Whether it’s a running group, your friends on Facebook, a program like the recent What’s Beautiful by Under Armour, or a tracking community like DailyMile, finding a community that supports you is a way to help keep your head in the game and eyes on future goals.
Regardless of your plans or level of activity; regardless if you’re a walker, runner, biker, triathlete, or any other type of active person; having a support network can be so effective. You don’t have to be training for a race or trying to reach a goal weight. Though of course, if you are, support totally helps.
It’s that sometimes, especially when you’re just getting started, it’s hard to not fall back into old habits. To say I’ll work out later, or tomorrow, or next week. Being involved with a community doesn’t just offer you supportive words and knowledgeable coaches (potentially); engaging yourself with a community helps keep you accountable.
Outside of being horribly sick, I won’t skip a workout (no matter how tired I am or how much I don’t want to) if I’ve already committed to meeting someone for it. It’s easier now because I’ve made my exercise a lifestyle. But in the beginning it was easy to slip back into old habits. Not running one day turned into a week and then two weeks. By not just joining a community, but making friends with the members of it, I’ve created a network of people who not only want me to succeed at whatever I choose, but who will nag when me I start falling off the path without good reason.
And it’s nothing against family members and friends who aren’t involved in their own fitness journey. It’s just that sometimes, the mentality these members of your normal social circle have is not what you need. There exists a fine balance between not pushing someone past their limits (most important when they’re first starting out) and allowing them to take it easy while making excuses for a lack of progress.
I’m reminded of a blog (which of course I can’t find now) where a women looking to start her fitness journey and lose weight made the decision for the first 6 months to not inform her family and friends of this new goal. Not that they would not be supportive to some degree, but were more likely to (in that family poking sort of way) put her down and bring attention to the lack of progress. She understood that and didn’t fault them, but made significant progress on her mentality and confidence, more so than her weight, before informing her circle of family and friends. That she wanted to focus on how far she had come with each month of her journey while those around her were more likely to focus on how far she had to go.
When I first started running again, I had absolutely no plans or intentions to run a half-marathon, much less a marathon. But like I mentioned above, it was easy to push running and working out behind other activities. It was easy to make excuses not to. So I was horribly inconsistent. But that’s not what I wanted to achieve.
Thanks to a friend, I was aware of the tracking website DailyMile (linked to at the top of this post). I joined and friended him. And I started to track what I was doing. I posted my workouts and tried to mention my next workout plans. Even if no one commented, it was on the internet now. Someone could. And that, in my mind at least, made me more accountable.
Because I feel horribly guilty when I say I’ll do something—especially exercise related—and then don’t.
Then, well over a year later, someone mentioned I should look for a local running group. Then, I wouldn’t just have friends and support via my computer, but also in person. Plus, competition is always nice in a friendly sort of way. Hopefully having running partners could help push me farther. By this point, I had decided to run my first half marathon. Having not just the support, but also others with more experience and knowledge of my chosen sport made it easier to address problems or ask questions.
While I love the internet, you can’t believe everything you read on it.
I can say without a doubt that while I still use DailyMile regularly (and love my internet friends), having a support group in the form of the Brandon Running Association has been amazing. Not only has it provided me with running partners, people of like minds, and coaches willing to help a newbie out, it’s broadened my experiences. I spectated my first triathlon thanks to them. I started cross training with cycling and swimming (even if I am kind of inconsistent and reliant on good weather).
I not only improved myself (in the first year of running with the group, I managed to cut 27 minutes off my half marathon time), but I also challenged myself. It’s thanks to them that I finally committed to doing my first marathon. After the first half, in my mind at least, I knew I would one day run a marathon. But it likely would have taken me much longer to work up the courage and determination to that without a group.
Me with fellow runner and training partner Caribbean Steve (left) & 5K walker Marty (right) on a race morning.
And I know that I can always hit up the group and find someone willing to go run with me. Knowing that they are there makes all the difference. So do yourself a favor and look for communities to support you. Google groups if you want something local, make a Facebook group if you want to do a challenge with friends, or even join a site like DailyMile where you can not only track your workouts, but also connect with others. And who knows, maybe it will turn into more than just those people you exercise with.