He lived two doors down from us for four years. We'd see him getting in and out of his car, or walking his dog, but we didn't know his name until he joined the CrossFit gym a mile away.
My husband ended up in a class at the same time as him, and the two quickly realized they were neighbors. Slowly, in the conversations that happen before and after class, when warming up or lying in a pool of sweat, they got to know each other. Now, when we saw him in the alley, we had something to talk about. We met his kid, he met ours. Our son took a ride around the block in the classic convertible he keeps in the garage most of the year. When we'd see him in the water, surfing, we'd chat about the gym, our lives.
Proximity alone didn't make the connection -- the gym did that.
Connecting with people is difficult. We go from our houses to our cars, intent on the next destination. A wave or a hello rarely turns into a friendship -- it's so tough to bridge that divide. It takes repeated, unplanned interactions to form a friendship.
Many people make connections in church, but in the past few years I keep hearing stories about people forming a community through fitness, whether it's CrossFit, Soul Cycle, the November Project, or a regular class at the YMCA. What is it about sweating together that bonds people? Are there physiological reasons you might feel closer to your workout partners than the members of your book club?
In a time when many Americans are socially isolated, out of shape, and unhappy, these groups are forging connections between people, giving them a sense of short-term happiness and long-lasting meaning, and often taking the place of churches and community groups.
This is something that's interested me for a while, so I'm going to start exploring it! Here on this blog (fitnessandfriendship.com) and the socials -- Fitness and Friendship on Facebook, and @fitnessandfriendship_hilary on Instagram.
I'd love to hear your stories of connecting through fitness, and how your gym or exercise group offers so much more than a workout.