I just completed the South Berkeley Christmas 5K with hundreds of other runners (and dogs, as race proceeds benefitted the Berkeley County Humane Society) dressed in festive holiday attire.
You want an event where you can let your freak flag fly? This is it.
I ran with Grinches, Santas, elves, fairies, the naughty, and the nice. I ran with men and women of all ages, some under ten to some over seventy.
It was a spectacle of red, white and green. Tutus, striped tights, witty shirts and elf ears abounded.
The streets of Inwood were lined with spectators waiting for the Christmas parade to begin at the race’s completion. A good many cheered us on. Kids lined the street edges, hands outstretched, to offer high fives. In one section, a band played, their cymbals and drums spurring us towards the halfway point. About a mile from the finish, cheerleaders and a boisterous section of well-wishers with noisemakers formed a “cheer tunnel” in an amazing show of support. In the final turn towards the home stretch, a costumed grim reaper held this encouraging sign: “The end is near.” Indeed it was.
I was with a particularly large and boisterous group of characters — members of a running and walking club called the Bros & Bras — and was heartened to see several of them just before the finish line cheering me and any other club members to the end. One who had already finished the race doubled back to personally escort me in for an added boost. Others followed suit or waited to cheer the others on until all Bros & Bras had crossed the finish line.
I am a fairly recent member of this group, which is informal, social and free. Its sole purpose is to encourage people in the community to come out and walk or run for fitness. Its mantra is “No expectation, no judgment,” which is pretty brilliant. It eliminates a whole host of protestations or things to feel yucky about. You just show up and do your best.
The group has a website and Facebook page. There are scheduled group workout events, both the weekly variety as well as the unique. Some events are social only, meeting at a particular location for food or drink.
At the South Berkeley Christmas 5K, a couple of group leaders set up a tent area for Bros & Bras to congregate before the event, which was fun. If there is a buzzword for the group, I guess that would be the one: fun.
Because there is no pressure about how anyone performs, it’s easy for members to relax and enjoy the process of getting fitter while also forming a social circle.
I’ve regularly begun attending the Friday morning run/walk that leaves from Black Dog Coffee in Kearneysville and allows people to go whatever distance pleases them on the path adjacent to the W.Va. 9 bypass. Afterwards, whoever can stay for awhile sits down for a cup of coffee or a snack and lots of social chatter. It’s allowed me to get to know new people and safely use the path.
I also finished a special Veteran’s Challenge the club issued through polling vets in the group to create a fairly grueling optional workout in a three-week timeframe. I subsequently threw down a “Twelve Days of Christmas” challenge for members to tackle, if they choose, leading up to Christmas. The Bros & Bras are that kind of gig, where fun and fitness combine, and anyone is welcome to provide suggestions, workouts and ideas.
Needless to say, I’ve become a big fan of this group. Group fitness makes fitness easier. I know because I have participated in a group dynamic before. It’s always easier — and a heck of a lot more fun — with one or more.
Because membership is free, it’s easy for anyone to join.
Members are also welcoming and encouraging.
Social time helps members swap successes or challenges and support each other.
The group has a sense of humor, most likely because its founder does. The tagline, for instance, is “75% Social, 75% Fitness.”
January (or even right now) is prime time to address your health status and fitness goals. If you haven’t gotten off that couch much in the past couple of years, or if you’ve simply veered off course, consider checking out the Bros & Bras, or starting up your own group to do something fitness related. Steer clear of crazy goals and expectations and just, well, do it.
Next year, maybe you’ll jump into the fracas with your holiday attire and participate in the South Berkeley Christmas 5K. Or at least be healthier.
This column appeared in The Journal on Sunday, December 13, 2015.
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