Outdoor Wellness Shifting to the Individual
By ALAN OLSON
BELMONT — It goes without saying that 2020 wasn’t a great year for social activities, but even many groups focused on outdoor activities, such as cycling and hiking, went on hiatus for the year.
Instead, people started to form their own pods of individuals they could more easily ensure made healthy decisions and limited their exposure to outsiders.
The move to these pods saw outdoor activities continue in much smaller groups, rather than the larger social clubs of years past.
Jim Adams, a spokesman for Bike Wheeling, said the 2020 season was a desolate one for the bike club.
Many of the members, he said, were age 50 and older and took the necessary precautions for their health seriously, avoiding gathering in groups even at a distance.
“We basically put Bike Wheeling on a shelf,” Adams said. “A lot of our members didn’t feel like it was a good idea to continue to meet and ride, and so for that reason, we have no activities planned, nor have we met in a year.
“Our last activity was last February; if we weren’t in a pandemic, we’ve got lots of stuff going on and planned in the spring. But there’s nothing on the calendar, and honestly I’d be shocked if we had anything planned before summertime.”
However, many members continued riding on their own, outside the group, he said.
“What I see in the running and cycling is that people are still doing it on their own, individually — there’s nothing organized,” Adams said. “There’s trail runners who meet at Grand Vue Park and Barkcamp, and they basically run the same trails that we ride mountain bikes on, and they’re doing their own thing. What you’re finding is that maybe two or three people will go out. It’s been a long year, and we’re weary. We’d like to get back out.”
Adams said that, nationally, individual cycling has become increasingly common among those forced to look elsewhere for their exercise — according to a study by the Aspen Institute, time spent on a bicycle did not fall as other exercise and sporting trends did during the pandemic, rising from the 19th most popular activity pre-pandemic to the third most popular, as of September.
The Northern WV Composite Mountain Bike Team, for sixth through 12th grade students, has continued riding outdoors in smaller groups. Adams, the team director, said the team draws around 25 people. Other teams throughout the state in Morgantown and Charleston have around 100.
“God willing, in April, we will start doing stuff again … ,” he said. “It’s become quite a thing. Because of the pandemic, there is a rise in cycling.”
Keith Fulton, a bicyclist himself who was formerly associated with the trail running crowd, said that while organizations for group runs are similarly depleted due to the pandemic, the trails have become more crowded than ever as individuals have taken to running on their own time.
“There was kind of a group built around running at Barkcamp, and to other trails around the region; there was a Facebook page where people could all get together, and it’s fallen apart a little bit,” Fulton said. “We used to have Sunday morning groups that would get together and run together there …
“I’ve never seen the park as busy as this last year, though,” he added. “People are out there walking, running on the trails. They’re really showing a lot more people into it, for sure.”
For someone interested in starting on their own initiative, Fulton recommended searching out one of several informal groups on Facebook or other forms of social media to find like-minded runners, or any other outdoor activity with an online presence.
“There’s a lot of great groups out there where you can solicit advice, anything from shoes, to medical advice, to places to run,” he said.
He also recommended checking out local outdoor stores, such as Runner’s Connection or Hole ‘n Run, for advice on equipping a novice.