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Gables Run Club members exercise and socialize

Members of the Gables Run Club find that exercising in a group is more fun than exercising alone.

By Rodolfo Roman
Special to The Miami Herald

Flipping television channels used to be Leonardo Infante’s idea of exercise.

But thanks to a friend, in July his life did a complete 180 when he joined the Gables Run Club.

“I was a couch potato,” said Infante, of Miami.

With a sweat band on his head and laced-up running shoes, Infante prepared to join more than 30 runners who took to the Coral Gables pavement to participate in a weekly 31/2-mile run. On a recent rainy Monday, Run Club members took a round trip from Miracle Mile to the Biltmore. The club is part of the Run Club Network, which also has groups in Brickell and Miami Beach.

“I feel like I have more energy,” said Infante, who has lost five pounds. “I am not as tired in the morning at work as I used to. I feel motivated.”

However, it is more than just a running club.

Originally from Nicaragua, Fabiola Morales heard of the club through Facebook. She credits the running club for increasing her friends on her profile and getting into running.

“It’s not about the running it’s about the social aspect,” she said. “You meet people from all walks of life.”

The club started almost three years ago by Frankie Ruiz, co-founder of the ING Miami Marathon, with the premise of combining socializing and exercising.

“The running community was moving from being competitive-centric to social & entertainment-centric so I set out to create the first gathering to serve that demand,” said Ruiz, who is also a coach for the Belen Jesuit Preparatory School cross country team. Four other trainers help Ruiz lead the weekly runs.

The first run took place in Miami Beach at the Green Monkey, 1827 Purdy Ave. Now, there are four a week in different locations including Miami Beach and Downtown Miami from Monday through Thursday. Sponsors also help to host the events, which serve close to 600 runners each week. To join, it is free, but runners must sign a waiver.

The Gables run starts at Gables Fitness, 112 Valencia Ave., where people socialize before the run.

Soon after, they head to Miracle Mile for a quick stretch and warm-up, where some of the runners chat among themselves. From there on, Ruiz and the trainers lead the group for the trip. After the run, group members wait for everyone to cool down and socialize. Refreshments are also given to participants too.

Ruiz said the healthy venture promotes socialization.

“Enough to get a workout and sure enough to talk after or maybe even during,” Ruiz referred to the run.

Carlos Salvat said running with others makes the time go by faster .

“A lot of people will slap on an iPod just to pass the time, but when you have people around you, a three mile run feels like two,” he said.

Laura ten Zijthoff, who works in public relations, participates about three times a week in the run clubs.

“The big thing is the social part of it,” she said. “You meet so many people with same minds.”

Infante said he doesn’t miss a run.

“Alone I get bored, but with a group of people working out is fun,” said Infante.

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