Side Affects May Vary: Working with a group

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Madeleine Sheiffer

While I’ve spent a majority of the pieces in this column somewhat on the offensive toward wellness marketing, I do not believe that these services are particularly negative.

I feel almost that I’ve been hypocritical, as I am an avid user of workout apps, I am a fitness class attendee and I am a health food consumer. I think it’s important for people to understand the difference between the value of a product and the way that product is marketed. People should know they can still enjoy the product if you they the knowledge behind its brand communication.

The best way to go about this is to separate the “change” element from the message. Not everyone who works out does so out of a desire to change the way they look or feel about themselves. Even if this is a source of motivation, it doesn’t always mean this change is physical. 

People exercise to improve their fitness beyond the realm of appearances. This can be to improve their health, to be a better athlete, to accomplish a goal like running a 5k race or to increase the amount of weight they can lift. 

These goals can also be put in place to push one’s mental strength. Sometimes what may seem to be purely physical aspirations are actually internal hopes and processes that manifest in a physical way. 

It’s important that people have an outlet with which they can set goals and take steps to achieve them. For many, fitness can be that outlet, and that experience can be enhanced when people work out as a group.

There’s an innate sense of community within the walls of a group workout class. Usually the lights are dimmed, motivating music is swelling and everyone who is there came for the same reasons you did. People want to get stronger, to push themselves further and to become better people at the end of the workout than they were at the beginning.

I’ve found a sense of solace in these experiences in that it reminds me what it is like to be on a team and be held accountable to a “coach” of sorts. I think one of the hardest things people in college experience when transitioning to this new lifestyle is loss of the scheduled athletics, team environment and authoritative guidance of high school sports upon graduation. Self-accountability is hard in any realm, especially when it comes to working out. 

While group exercise differs in that there is no broad greater good the group is working towards, there is a sense of community surrounding the work that is being done together for those minutes spent together. Though somewhat corny-sounding, it’s real. I’ve noticed it myself and become enthralled in certain programs because of the people surrounding the workout. 

Exercising with a group can help individuals push themselves to be accountable for their fitness and want to improve each time they come together. While I understand there may be a sense of intimidation or worry of judgment in settings like these — trust me, I’ve been the newcomer in many circumstances — these anxious feelings usually after getting used to a new environment, much like many other experiences.

In spite of all this, I understand these experiences are not for everyone. I know plenty of people who prefer to strictly exercise independently. However, at the end of the day, they are some things that are worth trying and that have incredible potential to push you further toward your goals.

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