others around, you might consider a fitness meet-up group.
Boulder County is home to hundreds of fitness groups focused on different types of exercise, from cycling to pickleball, volleyball, running, tai chi, tap dance, volleyball, sunrise hiking, full moon paddle boarding, or anything else under the sun or moon. Whatever your age, interest, or ability level, there is almost certainly an established group for you.
Many of these groups also have a secondary focus in addition to the physical part. Running is best when followed with a beer, according to Longmont Shoes and Brews and Boulder Pub Run Club. Breakfast is a great recovery meal (Boulder Trail Running Breakfast Club). Hiking and happy hour are a natural (Boulder Social Hikers). Cycling always pairs well with coffee (Coffee Outside Boulder).
Coffee Outside (coffeeoutside.ridewithgps.com) is a national grassroots effort with meet-up rides all over the United States. The Boulder group was co-founded by Alyssa Gonzalez, Kolby Clements and Josh Uhl. “We meet twice a month at North Boulder Park to make coffee, hangout, and sometimes ride our bikes” she says. “All rides after the coffee meetups are optional, but they're social rides open to all people who have a bike, no matter what type of bike it is.”
A 2016 study found that people who belong to groups were happier than others; the more groups they joined, the happier they became. Another study done a few years later, during the pandemic, found that people who identify as introverts also feel a higher sense of contentment when around others. Social disconnect is a reality for all personality types.
“Feeling included in a community can create a stronger sense of belonging, more confidence, and supportive environments for those involved,” Gonzales says. “There is a lot of power in exercising and moving on your own, but we've found that there's a lot of joy in group experiences as well—especially in a sport like cycling. Whether it's a social ride, big endurance adventure, or biking around town, it's really fun to have friends and people with you sharing that.”
The easiest way to find a group for you is to get on the social network MeetUp (meetup.com) and search for the activity and location you’re interested in. You can even search for a specific demographic for you and your future exercise companions: over 40, under 30, women without children, stay-at-home-dads, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, new moms, retired teachers, particular spiritual persuasions, singles, hiking with dogs, etc. The list is nearly endless.
One of the major benefits of these casual drop-in groups, is that there's no ongoing commitment or expensive membership. You can come and go as you please. Some groups, however, do ask you to sign up for each event in advance for planning purposes.
If it’s easier for you to go with a friend the first time, invite someone along. But if that doesn’t work out, go anyway. A new friend is almost certain to be waiting there for you.