First one to the pole wins, Karen OConnell says as she sets off down the Rivergreenway. More than a half-dozen women – and a lone guy – follow her down the trail.
Karen, dont you dare beat me, one shouts as they run.
The gathering, which nearly resembles a small 5K race, is just an average run for OConnell and her gaggle of girls, as her husband calls them.
Since she first met the group, which continues to grow, while taking group fitness classes at Summit City Fitness, 5928 Trier Road, she says it rarely happens that she exercises alone.
There is a core group of nine of us that alternate between running, biking, lifting, walking, spinning and cardio, OConnell says. Whats so wonderful about this is there is always someone available to meet up and work out. We have an engineer in the group, a fitness instructor, a PA, a PT, an office manager, a full-time grandmother
OConnell is the full-time grandmother, and she says that her six grandchildren inspire her to stay active (They just think Im the funnest thing ever, she says). Its clear, though, that its her partners that keep her going – and then some.
Week of workouts: OConnells workouts focus on endurance. She runs four times a week, logging at least eight miles each outing, and goes to an indoor cycling class three times a week. OConnell also incorporates strength training with cardio-lifting classes at Summit City Fitness.
Benefits of group exercise: One of OConnells friends calls their runs free therapy, and theres nothing that doesnt get discussed on the trail. We have one guy in the group, Jay, she says, and its pretty funny when we start talking about things like the uni-boob bra but he grew up in a big family so he takes it all in stride.
How to meet exercise partners: OConnell and her friends have been working out together for years but are always taking on new members. They advise people to be open to whoever is around and not to be intimidated by someones level of fitness.
On staying motivated: What motivates me is this group. You always regret not exercising but you never regret the exercise once youre finished, she says. (One of the group members) is a great motivator. If you bike 26 miles, shell do 30. If you do 32, shell do 35. If you finish a (half marathon) in two hours, shell do it in 1:55.
Gear: We dont spend a lot of money on fitness gear, OConnell says. Shoes are the exception, but most of us do our shopping at Marshalls.
Goals: This year, OConnell says, she wanted to work on my swimming skills. (Im) still thinking about a triathlon and a full marathon.