To find sustainable fitness, you must have community. It sounds cliché, but I believe that in order to keep going to the gym, keep working hard at the gym, and make positive choices outside of the gym, community needs to be a key player. Sure, you may be able to maintain your routine for a few months, maybe even a few years as a solo athlete, but for most people this won’t last. So do me a favor – ask your friends to come to the gym with you.
Especially with CrossFit, people see this “recruiting” as threatening and downright fucking annoying. They spew that CrossFit is a cult because the community and culture is strong. But I want to say this right off the bat: what I’m about to write doesn’t just apply to CrossFitters. If you have a fitness regiment that works for you – whether it’s yoga, or Barry’s, or Orange Theory, or Mark Fisher Fitness, try to get over the fear of what people will think and ask your friends to try a class with you. Not only will you be giving your friends an opportunity to try something new that might be a good fit for them, you’re prolonging the sustainability of the sport for yourself by forming a community.
When I’m in a city, I try to drop into as many gyms as possible. In St. Paul though, I went to the same gym four days in a row. Timberwolf CrossFit immediately drew me in with incredibly warm owners and members who I couldn’t get enough of. After class everyday I would chat with the owners Laura and Tony about anything and everything they’ve been doing to create such an amazing atmosphere in their gym. The conversation landed on community and how twice a year they have a “bring a friend week” where current members can bring their friends to class for a free week and the skill difficulty is scaled to an appropriate level for anyone walking in for the first time.
In NYC we do a free intro class, but this is different. Having new members come and workout with their friends is so helpful for retention. Nobody wants to sweat and look awkward in front of a group of people they’ve never met. Community is key, and having this “bring a friend week” allows for members to have the opportunity to branch out to their friends and invite more people who might otherwise have been too intimidated to try CrossFit. Sometimes all it takes is the invitation for people to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. It’s not an imposition to ask, it’s a favor.
This “bring a friend week” is two-fold. When you have an easy opportunity to casually ask your friends if they want to try CrossFit with you, it takes a bit of the edge off of the douchy stigma around asking friends to come to the gym with us. When we ask our friends to join our fitness regiment, we’re also adding another line of accountability on ourselves. Fitness is hard and we don’t always have the willpower to come to the gym 3-4 days a week. Having friends at the gym, creating a community that encourages us in positive ways, is an incredibly useful tool in sustainable fitness.
The bottom line is that working out needs to be fun. And I don’t mean that you’re going to be goofing off and chatting the entire time, but SOME aspect of the gym needs to be enjoyable. For me, having a community that I love lets me forget that parts of the gym are NOT fun. My community pushes me further and supports me when I’m down. And as much as I need them, they need me too – which is probably the biggest motivator of all.
It’s not that I don’t understand how vulnerable it is to ask your friends to try working out with you. For whatever reason our society has demonized this behavior and made a stereotypical assumption about EVERYONE who even brings it up. So as much as you can, try not to fall into the category of annoying gym rat who can’t have a social life outside of the gym. I don’t want that for you at all. HOWEVER, screw the people who find you annoying for being passionate about fitness because we ALL know that their annoyance stems from a lack of self worth and isn’t a reflection on you. It is 100% okay for your friends to not want to do your fitness regiment – not all regiments work for all people. But if those friends are trying to make you feel stupid for inviting them, and stupid for doing your fitness regiment in the first place, it’s time for some new friends.
Oof – off of my soapbox, and I hope I didn’t push too hard. But it’s an important point and society needs a perspective shift. Honestly, we shouldn’t be shaming anyone, but we REALLY shouldn’t be shaming people who have found sustainable fitness options for asking others to try it out with them.
So get to it! How many of your friends will you invite to workout with you? And if you’re a gym owner, how are you going to make bringing a friend to class more accessible in your gym?