Nancy is an everyday woman with a love for staying active, participating in sports, and outdoor activities.
How Fitness Groups Bring Fullness to Your Workout
If you have ever felt like going through your exercise routine is a chore, you are not alone. Even if you go to the gym, or take an aerobic, or yoga class you may still feel like you are going through the motions all alone in a crowd of people.
If this is where you are in your current routine, think about starting your own health and fitness group. You can still go to your gym, or class. Just think of it as adding a new element to your fitness lifestyle.
Benefits of an informal workout group include getting more variety, being able to choose the structure and activity flow, and the feeling of belonging. Additionally, over time, the group members can begin to feel like a sharing and caring family. You can structure your group to include a wide variety of activities, and to address the individual needs of each of the group members.
Why Exercise Is Important
We all know it is important to work physical activity into our lives. According to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, being active and eating right are key ingredients to avoiding many serious diseases. In addition to the health benefits, I find that my confidence level sky-rockets when I am feeling strong. I like being able to move well enough to meet the demands of my day, to move freely without pain, and be in tune with what my body is telling me on a daily basis. When I exercise, I breathe deeper, stand taller, walk more gracefully, and have more energy.
Each of us must make the decision to make the effort to be fit, or to let our bodies atrophy, getting weaker and less healthy daily.
The process of ill health can begin in childhood, or as an adult. Many of our children here in the United States are significantly overweight and out of shape. Many schools no longer require that children take a physical education class, which would require them to move their bodies for around 45 minutes a day. By getting more exercise, and making it fun to do, parents can set a good example for their children, as well as teach the kids that getting exercise is actually fun.
Step 1: Do Your Research
- Before calling all your girls, take a realistic look at your life. Determine a couple of different times and days that you can commit to for a long period of time. Everybody's schedules change, but you should really look at making at least an eight-week commitment. The reason for this is that you aren't just doing this with your best friend. In order to get your group up and running, you need to be available consistently for a fairly long period of time. Later, when everybody is in the groove, you can change things up a little or have someone else lead the group if need be.
- Allow a two-hour time block.
- Make a list of exercises and activities that everyone in the group can do, or modify easily.
- Supplies you will need: notebook for recording attendance, and group or member goals. Exercise DVDs or routines. Keep a calendar or day planner just for your group. This helps with scheduling. In fact, you could keep most of your activity records in the day planner, but you would still need a notebook for things like member goals. When we write down our goals and share them with our group family, we tend to stay on track and stick with it. An added benefit is that our group members are more able to support each other when we know what the other person is working toward. Also search out or create handouts on topics such as recipes, healthy eating, and exercise techniques. Search your public library for books related to members' goals and struggles. Read a short segment after the workout to get a group discussion going.
- Clothing and Shoes: Choosing the perfect clothing for exercise is important. We all want to look our best no matter what we are doing, but one perk of a private group is that your members can relax a little. There is no public intimidation about how great you are going to look while you work. Let your members know that it is okay to just show up in stretchy, comfortable clothing in which they can move without restriction. Shorts and a tee-shirt, sweat pants, leggings or other types of breathable fabric are all appropriate wear for the activities you will be performing. There are a few key elements your members might want to keep in mind when choosing their clothing. Shoes should be comfortable and provide enough support for the activity. Tops, leggings, and waistbands should not bind or impede circulation or movement. For outdoor activities, having a few choices of weather-appropriate clothing is a good idea.
My Go-To Athletic Wear
When I want to look and feel my best while working out, I favor Danskin® workout clothing and shoes. There are many great lines of fitness clothing, and it is a matter of personal choice.
What I like About Danskin Brand Athletic Wear
Shoes: For indoor work, I like the brand, Danskin athletic shoes. I have been wearing them for many years, almost as soon as they came out. I like them because they are light weight, and they bend easily. I find that being able to get up on my toes, easily point and flex my feet as I am moving increases my range of motion, and sort of helps me to complete certain movements correctly and more fluidly. I also like that they come in a variety of styles and colors. Another thing I like is that they are usually wide enough to accommodate my feet.
I began using these shoes as a young woman, and when I worked out, let me tell you, there was a lot of jumping, sliding, twirling, and twisting. Through it all, they really did do a pretty good job of supporting my arches. Because they fit well, the arch supports hit my feet in all the right places. I have worn shoes at times in which that was not the case, and my feet suffered for it. With the Danskin brand shoes, I seem to be able to feel the floor through my feet in a way I can't with other types of athletic shoes. I can curl my toes and hold on when need be, or relax my feet and go with the flow.
Workout Clothes: I have been wearing Danskin workout pants since the 1980s and like them for the fit, variety of styles, and their (usually) economical prices.
