There are undoubtedly many physical benefits to being active, but many people do not think of the mental benefits. We all know the good things that activity does for your body, but we need to start to think of fitness, not as a way to lose weight, but as a constant in our lives.
I could cite studies and quote books that support the link to better mental health and activity, but I see it everyday. I am privy to the best lab for activity testing, the fitness class itself.
It is hard to explain the comradery that takes place inside a fitness facility or class. It is something that happens naturally. When you have a group of women together, with a common goal, it is easy to start feeling part of something bigger than yourself.
Why does it take place you ask? This is how I see it happen in my class.
As Canadians we seem to be born with good manners and friendliness that goes beyond a mere hello. So when you come to a class and stand side by side with another women, you start to exchange words and greetings. What would be a commonality between the two of you? The class, and fitness.
So you start up a conversation. There are no chores, work, dirty dishes, bills to pay, telephone ringing, just conversation with a fellow women. She has all the same insecurities, worries and goals you do. You know this because she is here, beside you. So night after night you come, have a visit while doing your workout, and enjoy the time you invest in yourself. You start to forge positive, healthy friendships. It is an easy way to ensure that you meet someone with a common interest.
After a while, certain women come to expect to see you. Ladies smile when they see you walk in. When you are not there, they wonder where you are. The next time you are there, they care enough to ask, “Where were you last night?” Doesn’t that sound nice?
One of my favourite things is, when someone has taken a vacation from class, and when they walk back in, many ladies (who may not even know the lady’s name) yell out things like “Hey! You’re back!” or “We missed you!” or “There you are!” It reminds me of the show Cheers, when Norm walks in, I can just imagine how good would that feel.
As the instructor, not many people cheer when I walk in.
You may be coming to the class to workout, but for many, it is a social thing. It is a time to put aside your day-to-day life, and come to be with fellow women. It is somewhere you can be comfortable to let loose, sweat and leave feeling better. You do not have to do everything perfect in class, if you mess up, you have your new friend beside you to say, “Don’t worry about it, I couldn’t do it either when I started.” Share a giggle and move on. It really is a special bond between us in a class.
You may be sweating and hating the class itself, but the person next to you will no doubt share your feelings and be willing to talk to you about it, and cause you to chuckle and smile. That describes a friend, if only for two nights a week, an hour at a time. (Which is more than I get to spend with my friends outside a fitness class.)
So please think about what you need in your life. It is not always about being skinny and doing cardio. You may just need a girl’s night out to feel good. This good feeling, and sense of belonging absolutely must spill out into your life outside the fitness class. After you have time to yourself, and feel “good”, don’t you think you pass that happiness along?
I truly think my fitness family, helps me be a better mother, wife and person.
So to those of you that find it hard to make friends, or looking to just have time to yourself to clear your head and de-stress your body, it may be as easy as finding a class close to you, and making the decision to walk through that door.