by Heidi Shalek
Let’s face it – we all want to feel strong, happy, healthy and pain-free. Most of us wouldn’t mind having a rockin’ body and friends who care about us either. One of the main reasons we hit the gym is to obtain some, if not all, of these things. So why does the traditional gym experience fall short for so many? One potential answer: because people aren’t getting these things. If they were, they would make it a priority to go, right? Yet, no matter what, on January 1st, gyms across the country will be flooded with a fresh batch of healthy hopefuls who are looking (and likely not for the first time) for these elusive gym benefits in the same old places.
If you’ve been to The Training Room, hopefully you know that not all exercise is created equal. You also know that going to the gym doesn’t have to be a solitary grind filled with pain, anxiety, and self-doubt (I’m willing to bet, if you’ve ever wandered a gym floor in search of an open elliptical machine or piece of equipment you actually know how to use, you know what I’m talking about.)
There’s good news. I can say with confidence that every single coach at the TR is dedicated to client education, building our fitness community, and providing a fun, friendly, and welcoming environment. We believe in setting realistic goals and achieving them through safe, appropriately challenging, progressive workouts. By focusing on increasing what you can do well and safely, we can gradually help you build strength and improve the quality of your movement (Why should you care about the quality of your movements? Another simple answer: so you don’t jack yourself up).
Enter TRAC. Everyone who begins our TRAC program must complete a functional movement screen and demonstrate a solid grasp of the fundamentals of lifting weights and swinging bells (We recruit our coaches from a land where kettlebell swings are as fundamental as tooth brushing … just in case you ever wondered where Alex Tanskey came from). Once you’re in, your TRAC group will inevitably develop its own unique dynamic. Critically, it is that very group dynamic that can often provide the missing link in your quest for health and wellness.
Now a little bit about my TRAC group – an island of misfit toys (I say that with love and am including myself) that has bonded over a common goal: to make fitness a lifelong journey. I can honesty say that I hope to inspire my TRAC group as much as they inspire me. We reunited about 6 months ago by adding a couple of new faces to an old SGT group. We set ourselves up on a M/W training schedule and started following the TRAC program. Now, six months in, everyone has discovered that the benefits of being in this group go far beyond a workout plan.
We’ve created a fitness community. Although each TRAC member has a different background, job, set of interests, personality, and physical abilities, they are there for the same reasons. A few cheesy icebreakers (in the beginning), combined with asking the right questions of the group each week, quickly led to a successful group dynamic.
We’ve established support and accountability. Once everyone became comfortable with one another, it was easier to support each other. Skipping a workout not only affects you as an individual, but it affects the entire group. Seeing familiar faces, some who are struggling with the same obstacles, makes showing up and putting in the necessary work easier. Seeing others in the group work hard, set personal records, and achieve their fitness goals is inspiring and motivating to others.
We’ve stayed consistent. TRAC meets twice a week. Enough said.
We’ve set behavior goals. Our group refers to themselves as The Breakfast Club. We decided to start a group text that focused on a new behavioral goal each month. Our first group goal was to eat a healthy, balanced breakfast every day. So, we agreed to text a pic of our breakfast to the group every morning for 30 days.
Since then, our behavioral goals have changed, but the group text lives on as a platform to share recipes, articles, and inspiration. One group member even took the time to create this frightening image:
We’ve prioritized gym time and are getting results. This group looks forward to their workouts. For a while, we even met on Friday nights because it was the only time everyone could make it work. The point is: if exercise is enjoyable, it’s easy to make it a priority. If you make exercise a priority, you are one step closer to getting the results you are looking for. Everyone in the group has gained strength and set a new personal record along the way. Body composition has changed, pounds have been shed, work has been done.
We go above and beyond. Is it too much to ask that a workout provide you with all of the above-listed benefits? Absolutely not. It IS possible, but it requires that everyone do their part. First off, the coach needs to care about the success of every individual in the group. Goals must be clearly set and expectations must be outlined. Follow-up needs to happen in between sessions in order to keep the group on track and to help hold people accountable. What happens outside of the gym is sometimes more important that what happens during the workout, so it is your coach’s responsibility to do whatever it takes to help you stay the course. On the other hand, the participants need to commit to themselves. It takes a lot of discipline, dedication and hard work to change your habits and change your body. Just being in the group won’t cut it. You have to understand what it takes and go after it for yourself.
Focus on the positive outcome of hard work and enjoy the journey. An active lifestyle does not have an endpoint. Getting your 7th grade body back won’t stop the rest of the world from spinning. Remember these are life-long habits that you are forming. Success is a mindset. If you aren’t where you want to be, stop thinking about it. Get into a group and DO something about it!