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    Group Exercise vs. Solo: The Balance That Works for Me

    group exercise

    Exercise experts often divide workouts between hard days and not so hard days – days when you push yourself to the limit, and days when you give yourself a break.

    I divide my exercise time a little differently – between days I fly solo and days I join a class.

    Five days a week, I’m on my own – either talking a walk outdoors or pedaling my stationary bike at home. The other two days of the week, I strength train with a group of middle-aged women (and two or three men) at the local Y.

    Biking alone has its pleasures (although some days they elude me). You can set your own pace without a teacher urging you to go faster, harder or further. If you aren’t feeling it, you can ramp down the hills, or if you are, you can send them skyward. It’s an excellent time to think about nothing except how your quads are doing, or, conversely, a time to binge watch Game of Thrones. By limiting my streaming time to my biking time, I’ve set up a self-reward system where I’m not allowed to watch the next episode of The Great British Baking Show or The Deuce unless my legs are pumping along.

    The same goes for walking on my own. I’m not against having a walking buddy, but walking alone can clear out the cobwebs and give you a chance to take in your surroundings. Add a nature path to the mix, and you get the benefit of fresh air and gorgeous scenery.

    On the other hand, my twice-a-week class in body strength is an entirely different affair. After a warmup, we go at it, at a pace that often feels like cardio. Unlike the biking, which can get a little boring, the class varies between free weights, ball exercises, resistance bands, gliders, and a little torture called “crossing the floor” where we line up to do squats and lunges across the basketball court-sized exercise space.

    Sure, we grunt and groan, but nobody drops out. It might be peer pressure or, that after all these years, we actually have begun to enjoy ourselves (though few of us admit it).

    Or perhaps, like me, my fellow exercisers may be doing it for the coffee. Class over, our legs feeling like wet noodles and our triceps muscles newly awakened, together we struggle down the steps to a table in the entrance way and treat ourselves to bitter Y brew. Together, we bask in a sense of accomplishment in finishing yet another class. Plus, there is gossip, politics, and reports on our various aches and pains to attend to.

    Like I said, I’ve never seen any studies balancing the pleasures of exercise alone vs. exercise together. But if you’ve soured on one type of exercise, you might consider adding a class or some solitary walks or biking to your plan.

    Just don’t forget the coffee.

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