As I well know from my failed attempts at fitness, trying to get fit alone can be painful, lonely, and boring. It feels like there’s no one to talk to about what kind of exercise you’re doing, no one you’re specifically looking forward to seeing when you work out, and worst of all, no one to commiserate with. For me, at least, the lack of companionship hurt more than I cared to admit; I found myself quitting on my fitness goals largely because exercise isolated me too much, and I ended up hating it.
Many people fear exercising in the presence of others because of the judgment factors: “What if they think I’m fat/disgusting/ugly/etc.?” “What if I’m not doing it right and they laugh at me?” If you’re feeling that way, I want you to firmly push that aside. There is a way you can exercise around other people who will not judge you and who love you–exercising with friends (both old and new), as well as family.
Assembling Your Fitness Buddies
When you pitch this idea to your family and friends, remember to talk about and find answers to the following questions:
- What are some activities that all of you enjoy?
- Who is physically able to do what kinds of workouts?
- When is everyone available during the week?
Remember that if the whole group can’t work out one time to all be together, you can break up a big fitness group into smaller ones. You could end up doing a Monday afternoon yoga class with one or two friends, a Wednesday morning walk with your sibling, and a Friday afternoon basketball game with two or three other friends/family members.
Don’t be afraid to get creative when you brainstorm ideas for group fitness activities. I knew a group of three friends in college who got together after their afternoon classes and did jump-rope in the campus Quad, for instance. All you have to do is make sure the activity is something you can easily fit into your schedule, and that it’s fun for all of you to do. Whether it’s attending a group exercise class together three times a week, or doing exercise videos in somebody’s living room every Tuesday night, choose something that gets you moving!
“But What If None of My Friends/Family Want to Do My Exercise Routine?”
Has this question occurred to you? Don’t worry, it occurred to me, too. I wanted to work out, but it seemed like so many of my friends and family were too busy with work. What to do then?
#1: Ask Around in All Your Social Groups Till You Find Someone to Work Out With
Once I realized so many of my close friends and family were busy, I began asking about where some of my other acquaintances worked out, and finally one of my Choral Society friends told me about a Thursday night Zumba class that she really enjoyed. I came to that class one evening just to observe, to see whether I could physically do the workout. Once I came and saw that I’d like to try it, the next Thursday night I was there with bells on. And, as this blog post proves, that began a huge life change.
What helped me stick with it? Well, for one thing, it really helped to have someone I already knew in the class with me. My Choral Society buddy gave me an “anchor” for the class, so I knew I wouldn’t be in a room with total strangers. But that wasn’t the only thing that helped….
#2: Talk with the People Working Out Around You
It doesn’t take much to start a conversation, even if you’re shy. Just saying hi to the people near you, smiling and being friendly, can make your workouts (and theirs) a much happier experience. Observe those around you, see who looks friendly/amenable to conversation, and then introduce yourself. That can be all it takes.
For me, I started out not knowing anybody in my Zumba class, but I set myself a goal to introduce myself to at least one new person every time I went to class, and to talk a little with everyone I had met before. Now there are at least 10 people I look forward to seeing in Zumba class, and we have more fun in class because we can joke back and forth about being uncoordinated or missing a few steps.
#3: Invite Close Friends to Join You in Your New Workout
Once you have a fitness routine established and a couple of casual fitness buddies at your workout place, start inviting other friends to try it with you. In this way, you can be their “anchor,” helping them try out a new activity without feeling like they’re in a roomful of strangers, and they can give you an even stronger social connection to your workout if they continue on with you. (And if they can’t continue for whatever reason, it’s perfectly okay, because you’ve already made connections with others who come to work out with you.)
The Bottom Line: Fitness Can Be a Party
I find that the more social connections you have to your fitness routine, the more likely you’re going to keep doing it. That’s really the only difference between my current Zumba workouts and all the other workout routines I’ve tried in the past–this time, I’ve made friends who Zumba, and we all laugh and have fun together while we exercise.
Next Week: A Few Other Small Details, and Other Fitness Articles to Read
As a way to conclude this series on beginning your own fitness journey the right way, I’ll cover a few more minor points, as well as including some more “exercising the right way” strategies I’ve written about on my blog before. Catch it next week, just in time to start working on your New Year’s resolutions!