I belong to a great fitness community, and it has helped me stay on-track and motivated. We playfully call ourselves the fitness mafia, and we have seen members come and go and come back. There are no fees, other than the occasional bombardment of text messages. So, it’s simple and basic. We post a workout, a time, and a place, and all are welcome to join in the fun. Three or four regulars always show-up, and others float in depending on schedules, the season, or the workout. We usually have four to eight participants.
There are no hard and fast rules for what a fitness community is. The simplest definition would describe it as a group of people who share a common interest in fitness. The group itself makes up the rules. They will determine how they will communicate with one another, the times the group will meet, and what routines they will follow.
I have seen fitness communities grow around programs like Les Mills’ BODYPUMP™, spin class, outdoor cycling, running groups, or SilverSneakers’ walking. I have seen them use bulletin board systems, social media, email, and text messages to communicate. Some groups meet on a bi-weekly, weekly, monthly, or sporadic schedule. Our fitness mafia meets four days a week at our local YMCA, as well as sporadically during the weekends.
The old saying, “there is strength in numbers,” holds as true in the gym as on the battlefield, and a fitness community provides several benefits. Let’s take a look at a few.
Unless you are highly self-motivated, it is easy to allow your workout routines to become lax. A community will keep you motived and provide the support needed to stay true to your goals. Within workouts, they will push you towards improvement, whereas exercising alone offers the opportunity to take-it-easy.
How often do you go to the gym and see someone doing the same thing every day? They come in and run on the trade mill or jump on a weight machine. Perhaps this you! If the community shares planning responsibility, diversity in routines and workouts will be common. The variety will keep it fun and exciting.
Each of us has our strengths, and we each have experiences we can share. It is the same in fitness. Some people are great runners, while others are experienced powerlifters. When you exercise in a community, you can help others improve by sharing your knowledge, or you can take instructions from others to help develop a weakness. I learned Olympic lifting from my community while I have shared my experience of powerlifting.
One of the most significant benefits of a fitness community is the establishment of acquaintances and friendships. When you spend time with one another, relationships naturally start to form. You learn of each other’s lives. In my group, we share reading lists, have coffee, and volunteer together.
As you can tell, there are several benefits to joining a fitness community, but how do you find one?
Finding a fitness community is not too difficult. All you have to do is look in the right places and not be afraid to strike up a conversation.
At the Gym
The best way to find a group is to go where they are. If you like weightlifting, then go to the gym. If you enjoy running, hit the trails. I found my group this way, even though I wasn’t exactly looking for one. Our community developed over conversations in the weight room and grew from there.
Group Fitness Class
Our local YMCA offers several types of fitness classes. They have Spin classes, BODYPUMP™, Zumba, Yoga, and functional-fitness, to name a few. I have seen cycling clubs form from these classes, and our group grew out of the functional-fitness night, which I started to do when a weightlifting partner talked me into it. One of the best things that could have happened in my fitness journey.
I have not participated in one of these, but I know they are out there. I know MyFitnessPal and FitBit offer community experiences through their apps, and you can find several more with a simple search.
With a little bit of effort, you can easily find a fitness community. But if you can’t, start your own.
The benefits of having a fitness community are too great to not participate in one, so if you can’t find one that matches your goals to join, then start your own. Here are a few things to consider if you go this route.
Find a Few Like-minded People
The most crucial part of establishing a community is that everyone has a shared interest. It does no good if one part of the group wants to improve their marathon time while the other part wants to get stronger. These are opposing goals. In most of our cases, we are not looking to be specialists. We are out to improve our general health, so it is a little easier to establish a community. We can reach out to our friends, co-workers, or others that we interact with regularly that might want the same.
Establish a Pattern
Our group grew out of a Tuesday night function-fitness class. We enjoyed the diversity of exercises the format provides, but we needed more than one day a week to accomplish our goals. So, we started to show up at lunch and organized a group text message. We established a pattern, and now everyone knows if they show up at 11:30 am any weekday except Thursdays, someone will be there. The group text message allows us to share workout ideas and schedule odd times and places to meet.
Be Open to Change
It is best to be open to other’s ideas to keep the group motivated and interested. Allow others to establish workouts or suggest times and places. It creates greater diversity and keeps it interesting.
Being part of a fitness community is a great way to pursue your wellness goals. A group will hold you accountable, create variety, and allow you to establish new friendships. You can join an already existing group or create your own.
Let me know any thoughts you may have about community fitness in the comments.
I'm a has-been high school athlete who now enjoys CrossFit, baseball, and other athletic activities. As a profession, I design software, and I create the majority of I.M.s content. I do it for the fun of it, but I hope it helps others pursue fitness.