Growing Your Fitness Tribe: How to Use the People Factor
You are unique.
We all are.
Exceptional. Rare. Individual. Special.
Each with our own beliefs, ideas, desires, opinions. Our own shape, size, color, gender and sexuality.
Yet it’s easy for us to forget how special we are and to feel alone against the world.
Has that ever happened to you?
That feeling that no one can understand you. That you are pushing against the current. That you are lost in translation?
Changing your health and fitness habits can be a big challenge, especially when the people around us are not on the same path.
Here’s how to overcome that.
THE PEOPLE FACTOR
We are social beings. That’s a fact.
We are in constant interaction with other people. Very few people live their lives in isolation from the outside world, especially with the explosion of social media and the Internet: we've gone from 6 degrees of separation to being just a Friend Request away.
And the fact is, we are influenced a LOT by the people around us. Not only by our inner circle of family and friends, but also the people we meet on a daily basis, in the street, at work, at the gym etc.
The field of Social Psychology dates back to as far as Aristotle, who believed "that humans were naturally sociable, a necessity which allows us to live together". After World War II, social psychologists began to focus on the behaviour of individuals when grouped together and in social situations.
One of the first and most famous studies on social influence came from Zimbardo in 1973. After re-creating a prison environment, he discovered that people's behaviours changed drastically when they lose their individuality and are placed in certain socials roles (such as guards and prisoners.) So drastic were the changes in fact, that the experiment had to be closed down after 6 days instead of the planned 14, for fear of people getting physically or mentally hurt.
And in 1979, Henry Tajfel proposed his social identity theory: that a person has a sense of who they are based on the groups they associate with.
"Tajfel proposed that the groups (e.g. social class, family, football team etc.) which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem. Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world. In order to increase our self-image we enhance the status of the group to which we belong or we discriminate and hold prejudiced views against the group we don’t belong to".
So you see just how much we are affected by the people around us:
- How many of us have a a weak sense of individual identity and are unable to go against the current of conformity?
- How many of us get pride and self-esteem from the groups we belong to and judge the behaviour of people that don't belong?
WHO DO YOU LISTEN TO?
Who you associate with and how you see yourself are major factors in your ability to change your behaviours.
The people you spend most of your time with have a HUGE influence on the way you think. In fact, we tend to mimic the behaviour of those around us.
In a 2009 study by the University of Georgia, researchers found that simply watching or thinking about someone with good self-control increased someone's likelihood to exert self-control. And that people with bad self-control influence others in a negative way: simply seeing the name of someone on a screen for 10 milliseconds changed people's behaviours!
So you can see just how important the people around you are. How important it is to surround yourself with the right crowd.
And how important it is to identify whether you are listening to an empowered Fitness Tribe or a Victim Group.
Victim Groups are VERY common and EASILY identified:
- - unhealthy behaviours are common: "Let's have a bottle of wine each"
- - members validate each other's limiting beliefs and behaviours: "It's SO hard to be healthy"
- - they bring you down for deviating from the norm of the group: "You're boring for not drinking"
Ring any bells?
The truth is, we are part of many different groups, some of which will be supportive on some aspect but destructive for another. Your colleagues might empower you to ask for a raise for example, but may judge you for not eating any office birthday cake.
The key is to understand who supports you, understands your journey and celebrates your day-to-day successes. Then you can start to grow your very own Fitness Tribe.
GROWING YOUR FITNESS TRIBE: WHY?
A Fitness Tribe can be a source of inspiration and support, on many levels:
Changing your lifestyle is not always a piece of cake. It requires commitment, discipline and consistency. Some days are easier than others. Your Fitness Tribe will show you encouragement and support when the going gets tough. They can also provide a safe and accepting space to express any fears, doubts or successes. Various studies show that emotional support for exercise is one of the biggest factors in maintaining healthy habits.
Information and Advice
Separating the facts from the hype is key to achieving your fitness goals. And with the amount of information that is available both on and offline, you may need some help in sieving through the BS to get to the Golden Nuggets. Your Fitness Tribe can teach you what you need to learn by sharing their own suggestions, tips and advice based on their own experiences.
On the days your willpower and motivation are at a bit of a low, your Fitness Tribe can inspire you to stay on track. Having people around you that are on the same journey or have been in the same situation as you can give you the extra boost needed to follow through with your intentions.
Your Fitness Tribe members will assist you in taking a regular look at your training and your progress. By talking to other people about your intentions and desires, your chances of success increase drastically. And by evaluating your progress at varying intervals, you can make sure you're on the right track.
GROWING YOUR FITNESS TRIBE: HOW?
There are many ways to grow your Fitness Tribe. Here are 10 ideas:
- Find people within your existing social networks (friends, family, work, etc) that will support your efforts to be active
- Join a local sports club
- Take fitness/yoga/Pilates/whatever-the-hell-you-want classes. These are a always great opportunity to meet new people with similar mindsets
- Get online ! There are tons of online fitness communities. Try the newly launched Newvita.co.uk (www.newvita.co.uk) for fitness buddies, recipes and workouts.
- Add more activities to your social life: hiking, dancing, jogging, sports. Get outside and get active.
- Train for a charity walk, bike ride or event
- Ask a trusted friend for support
- Get a Personal Trainer
- Build friendships with active people - ideally even, those with similar goals and intentions to yours
- Post your workouts on social networking websites, and get chatting to people that support you
- Get creative !
Now its up to you: pick one of the 10 ideas above and take action right now. Then leave a comment below with your results
Love & Health,
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