Because their items are affordable, I can have more of them in my drawers, and not be afraid to wear them out. I have often used the leggings for winter warmth. They are thin enough that I can wear them under my jeans if I'm going to be outdoors for a long period of time.
I also like the wide variety of sizes available to those of us who have less than perfect bodies. Their sizing practices tend to run pretty true to size and I like knowing that when I purchase them, they will fit when I first put them on. Many of the manufacturers of yoga pants and leggings simply do not have the size range to include many choices for women who are currently in the plus-sized category. I like that Danskin makes larger sizes available to women who need them.
And I like that I can wear these athletic clothes for all my activities. They look good enough that I can wear them when I am out and about throughout my day, and not look like I am schlepping around in my workout clothes. Just add a nice top with my yoga pants, and I have a comfortable, casual outfit to wear.
Step 2: Invite Friends, Family and Coworkers
- Call the girls. A group of six is a nice number. It makes the group small enough to manage well, but large enough that if someone doesn't show up or has a conflicting priority, the rest of the group can still move and groove. Invite a variety of people who have similar goals and similar fitness levels.
- Try to find more than one person at each fitness level. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Why? If you invite Sally, who is very overweight and out of shape, she will most likely feel alienated when you go out for your walk and she can't keep up. Wouldn't it be nice for her to have someone to walk with while the more athletic members go at a faster pace? This way, you don't have to slow down, and the less fit aren't going to hurt themselves or give up. Essentially, everyone has a fitness companion of a similar fitness level.
- Sync your schedules and find a day and time that everyone can accommodate without too much trouble.
- Plan the start date and time.
Step 3: Plan Group Activities
- Begin at the beginning. Stick with simple activities and movements that are easy for people to pick up on the fly. There is plenty of time for things to get more complex later on. For now, you just want people to keep showing up.
- Lead with confidence. Every group needs a leader. Without this leader, your group might end up watching chick flicks and eating cupcakes, which would be counterproductive even if everybody has fun. Once everybody shows up, get out in front and start the warm-up activities, such as simple stretching and even some isometric exercises.
- Keep it fun. For the first group session, consider doing something like turning on the tunes and dancing, or going for a walk. This helps break the ice, and you will get an idea of each person's individual fitness level. Search and find workout videos that are easy to follow, but still give a good workout. You could even have everyone meet up at a location and go on a nature walk. The idea is to keep people coming back for more, and the best way to do this is to create an experience that leaves people feeling good about themselves.
Ideas for Group Activities
Modern Dance Freestyle
Areobic Dance Workouts
Step 4: Provide the Secret Ingredient
- After the workout, make time for learning, refreshing, and group interaction. Provide healthy refreshments, such as water with a sprig of mint, or a healthy smoothie. Staying hydrated is an important part of exercise. While everyone is gathered to refresh, why not read a section from a great fitness book? Help others learn about how muscles react to physical activity, or share a great healthy recipe. Spend some time just talking with others about fitness goals. Encourage group members to set goals, write them down, and talk about their feelings and progress.
- Plan a group reward, such as dinner out or a short day trip. We all have a need to be rewarded for hard work, and praised for our accomplishments. This is not selfish. In this writer's opinion, rewards and recognition are a vital component of our self-esteem, and something that most of us do not get enough of.
Summing It Up
- Your exercise, health, and fitness group should ideally be a group of four to eight people. This way it is small enough to be easily managed and to do group workouts at members' homes.
- Have some fun, for goodness sake! Because the group and the members in it are uniquely individual, you have a great opportunity for having some laughs while you try new things. You can create your group any way you want, and tailor it to your members' needs while keeping things light and fun.
- Keep a record of your group's activities and encourage members to make written goals.
- Try to give everyone a fitness partner who is at or near the same level of fitness. This way nobody is feeling left out if they can't keep up with the superstars in the group.
- Communicate and relate. Focus on one hour of movement and one hour to refresh afterward. This is the time for caring and sharing. Refresh yourselves physically and mentally.
Here's hoping you enjoy your group activities, and that you forge strong bonds of friendship in the process.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Nancy Owens
Nancy Owens (author) from USA on February 28, 2017:
Hope you have some fun... I started with three people, but they are hit and miss, so maybe when the weather is better the group will get going better. Plus, we need a couple more people.
Nell Rose from England on February 28, 2017:
What a great idea! I do exercise most days, and walk everywhere, but it does get pretty lonely doing by yourself all the time, so yes! I may just give it a go!
Nancy Owens (author) from USA on February 23, 2017:
Thank you for stopping by, Deborah. Sometimes I like being on my own and just going at my own pace. Other times I want company and inclusion.
Deborah Nessmith from Florida on February 23, 2017:
This is a great post. We all need someone to help motivate us to become better versions of ourselves. Having a group of like minded and goal oriented, we can help others reach for their stars. Great ideas and notes for creating your own fitness group.