I’ll admit it: I’m an antisocial gym-goer. I don’t try to make friends or chat people up when I’m in the gym. I won’t be unfriendly if you approach me, but I won’t be going out of my way to ask you how you were doing. I also don’t make an effort to workout with other people. That’s just part of my personality – I’m not saying it’s good or bad. It has worked out alright for me over the years. Being alone sometimes helps me concentrate better.
But I will tell you one weakness of going it all alone. Actually, several:
There’s no one to push you when you’re tired / lazy / unmotivated.
When I come home after a long day at work, my energy and willpower is low. I may not even make it to the gym, and if I do manage to drag myself there, you can bet my workout and effort will be uninspired. My mistake is not letting others occasionally carry me when I’m lacking energy. As social creatures, we feed off the energy and expectations of others. An accountable gym buddy could push me harder when I’m tired, and I can push him in return. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that makes us both better because we cover for each other.
The same concept applies to joining a class. You can bet that I’ll work hard when I’m surrounded by 20 people, no matter how tired I am, because the class environment and expectations of everyone together push me and everyone else.
Now, keep in mind, before you sign up for a million classes, that not all gym buddies or exercise classes are created equal. Just as harnessing the power of social can help push you, the weaknesses in others can also hold you back.
If your gym buddy is always unmotivated, and never has any high energy days, then he’ll drag you down to his level, and he’ll be a weight on your neck you always have to carry.
Some exercise classes are beneath your fitness level, and will go at such a pace that doesn’t challenge you. Staying in such an environment doesn’t help you – it only slows you down and wastes your time.
Finally, I’ll share an anecdote about the benefits of going to the gym with a friend.
When I first started lifting, I didn’t have any resources. I was ignorant about nutrition and the benefits of strength training. I was also in pretty horrible shape. But my friend brought me to the weight room and showed me a few things, encouraging me when I felt it was too hard or painful. I would have given up easily if I had wandered in there alone, thinking it too hard. But his encouragement and guidance gave me confidence and willpower to keep at it. And I slowly got stronger and stronger.
Friends, classes, trainers – they can all help you along your path, whether it’s through giving you encouragement, a spotter, or simply knowledge that you lack yourself.
Utilize the strength and knowledge of other people.