FIT IS NOT A DESTINATION.
IT IS A WAY OF LIFE.
Maybe you’ve seen this quote on a T-shirt, in a Facebook status, or plastered across a photo of some girl doing dumbell presses in her underwear. In any case, it’s true (but not because the chick working out in her underwear proves it). But I’d like to offer a new one:
A GYM IS NOT A DESTINATION.
IT IS A COMMUNITY.
Fitness is not something we do, it’s the way we live our life. My fitness is not over when I leave the gym. I don’t take a break from my life to stop in and do a few curls—rather, I pursue a life that supports my workouts. It all works together. I always tell new clients that if they can go to bed at the same reasonable time every night and wake up at the same reasonable time every morning, they are half way to fit. I can write you an awesome nutrition plan and stand next to you while you do lunges, but if you can’t organize your life well enough to eat regularly or work out dilligently, then you won’t get very far. While not everyone needs to be as rigorously disciplined as a competitive athlete, if you desire to be fit then it is necessary to integrate fitness into your lifestyle.
Your fitness also depends on the people you surround yourself with. Do your friends respect your lifestyle? If the answer is NO, then you need new friends. (Don’t worry, if you pursue fitness long enough your unfit friends will give up on you after you turn down repeated invitations to drink or eat pizza). In order to accomplish any lifestyle goal, you must join a community of like-minded people. And where else would you expect to find this community but at a gym?
Unfortunately, not all gyms are equal. I have been fortunate enough to have been a part of gyms that are like family, but I have also seen plenty that weren’t. Oh, they all try, but at best often end up forming cliques that make many members noticeably excluded. How many of those excluded members stick around long enough to see their fitness goals happen? When people don’t feel welcome at a gym, they give up. Don’t let this happen to you! If you go to a gym and feel excluded, out of place, or lonely beyond the first couple of weeks, then you are at the wrong gym!
I am very lucky. At my current gym, everyone is welcome. And I don’t mean that in the bull$** utopian way, or because I’m a bodybuilder and I just naturally fit in at a gym. At my gym, our kids can train at the same time as their parents. We invite each other to birthday parties, outings, dinners, and events. We friend each other on facebook and support each other. Husbands and wives with very different goals can train at the same time. A hard-core professional fighter can take the same class as an accountant in his mid-40s trying to get fit for the first time. Stay at home moms become instant badasses, and people in all stages of fitness lift right alongside bodybuilders. Some people even lift with their kids. And everyone talks to everyone. I dare you to visit my gym and escape without someone introducing herself.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting a gym in Maine that I haven’t been to in about three years, and when I got there it was like nothing had changed; the owners were still motivated, excited, and full of projects for themselves and their clients. After all of these years, nothing was stagnant. They were my first experience with what a gym community felt like. The owners, Sean and Wendy, engage their members on Facebook regularly. If you join their gym, you are instantly a part of a community and you know it! They will know your name, what you do, who you live with, and what your goals are within your first week. You will not hide or fade into the wallpaper, but no matter how shy you are you will not want to. Sean and Wendy are always up to something (muahahaha), and you become a part of it just because you’re there. Likewise, they become a part of your goals whether they are training you or not, and eventually you’ll start to realize that the encouraging voices in your head sound suscpiciously like Sean and Wendy…
The only downsides to gyms like the ones I’ve described are actually the benefits you need in order to maintain a fit lifestyle. For instance, it will never fail that you’ll run into Wendy at the grocery store on the one day you decide to give in and buy a bunch of junk food (happens more than you can even guess). Or, where I am currently, if you haven’t been to the gym in a while, someone will call you on it right on your Facebook wall for everyone to see. But guess what? Any one of us will publicly congratulate you for something you’ve accomplished, such as a difficult lift you finally got, or for sticking it out when you would normally give up during a cardio kickboxing class. You should feel like your goals, no matter how big or small, matter to the other people in your gym—because they should.
So look around your gym—are you invisible? Does the owner know your name, or do you even know the owner? Do people from your gym say hi to you in the grocery store? Do you have at least one person, outside of your training partner or close circle of friends, who encourages you in the gym? Do you feel like if you stopped going to the gym no one would notice?
If you know your gym is not also a community that welcomes you and your family, switch gyms! If you’re in Maine, visit Bangor Brewer Athletic Club and say hi to Sean and Wendy for me. If you’re in the Atlanta area, come visit us at Iron Clutch Fitness! And you know what? If you’re nowhere near either of these gyms but you want to be a part of a fit community, check them out on Facebook!