How The Community In Group Fitness Changed My Life

Photo by Rob and Julia Campbell

For most of my life, I've always had a job, but after graduate school, there was a shift in my approach to work-life balance: It seemed as if I was placed on the fast track to disappointment, working day in, day out at my desk job just trying to get by. Money worries soon began to creep in, with bills becoming more prevalent and substantial as I got older, especially with my graduate school loans and fees. Work was a necessity, and it engulfed every aspect of my life. Even exercise, which had once been the thread that wove many of my closest bonds in life together—from pee-wee football to rugby in graduate school—soon lost its spark. I eventually siloed and lost myself.

Social media and the one invitation that changed it all.

When I mentioned I was in an exercise rut, a friend suggested I alternate between cycling and running to switch up my routine and focus on more endurance training. I started off by doing laps in Central Park, and as time progressed, I was using social media to share my experiences—which in turn prompted an invitation to join a community-based 6 a.m. ride—little did I know this early-morning sweat would be the foundation of major life change.

The ride was more exhilarating and carried us all throughout the city. I've cycled all over New York and the surrounding area—from the Westside Highway to Nyack and back—but I had always done so solo. This time around, the feeling I had while riding was the closest to organized sports and teamwork I had experienced as an athlete in my formative years—and above all, a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment. It was an oasis, and I felt like everything had fallen back into rhythm that day—a return to self, to comfort, with an excitement for what's to come.

Photo: Rob and Julia Campbell

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Community fueled my sense of happiness at work.

The daily grind at my desk was more comfortable to bear after joining the cycling club. The group texts would keep me inspired and enthusiastic—a rush of euphoric happiness each time—about the next ride. As time went on, I was introduced to different people and groups, all of whom shared a common goal of working out together for a larger sense of community and friendship. Even more incredible was the international reach of the club. While traveling halfway around the world in Hong Kong, I was able to find a group that did 50- to 100-mile rides weekly at 5 in the morning, no questions asked. Trusting that someone will show up at a streetlight corner in the wee hours of the morning on foreign land is the ultimate act of commitment to community.

The power of group fitness inspired me to create my own space for others.

These group rides changed my life, so much so, that when winter rolled around, I struggled to cope with the absence of the outdoor rides and meet-ups. After a recommendation by a friend to give indoor cycling a try, I was officially hooked. The companionship, the thrill of the workout, and, of course, the sense of belonging were intoxicating; I knew I had found my tribe. Roughly a few months later, I walked away from a bonus and became an indoor rhythmic-based cycling instructor. I wanted to inspire others and help people to find their own tribe. And now, one year later, I'm the owner and founder of my own group cycling studio.

Group fitness is less about winning or competing; more and more, its focus is on building relationships and a sense of community around the world. Whether cycling outdoors, fitness boot camps, or pickup basketball, group sports is an avenue that will continue to be a universal language over several cultures. When we rise and work together, life tends to move a bit more easily.

Read why science says working out with others makes for a more effective workout.

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