By Adi Serbaroli
People face plenty of barriers when getting themselves to exercise, but expense should not be one of them.
It’s no secret the cost of living in Alexandria is high. With that comes high overhead expenses for fitness businesses to operate. I know people who pay hundreds of dollars each month for personal trainers or boutique fitness studios. But did you know you can find free and low-cost options, too?
For some people, paying that high cost motivates them to keep going because they don’t want to waste their hard-earned money. But others watch their credit cards get billed each month knowing they never visited that fitness facility.
One thing that can get you out of the house and moving is other people. Specifically, people who are happy to see you and who will hold you accountable. Repeated research – including studies from the American Psychological Association, the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology and the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association – has shown that the biggest factor in maintaining a regular exercise regimen is working out alongside others.
Exercising with friends – and friendly strangers – results in a shared experience, followed by an endorphin high, which leads to connections and results in accountability. Let me explain:
Let’s say one morning, you muster the strength to get out of bed and make your way to that early morning group exercise class. Before class starts, you look around at all the fellow bedheads who haven’t had their first cup of coffee yet, who, like you, have rolled out of bed before the sun is up and are just as unexcited as you are about moving so early in the morning.
But you force yourself to exercise anyway, sharing the experience together. Maybe someone cracks a joke and you find yourself laughing in the middle of a pushup. By the end, everyone will probably agree that it was challenging, but you will have made it through the experience together.
Those who have served in the military understand that it is exactly this kind of experience that leads to life-changing connections and long-held friendships – which leads me to my first of several suggestions for how to start exercising, for free, in Alexandria.
Team RWB is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity, according to its website. You do not have to be a veteran at all to join in the fun, just supportive of those who have served. The D.C. chapter of Team RWB has several free and discounted events in Alexandria, including yoga, “Walk/Run” socials, climbing, CrossFit, bike rides and more. You can check out all weekly events at teamrwb.org.
FiA, or Females in Action, is a nationwide, free, peer-led workout group for women. FiA Alexandria meets outdoors in Old Town, rain or shine, year-round, at the same designated locations and times every week. This group emphasizes being supportive, friendly and open to all fitness levels, from beginner to advanced. Bootcamps take place every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings. For more information on locations and times, you can find them on Facebook and Instagram at FiA Alexandria, at fianation.com or at AlexandriaFiA@gmail.com.
F3 The Capital
F3 The Capital, the loosely affiliated male counterpart of FiA Alexandria, is a free, peer-led, outdoor workout group for men. F3’s mission is to plant, grow and serve small workout groups for the invigoration of male community leadership, according to its website. Groups also meet rain or shine and are open to men of all fitness levels. Find them at f3nation.com.
November Project is a free fitness movement that was born in Boston as a way to stay in shape during cold New England winters. The D.C. chapter hosts Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning workouts at Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial steps and occasionally Arlington. More details are available at november-project.com/washington-dc.
Moms RUN This Town
Moms RUN This Town, or MRTT, is a running club for moms. Their Alexandria and Arlington chapter hosts dozens of weekly runs for all speeds and skill levels. Anyone in MRTT’s Facebook group is encouraged to post and host a group run at any time. Their mission, in addition to running, is to motivate and inspire each other to stay healthy. Find them on Facebook at Alexandria/Arlington VA Moms RUN This Town.
Other running groups
For those who enjoy – or just tolerate – running, there are a number of weekly social runs that take place around town, including Joggers & Lagers, a collaboration between Port City Brewing Company and Pacers Running; Shirlington Run Club; NOVA Running Club; Murphy’s Run Club, a group whose runs end with drinks specials at Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub; and the Hash House Harriers. Many of these have beer and social activities built in to each event.
Getting or staying in shape does not have to cost anything, even in D.C. And if you jump into any of the dozens of weekly opportunities around here, you’ll likely come away with a few friends.
Adi Serbaroli is a new mom with a passion for health and wellness. She currently serves in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a regular participant in FiA Alexandria’s weekly workouts. Contact Adi at AlexandriaFiA@gmail.com.