I’ve just spent the weekend walking the equivalent of a marathon in the rain (and sunshine) with a bunch of people I’d never met before.
It’s not as bonkers as it sounds, I was on a hiking trip organised by a Meet Up group. If you don’t know, Meet Up is a website where people set up groups for every possible hobby, activity or type of people. You register with the site, join any groups that take your fancy, then attend the events they organise.
I first joined the site in the aftermath of a break up, when I threw myself into meeting new people and discovering new interests. Since joining the site I’ve been to a photography walk through London, a group meditation session, and joined a choir. But mostly I’ve just been overwhelmed by all the events arriving in my inbox and haven’t made as much of an effort as I probably should have done to attend any of them!
Anyway, I digress. Why did I choose to spend my Friday afternoon walking in the rain with a bunch of people I met on the internet? Well partly it was because I love to walk.
My long daily walks, often listening to a podcast, started as a way to improve my mood but they quickly became my favourite part of the day. Not only is walking great for stress relief and relaxation, it can actually help treat depression. Walking may even be more effective for weight loss than hitting the gym.
Walking, even in the pouring rain with damp clothes and soggy feet, makes me happy. Walking in the countryside breathing in the fresh sea air makes me even happier. So a weekend walking in the Isle of Wight was too good an opportunity to pass up.
But it was also because joining the Meet Up trip was a great opportunity to meet new people. I guess I slightly cheated, because I brought along my childhood best friend but we arrived separately and still made an effort to mingle and chat to people.
It’s important not to overlook the social element of health. It’s so easy to focus on eating clean and lifting heavy things and forget all about the many other lifestyle factors that also play an important role in health and wellness. Humans are social animals. We long to feel connected, to find our ‘tribe’. Fitness is a great way to do that.
Although when you’re hitting the weights room, headphones on music blaring, fitness can feel like a solitary pursuit, it also has the potential to enrich your social life and bring you closer to people with which you already share a common interest. My weekend hiking did just that. I got out there. I spoke to people I would not usually speak to. I had conversations, both deep and trivial, with people, some of which I will probably never see again. And yes, I made some great new friends.
And you know what, I got a surprisingly good workout while I was at it. Hiking through the idilic English countryside is not as easy as it looks, as my aching legs will testify!
So I guess what I’m saying is, take a leap. Join a group. Attend a class. Do something new. Speak to new people. You never know, you might just enjoy yourself.