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Nicholas Miriello Headshot

No, I Don't Want to Work Out With You

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It's not because I'm anti-social, though I certainly am. Nothing makes me happier than canceling plans. Hours before the date I've had planned for three weeks -- even better. Ask my friends.

It's not because I think group exercises don't work. Look, at this point the prevailing belief is that CrossFit and its many iterations and knock-offs work. I've seen my friends share their twisted torso, ready and available for digital admiration. I've read the many blogs and testimonies. Yes, I understand, CrossFit works. And your friend now looks like Jean-Claude Van Damme from Blood Sport. Good for your friend.

CrossFit also sounds like the last thing I look for in a workout: group support, communication, even the mere threat or idea of conversation.

"Great set, bro."

I'll pass.

I appreciate the spectacular results, the hard work, punishing exercises, the take-yourself-to-the-max mentality and rah-rah camaraderie, but again, and I say this with respect: No thanks.

This does not simply apply to CrossFit. This goes for group running, group yoga, group lifting-up-your-shirt-to-wipe-your-sweaty-brow-but-really-to-show-off-your-abs exercises. (Listen, guy, we all know what you're doing. Stop it.)

If it's not a team sport -- which I am involved in for other reasons and don't quite consider "working out" -- then I don't want to exercise with you.

Exercise time = me time. It's really that simple. Sure, I'm exercising to stay healthy. I'm also not some monk; I work out because I like the results. Working out keeps me fit and sane. But a lot of the time it's more than just something I check off my day's list. It's one of the few daily -- maybe only -- activities that invites me to go inward.

For fear of sounding completely solipsistic, let me explain why I think this is important. I cherish my alone time. But I'm never truly alone. And look around you -- no one is. On the subway, on the street, in the car between traffic lights, or worse, while driving, while watching television, while at work, while lying in bed, etc., we are glued to our phones, to our email, to our Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest, yada, yada...

This point is trite, but it's also true. Louis C.K., in a few minutes on Conan, managed to capture best what appears be ailing much of our culture (or at least me) most.

I'm never not connected. I'm so fucking connected. So connected. And so are you. And yet somehow, when we have a simple goal in front of us, like working out, we manage to gum that up too with socializing, social media, headphones, support apps, and so on.

I'm not some Luddite, and I'm only one-fourth a misanthrope, but I do believe this question can apply to anyone: What's wrong with being alone with your thoughts?

When I go outside for a run -- and this is really the only proper way to run; trying to find disconnect and introspection on a treadmill is its own exercise in futility -- I'm free of headphones, email, social media and any other bullshit I may be entertaining in my head.

It's really simple: I start with a goal in mind, but mostly I just let the run take over. I either speed through the first mile or struggle, dread the second and finally find a rhythm around the third or fourth mile. (The stages are different for everyone, of course.) Once I'm in a rhythm, I'm really alone, in my happy space. I take this time to process big ideas, work through stress, and maybe consider various trades the Knicks might make to improve their squad. (For the love of god, do not trade Shumpert.)

Then something magical happens: I become aware of my surroundings. I notice the beacon of trees starting to shed themselves above me, the cute family trotting their new infant around, the 30-year-olds lost and LARPing on their very own plot of grass in Central Park.

It's corny and might sound like one big fucking joke, really, but soon after the moment of disconnect, I find myself actually connected. Connected with my surroundings, with my thoughts, with my body, with myself.

I realize people work out for a variety of reasons, and I'm a firm believer in the "do no harm/to each his own" mentality. If CrossFit helps you unwind, feel good or work out stress, by all means, do it. Same goes for Westernized yoga (both the calm and sweaty kinds), boot camps and whatever else our workout culture contrives. But do yourself a favor: Try working out alone alone... You might learn something about yourself. It's nice.