“We like each other so much” the joke goes, “because we hate the same people.” It’s funny because a lot of the time, it’s completely true. In a way, every group defines itself against some other group, but the more intense the workout, the more chance there is you’ll be sucked into a fitness community that bonds solely over negative things.
Now I know I occasionally tear into more outdated training methods and I have no love in my heart for treadmills, but I do hope that we bond over our potential strengths and not our insecurities and issues.
The gym can be a wild place. People are at their most raw and most vulnerable, and you could find yourself smack dab in the middle of a clique.
Here are some signs you might need to take a step back.
- You’ve often felt pressured or even bullied into doing what the rest of the group does
- You’re regularly encouraged to scoff at other people because they train the wrong way or eat carbs or whatever
- You get the feeling your training is starting to become your whole life, rather than just an important part of your life
- The competition sometimes feels nasty and mean spirited, and people seem more concerned with sharing their numbers with each other than just doing the work
- There’s definitely a “one true path” and all other paths are forbidden
- You go to class because you feel forced into it, not because you genuinely want to
- There’s a big “cool” component and you sometimes feel bad for asking a stupid question or making a lame mistake
- You notice your eating becoming disordered and you’re not enjoying your food anymore
Intense training communities are a perfect place to hold yourself accountable to your goals and get the support and camaraderie you need to do better than you ever thought you could.
But it doesn’t have to be a cult.
There’s only one thing that’s non-negotiable about my ideal community: We’re all here to reach our goals, whatever that looks like. We’re a diverse bunch and that’s what makes things interesting!
What to do now?
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