It is not a coincidence that in the past year I have made the biggest strides in my health that I ever have in my life after joining fitness communities.
When I used to take classes at different studios or go to my local gym to run on my own, my results were mixed because I did not enjoy the process and how much I pushed myself (or whether I even showed up) was highly dependent on my mood and energy level that day. Even if I had a plan to follow, having the daily drive to adhere to it was tough, especially if I had to deal with work or life stress. The workout buddy method also just did not do the trick, because it became too much about just showing up for the workout and not about actually executing to our best potential. But when I joined a strength training gym last year, and then a Crossfit box and a running group several months ago, the ebbs and flows in effort and motivation ceased as I became far more focused and, more importantly, found the joy in working out.
A post-class all hands in at my Crossfit box
How Joining a Fitness Community Changed My Approach to Training For The Better
I credit this transformation to joining communities that have had a significant impact on my mindset in a number of ways.
I feel supported in my effort to tackle new challenges and go outside my comfort zone. Working out on my own, I would increase my effort level incrementally at every session, but only if I felt “up to it.” I would take a slightly heavier weight or tap the speed button on the treadmill up once or twice, but I never made the bigger leaps that I knew in the back of my head I was capable of, because I let my doubts about my abilities get the best of me. When you start training on a regular basis with a set group of coaches and teammates, they become familiar with your strengths and weakness, your mental hang-ups, and what you are truly capable of. Many times when I was lifting with my regular partner and had pushed myself a little bit more than the previous week so I was ready to throw in the towel, she told me I could get in one more heavier lift and she was right. There have also been quite a few instances in which I thought I was running at the right pace, but a coach broke down why, based on my previous performance, I could up it, and I successfully did so. It’s not just that the community encourages you to take risks, it’s also that you are willing to accept their advice because you trust their judgment.
The community won’t let you obsess over a setback and will make you celebrate your victories. This has been a huge one for me, because I attribute a lot of my fluctuations in progress in the past to reading too much into one bad workout, short shrifting my good ones, and just being overly focused on my results in general instead of enjoying the process. For example, beginning to learn Olympic lifting at my Crossfit box has been a bit of a humbling experience. Unlike my experience with weightlifting in the past, where I would steadily increase my load by 5 to 10 pounds every week, with these lifts I have to spend a week or two or three at the same very light load because the technique is difficult to master. But the other athletes on the floor congratulate me on the successful attempts and the coaches won’t let me compare my performance to others, forcing me to concentrate solely on my progress and to appreciate any improvements I make. As a result, I never walk away from a training session discouraged or upset, and I’m always ready to come back and put in more work.
Even when I am tired or unmotivated, I find a way to get myself to my training session because I know I will draw strength from the team dynamic. Especially in the winter, when it is still pitch dark outside when I wake up for my early morning sessions, many times I, like a lot of other people, hesitate for a moment to get out of my warm bed. Even when I have a goal or benchmark I want to achieve, sometimes it’s still hard to fight that battle with morning or end of day fatigue. The thing that always helps me win it, however, is knowing that when I walk through the doors of the gym or the run center, I will be reunited with my friends—joking, teasing each other, catching up on each other’s lives—and my tired state of mind will disappear. And it always does.
How To Find the Right Fitness Community for You
A fitness community that suits your personality and will help you meet your performance goals is out there. If you are a boutique fitness fiend, think about which studio consistently provides you with the best overall experience—where you gel with the instructors and members, look forward to and enjoy the workouts, and see improvements in your performance when you go on a regular basis. Check out some running groups, which many times have free runs so you can try them out. Search Meetup for groups that convene regularly and do a type of workout that interests you. There are definitely options out there. You may need to do some legwork, but it will definitely be worth it.