A friend sent me a NYT article last week that discusses how some “hidden” motivators are what really keep people engaged in exercise. According to a motivational psychologist quoted in the article, the social and psychological benefits reaped from exercise are what increase ahearance to a fitness program.
Some people learn this lesson early by participating in team sports in high school. But then, as an adult, they no longer have an obvious connection to a group of like-minded fitness enthusiasts. For me, finding this group was a significant part of my personal development. The women with me in the above photo were my teammates from Cambridge Sports Union, a running club to which I belonged when I moved to Boston nearly sight-unseen in 1998. The members of CSU became my friends, and our socializing centered around training runs, races, and the ever-present post-run brownie. By participating in CSU, I had a group of friends who shared my passion for running, and they challenged me to improve each and every time we put foot to pavement.
Even now in my personal fitness endeavors, I enjoy group classes. I like learning how to do new things and discovering how different activities challenge my body in different ways. I’ve recently taken some rowing classes at Flywheel Fitness, geeking out over the technique of a sport to which I’m totally green. I appreciate the programming done by the instructor which ensures a good workout and the encouragement and technical advice she gives during the class. Seeing familiar faces week after week builds camraderie, knowing that we are all on a common quest for fitness. Sure, I’d still get a good workout if I was by myself, but it’s definitely uplifting to know I’m not working so hard all alone.
The idea of social and psychological motivators to exercise is also evident in my work as a personal trainer. I see the community that has formed in my Well-Balanced Morning circuit training class. In a group of eight-ten regulars over the course of a year, we have gone from being strangers to a group of friends who do everything from swap babysitting to mentoring another member through career change. We have grieved with and helped support one participant whose daughter had a tragic accident, and we celebrated when one participant finished her PhD coursework. Building a community of friends wasn’t my primary intention when starting the class, but being with a group of people whose company you enjoy certainly makes it easier to get up for exercise at 6am three days a week.
So whether it’s finding a workout buddy, a team, or trying a group class, I challenge you to find how having company along on your fitness journey can make the trip more enjoyable. After all, there’s strength in numbers.
Good health and great happiness to you.