You are finishing dinner out with a few friends. As your stomach fills up and you fight the urge to undo the top button of your jeans, one friend groans “Ugh, I have to work out tomorrow.” Soon enough, everyone at the table agrees to exercise as a group tomorrow at 11 AM sharp (Actually, make that whatever time people roll out of bed) before grabbing lunch together.
Many of you know how this scenario goes. The time gets pushed back until mid-afternoon. After everyone straggles into the gym, your group recaps the previous night during a warm-up walk, followed by a generous twenty minutes of stretching. After waiting for two or three ellipticals to open up next to each other, you hop on but quickly realize ellipticals do not offer an optimum setup for conversation. Over the next hour or so the group makes their way around the gym, producing more laughs than sweat, before someone expresses their hunger. You call it, and head to lunch.
While everyone may not experience this exact scenario, most people who work out leave the gym feeling unsettled from time to time. Whether you spent too long chatting with your friends, couldn’t motivate yourself to push, or reach a plateau in your progress, it is never enjoyable to feel as if something stunted your drive. As someone who usually walks into the gym with high expectations, I’ve realized surrounding myself with old friends prevents me from kicking into the laser-focused mindset necessary for challenging workouts.
For a while, I was under the impression you could either work out independently and push yourself, or workout with friends and have fun. Admittedly, I once thought joining Strength for Life and abandoning an open gym meant goodbye, Socialization. As one of the few college students at SFL, I did not see myself being one with the established professionals, retirees, and parents of multiple children. I thought age and circumstantial differences would stand between myself and the majority, so I prepared to push myself independently just as I was conditioned to do with long runs. To my pleasant surprise, my experience at SFL proved it’s possible to exercise with friends and have fun without sacrificing a challenging workout. In fact, joining SFL has allowed me to connect with all different types of people that I would not know otherwise. I accredit much of my progress to the encouragement and camaraderie of the friends I’ve made at Strength for Life. Having others genuinely invested in my personal success and vice versa, has become a source of motivation and pride on every trip I make to the gym.
What bonds the people are SFL has nothing to do with age or gender; it is a shared understanding. By educating every person—potential member, current member, or trainer—in the same way, only those who understand the effort required to produce change through physical exercise come aboard. There is a cohesive understanding how time is spent after walking through the door of SFL, and everyone is committed to the hard work required for producing tangible change. From here, organic connections inevitably grow.
While there is nothing wrong with spending time with old friends through a leisurely workout, those friends aren’t necessarily the ones you hit the gym with for an intense conditioning class. It is important to recognize what you want to get out of the time you spend in the gym. If you’re looking for an excuse to catch up with friends, leisurely workouts are an easy way to get the blood and conversation flowing. For those looking to challenge themselves and produce specific results, finding a gym environment that fosters physical and mental growth is crucial. While finding people equally motivated as yourself may require putting yourself out there to new people, if your experience is anything like mine, the reward is well worth the risk.