How many times have you stayed indoors when at the start of the day, you had the intension to go out, whether it be for a walk, run, cycle or sports? We’ve all done it. Recent research by Ordnance Survey has revealed that nearly half of us say it’s too cold to be outside during winter months with 1 in 10 of us never go out for a walk at all!
Outdoor exercise and fresh air make a fundamental difference to both our physical and mental wellbeing, especially in winter. There are many ways you can help yourself keep on track; challenges, apps, words of motivation stuck on your fridge, but there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get you outside and that’s joining other people.
If you’re lucky enough to know someone who shares your love of the great outdoors or has the same hobby, then arrange a time and place to meet up. Once you’ve made a commitment with someone else, you’ll be less likely to back out than if you’ve planned to go out alone. Plus, it’s likely you’ll be looking forward to seeing them and telling them about your day.
You may not have friends that are into the same things as you but there are millions of others up and down the country that are. If you’re looking for a way to keep you outside and motivated throughout the year, then joining a club or group will do just that.
There are hundreds of thousands of groups offering organised outdoor activities like boot camps, tennis, running, walking, gardening, sea swimming, sports leagues, just to name a few. There are a few things you can do to find one near you…
1. Speak to people. Word of mouth continues to be the most powerful tool at getting information across. A personal recommendation goes along way.2. Get online. A quick Google search of groups/clubs/leagues in your area (or type ‘near me’) will introduce you to a whole host of resources. If you know what activity you’d like to do, then even better. RunTogether, TimeOutdoors and MeetUp are all good examples.
3. There are official organisations for most outdoor activities where you can find clubs. The Lawn Tennis Association, England Athletics (running), The Football Association, Cycling UK and the Ramblers are good examples.
4. Facebook. Facebook is full of groups you can join and find out more about. You’ll often find smaller groups/clubs on here which are usually cheaper (or free!) to join.
5. Look to volunteer. If you’re not sure what outdoor activity you’d like to take up, then volunteering outside will keep you committed. You could volunteer at your local ParkRun or GoodGym to keep active outside throughout the year.
Signing up and having set times and dates in your diary is a huge help to getting outside. But most of these clubs cost very little and if you choose to stay put cosied up on the sofa, then the session will still go ahead. “Why should I join a club then?” You may ask. Well, it’s human nature to enjoy the company of others and it’s nice to see a familiar face. So, whether you make close friends or not, the feeling of we’re ‘all in it together’ is a powerful one and it’s much easier to persevere when it’s blowing a hooley, if you’re joined by someone else. You may even have a giggle about how mad you both are!
Three years ago, I joined a small local running club who meet on Monday nights for a walk, jog or run. Meeting outside the library, we split ourselves up into different groups depending on our ability and how we feel that night. Groups range from a 3km walk with dogs in tow to a 10km speedy run so there’s something for everyone.
I started off in the 5km jogging group and over a year worked myself up to 10km. However, I didn’t join to become a better runner, improve my fitness nor (admitdly) to get outside more often, I joined to meet new people. Asking my newfound friends why they also signed up I received a mixed response with hardly anyone joining to become better at running. Many of their reasons involved mental health, making friends, wanting to lose weight, loneliness, escaping from home life, time away from the kids. When asking if the club has met expectations I was met by an outstanding YES and more!
Our club provided a lifeline during lockdown, even when we couldn’t run together. We’d go out purely in the hope we’d spot someone we knew so we could wave at them from afar. When we could run in twos, we buddied up, taking it in turns to run together and forming closer friendships as a result. Thanks to the support of others in the club, almost everyone has significantly improved their fitness with many now running marathons, ultras and continue to smash their Park Run PBs. Today, Monday nights are once again filled with smiles and laughter and many people meet up during the week as well. Belonging to something is a great feeling and having the support and commitment from joining a club/group helps me get outside every day.
So, for me and many others, I run to see friends, to talk, to enjoy coffee with after, to belong to a group. It’s these people that get me outside more than anything else.
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