I wrote this column last June. Circumstances prevented me from sending it to Des. News and it’s been sitting on my desktop ever since. This past weekend my family and I traveled to San Diego to see U2 on their Joshua Tree 2017 tour. It was our second show of the tour. The first show is what inspired this column, so it seems an appropriate time to post it.
In a time when divisiveness is everywhere and consensus is nowhere, to have a moment where thousands of people unite with one voice seems almost a miracle. But that’s exactly what I experienced at both of these U2 shows. I call it Communal Joy. It elevates us. Makes us feel. Makes us better.
I experience this when I teach fitness classes as well. When everyone unites for a common purpose, to uplift and inspire, we are all better off. Fitness isn’t just about our physical state. It’s about our emotional and mental state. I’ve always said that even if there were a pill to make me physical fit, I’d still come to group fitness simply for the joy I feel when I’m there.
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A few weeks ago my husband, daughter Ali, and I flew to Pasadena to catch a U2 concert. You could say we’re fans. Between us we’ve been to a few dozen concerts. Our children’s names are U2 inspired. At one point I even had a special Christmas tree decorated with homemade U2 ornaments. When my husband and I were dating, he told me when U2 came to Kentucky in 1987 for the first Joshua Tree tour he quit his job at Burger King to stand in line for tickets. I knew then I would marry him.
I get a few weird looks from non-U2 fans when my adult self reverts back to my teenage self and I gush over Bono, the Edge, Adam, and Larry. But that weekend at the Rose Bowl, I was among 95,000 like-minded souls. They were my U2 community. They understood me and I understood them. No one even blinked when this 41-year-old started pumping her fists in the air to “Elevation”. We sang as one. We danced as one. We cheered as one. That feeling of unity and collective joy is something I seek after and rarely find. But I did, indeed, find what I was looking for that night. And I left the stadium rejuvenated and happy.
A tight-knit community is a powerful thing. They validate our interests and pursuits. In these communities we find encouragement and solace.
I don’t attract 95,000 people to a cycle class, but our group of 20-30 is as strong as that group at the Rose Bowl, if not stronger. Cycle brings us together, but it’s the relationships that often keep us coming back. Within that small group we’ve experienced cancer, adoptions, divorce, and death. We’ve lost pets, been in car crashes and bike crashes, and celebrated milestone birthdays and graduations.
There are days when we don’t want to be in class. The last thing our legs feel like doing is pedaling, and yet we return. No matter how long we’ve been away, we are welcomed back. It’s in one of these cycle classes I met some of my closest friends. That’s the power of community.
One of our members, Rena, has recently been dealt a serious health blow. During her recent recovery she told me that her gym friends were what got her out of bed in the morning. She thought she was going to the gym to lost 5 pounds. She never imagined she’d gain 50 friends. She credits her positive outlook to these friends. Her doctor credits her recovery to her positive outlook.
After my bike crash last year, some people encouraged me to use my injuries as an excuse to stay home and take care of myself. While I couldn’t work out the way I usually do, I knew staying home would send me into a deep state of sadness. No burpees for me, but I could lead and coach others through a class and feed off their energy. No time for self-pity when I’m cueing form and correcting squats.
Our fitness community isn’t just good for our physical health. These relationships can uplift our spirits in a way no pill or procedure can. Runners understand this. Race day is as much a social event as it is a running event. Fellow runners understand the early morning wake-up calls and the harsh winter trainings. They understand what it means to set a PR (personal recored) or fall short of a BQ (Boston Qualifier). They get why we keep running even when at mile 18 of a marathon we swear we’ll never do it again. They can empathize with injuries and celebrate a fantastic tempo run.
I love to run alone, but I’ve found that being part of a community is far more rewarding. Once I opened myself up to others with the same passions, I found more joy in the work. Like Bono sings, “We’re one/ but we’re not the same./ We get to carry each other/ carry each other/ one.”