Meet Fran Alfs – mynorth.com
Find your tribe
Fran is part of a tribe in the area that revolves primarily around the beauty of nature. She is a member of many groups including SheSkis, SheBikes, The Sisterhood, Vasa Ski Club, Cherry Capital Cycling Club and others – all based on a love of exercise and the outdoors. She now trains 12 to 15 hours a week in many different sports, depending on the season.
The other important world for Fran has been a lecturer at the Dennos Museum for 13 years. This community of lecturers – made up of people who like art, are ready to complete an education and enjoy working with children – was a mainstay for Fran. When the COVID-19 shutdown began, Fran started painting every day and shared her pictures online with an artist, friend, and mentor, Nancy Crisp, who
She knew about volunteering at The Dennos. They sent a painting back and forth every day. The online mentoring has helped Fran develop an area of her life that had not been realized and developed a friendship with a kindred spirit.
“I feel so lucky to have friends both outdoors and indoors,” she says. “I tried new things until I found my tribe. I now have three to four people I can call spontaneously every day to just go outside. Conversely, I have friends who I can zoom in with for book clubs or share art. “
Fran offers this advice to those looking to build active and diversified friends later in life: Don’t be shy. When she didn’t know anyone, she tried many groups and activities and chose without hesitation what to try next. “Living up here is like being a kid in a candy store,” she says. “You can try things that you’ve never done before.”
Fran also set fitness goals that pushed her to find people who would help her achieve them. “You don’t have to commit to a group forever,” she says, “but it’s good to have a goal that gets you out there and connects you with people.”
The very first goal Fran had after moving to Traverse City was to swim across the bay. She joined the Northcoast Masters Swimming Club, where she met Kathy Coffin-Sheard, a coach who leads teams at the YMCA. Every summer Fran still gathers a group to cross the bay. Fran’s second big goal after moving was to run the Bayshore Marathon at the age of 60.
“I’d never run a marathon before, but Running Fit (a local running store) had a group and had a six-month program,” she says. Allison Gross, a trainer for TCAPS cross-country teams and employee of Running Fit, trained her from point zero to the end of the Bayshore!
Next she wanted to try riding a bicycle. She got involved with the Cherry Capital Cycling Club (CCCC) and later with SheBikes, a local women’s cycling group.
“I hadn’t ridden a bike in many years because I was always working,” says Fran. “But I met Linda Deneen in the subway parking lot with the CCCC, and we drove to Suttons Bay, which is 15 miles away. I was sure that I couldn’t do it. Linda encouraged me, and now I can do 40- to 60-mile bike rides. “
The Venn diagram
From there, Fran met more and more active people outdoors and found many connected, like a “Venn diagram,” she says, in a place as “small” as Traverse City.
“You join a group and may know some of them marginally,” she says. “But then you go and get to know her. It becomes a real connection to your community. “
She also admits – sometimes friendships come from competition. “You meet someone who teaches you a new sport and it’s contagious,” says Fran. “I tell friends, ‘My goal is to beat you one day!’ We laugh about it!
According to Fran, motivation also comes from things like pedestrians like loot completing a race or a new hiking trail for 100 miles on the North Country Trail.
“Seriously,” she says with a smile, “the gift of sharing talents and passions is such a part of the culture up here that it’s refreshing.” And the best thing, she says, is that you can get on the podium when you’re older, if not that many people your age are competing. When Fran completed the Iceman Cometh Challenge mountain bike race seven years ago, reaching the finish line was a challenge.
“After that, my husband pushed my bike, I was about to throw up and someone says, ‘Hey! You reached second place in your age group! “Fran remembers. “I said, ‘What !?’ I have $ 35 or so! “
Their excitement is contagious for anyone thinking of getting their old bike out of the garage this spring. Fran’s advice? Try it
“Follow your activity … and if you don’t like it, drop it,” she says. “That’s the nice thing about it – we’re at the age to choose. It’s okay to realize “no this is not my group” or to decide that they don’t suit you. “
A lot has changed since Fran arrived in Traverse City, but her advice to newcomers and new retirees goes back to the 250 flyers she first launched 13 years ago.
“All it takes is one person to get published through a friend, flyer, or Facebook post,” she says. “People are hungry to make pods in the church right now. Do it! There is no such thing as bad weather – just wear the right clothes. “