As I started to lace up my running shoes, my hands began to tremble. Even though the idea of group fitness has always shaken me to my core, I was here. I was joining a running club. If you’ve had the chance to read my post regarding resolutions, you’ll know my only goal for the year is to live my life without fear. Well, on day two of 2019, it was officially time to abandon my comfort zone. I was completely petrified. A few months ago, the thought of voluntarily running with 30+ people would have caused immediate stress sweats. I find exercising around others extremely intimidating. As soon as I signed up for the group, my inner voice told me I was going to fail. I won’t lie to you, I sincerely thought about leaving more than10 times before we were scheduled to run. I had excuses for days. “I just worked all day.” “I didn’t drink enough water.” “I should have stretched more before I got here.” I was 99.9% ready to bail. Just as I was about to sneak away, I was approached by one of the group leaders, Robyn. She was getting ready to explain the route to the newcomers. I held on to that .1% telling me to stay and began to listen.
The group I ran with that night is called “Running for Brews”. The club is comprised of individuals who are passionate about both exercise and beer. I was sold. When I found their Facebook page, I was immediately drawn to their laidback mission statement: “Running for Brews is for those who enjoy getting out and breaking a sweat amongst the company of other fellow runners and topping it off with an awesome craft brew and some great conversation.” I signed the online waiver and recorded the meeting date in my planner. I mean, I was about to run full force out of my comfort zone, I was going to need a beer afterward. Robyn explained that there were three routes we could choose from: a one, two and three-mile option. I decided to pick the two-mile route around the gorgeous Lake Eola. At 7 on the dot, we started to run. At that moment, my fear disappeared. These people loved running just as much as I did. It was incredible. I never have the opportunity to mix up my route during my daily runs. Being able to exercise near the beautiful lake was an appreciated change of pace. Speaking of pace, the best part of this group is that no one expects you to be an expert runner. Whatever pace you’re running at is perfect. This lack of judgment was helpful because near the end I found myself at the back of the pack.
At first, I was discouraged. I run every day but I’m still the slowest one? I started to convince myself that this entire experience was a mistake. Not today, inner voice! I refocused, pushed those thoughts away and continued to run, mentally greeting every swan I saw. My two-mile run eventually shifted into three-miles after I found myself lost in the park. Guys, I’m not sure how that happened. Then again, my sense of direction is atrocious, so I’m not surprised. Using my GPS to find my way back to the meeting place, I arrived just as the runners from other routes were finishing. Everyone looked so happy. This made the panic I felt prior to the meeting seem absurd. These were a group of people who enjoyed running just as much as I did. It felt like I was a part of something bigger. This isn’t a feeling I usually associate with exercise and it was amazing. I stuck around for a beer and casually chatted with a few members of the group. Even though my first run with the group was very relaxed, I felt like I had just conquered the world. I'd previously convinced myself that this new experience would be terrifying, but I stuck with it anyway. I left the running club feeling like I could accomplish anything.
Sometimes your brain can convince you that the unknown should be avoided at all costs. Whether it’s joining a running club, starting a new job or changing your lifestyle, opening yourself up to new experiences can be scary. It’s so easy to focus on what could go wrong but try to remind yourself of everything that could go right. Whether you fail or succeed, stepping outside of your comfort zone will result in important personal growth. Running for Brews meets every Wednesday at 6:45 PM at the Graffiti Junction located in Thornton Park. I am already looking forward to joining again next week. Maybe I’ll see you there!
- Makenzie D.