I recently did some outreach via my blog Facebook page and this survey, and I asked you guys to share what some of your biggest challenges are right now as they pertain to the areas of fitness, nutrition, and mindset. A few of you told me that you are just starting your health and wellness journeys (yeah!), and I noticed a common theme in one of the things you noted as being difficult for you right now: feeling a little isolated or lonely along the way because the people you live, work, and/or hang out with just aren’t on the same page as you.

I’m excited to chat about this today, as I think many of us have either been in a similar situation or can relate. Think about whether you’ve ever been in any of the following scenarios:

  • Being out in a social setting, doing your best to order mindfully off the menu, and having a friend say, “oh come on, these nachos won’t kill you” or “live a little and eat this cookie.”
  • Wanting your significant other to work on eating more nutritiously with you, but he or she never wants to join you in the kitchen and they continue to bring home unhealthy items from the grocery store.
  • Feeling like you’ve been sitting too long at work, asking your co-workers if anyone wants to go for an afternoon walk break, and getting a bunch of blank stares in return.
  • Excitedly telling a relative about a new healthy food discovery, only for them to immediately say, “oh, I would never eat that,” and not even give it a chance.
  • Wanting to go for an evening run before meeting up with the girls, and being teased about it via a group text before you see everyone and in person after you arrive.

It’s really challenging when we want our friends, families, and co-workers to be in the same place as we are, but they just aren’t. The truth is, people are always going to be in varying stages of readiness for wanting to make a behavior change. And as much as we might want to nag our husbands to get to the gym or preach to our co-workers about the things they could be eating instead of that gross entrée from the work cafeteria, we aren’t going to be able to force anyone to change. In fact, in order for someone to make a change, they have to be ready for it themselves. I could write a whole separate post on how to gently coach your loved ones into becoming ready to tackle new health behaviors themselves, but for now I want to simply drive home the key point that you can’t force your new health journey on anyone else. 

Sorry if that’s not what you wanted to hear!

“But… how am I supposed to do this alone?”

“Even if I can get started, how are any big changes that I’m able to make supposed to last without the right support system?”

I get you. I really, really do. There have been countless studies done to prove that people have higher success rates with meeting health goals when they have a supportive and encouraging network to back them up. Even when I think about my personal networks, I’d say that most of the healthy people I know prefer to share their food choices, fitness accomplishments, and other positive choices with their friends, both online and off. I know I do! For me, it makes the whole process more fun, more doable, and more sustainable for the long-term when I feel like a part of something bigger and get a sense of community around the goals I’m working on. For me, social > solo helps me so much. Of course there’s nothing wrong with preferring a more private or quieter journey, but if something you are struggling with right now is not being able to find like-minded people who share similar goals, want to embrace similar behaviors, and have shared values or ways of doing things, I have the solution for you so that your journey doesn’t seem like such an individual effort:

You need to find a fitness tribe.

And if you can’t find a fitness tribe, you need to create a fitness tribe yourself.

Fitness Tribe

Before we dig a little deeper into this concept, we need to define what a fitness tribe is. I actually Googled the phrase fitness tribe when writing this post, and here’s what the interwebs had to say:

“A fitness tribe is simply two or more people who team up in any way, shape, or form to engage in healthy behavior, build healthy habits, or achieve a healthy goal together.” 

Since there were a few different sites I saw defining fitness tribe in this way, props to whoever came up with this definition first because it’s freaking awesome. One thing I love about this definition is the number thrown out there right at the beginning of the sentence. Two. Get that? Your fitness tribe only needs to be two or more people. Right away, it makes finding a fitness tribe seem doable, because if you are part of your own tribe (duh), then you only have to find one other person to root you on in your journey. Just one! Finding that one person or a few key people to give you the power of support as you start is so important, and then you can grow your tribe from there. For a real example of this, read one of my last Journey to Fit posts where guest contributor Steve told us about the three different types of people he enlisted for a support system when he first set out on his weight loss journey and his wife and daughter weren’t ready to join him yet.

Gym friends in the morning

I want you guys to think about who your personal fitness tribe can consist of. If you cannot think of anyone in your life who you already know that may be on board, then you might just have to put yourself out there and meet somebody new. I know, I know. That can seem really scary! But I promise sometimes it just boils down to simply saying hello to someone. That’s it. Just start a conversation.

Years ago, one of the girls who regularly attended my Thursday morning 6am class approached me after class. She simply introduced herself to me and told me she started reading my blog. I don’t remember much else about this conversation, but after that day we’d say hi to each other and make small talk before and after class. It seemed like each week we would talk a little bit more, and after a while, I invited her to a gathering I was hosting at my apartment with some of the other girls I was friendly with from the gym. I had no idea how close I would become with this class member who just went out on a limb one day to say hello, but now my friendship with this gal is one of my most cherished. I also had no idea how much my little invite meant to her at the time, but she’s said she’s so happy she just decided to say hi because it helped her not only find a solid group of friends in the Boston area, but her fitness tribe at the same time. For the record, Ashley wrote this all in my wedding card, and I cried all over it.

Wedding: Me and Ashley
Classy bride holding a beer. Oy! 

People often comment on how lucky I am to have a big group of girlfriends from the gym, but keep in mind that someone had to initiate it. Why not you? What’s the worst that can happen? Think about starting a friendly conversation with someone who stands next to you in class or someone you see all the time in the weight room or locker room. Because honestly, sometimes that’s all it takes. If you aren’t sure what to say, here are some ideas for conversation starters at the gym:

  • Give compliments. Tell someone you really like their sneakers or outfit, and ask where they got them. Continue the conversation by sharing your favorite places to shop for workout gear or something recent you just purchased.
  • Comment on a previous week’s class or workout. Talk about how hard the class was, mention a certain exercise or combination that was new to you, or chat about what your favorite song was from last week’s class playlist.
  • Remark on someone’s dedication or progress. Note when you’ve seen someone in class or the weight room for a few weeks, ask if they are following a certain program, or comment about how it looks like they are really dedicated to their _____ (chin ups, planks, squats).
  • Chit chat in the locker room. If you shower and change for work at the gym, chances are there are a few familiar faces in the locker room with you every day at the same time. Ask someone if they work or live in the area. If yes, ask them what they do for work or if they’ve lived in the area a long time. People love to talk about themselves and will likely go into more detail!
  • Find people on social media. After you’ve chatted with someone a few times in person, ask them if they are on social media. You can make it less creepy by saying, “hey, are you on Instagram? I posted a recipe the other night that I think you would like!”

If you don’t belong to a gym, or you are looking for a different type of support, remember that a fitness tribe also doesn’t need to be created at the gym. You also can have different tribes for different areas of health that you are working on. I definitely turn to certain people when it comes to checking out new exercise classes together versus the people I discuss my strength training journey with. I have a tribe that keeps me accountable with healthy cooking, and there are different people who I count on for guidance with my mindset, blogging, or business goals. Of course there can be overlap too!

Boston Blogger Dinner at the SocialBoston bloggers at dinner a couple of weeks ago!

Here are some other ideas you might want to consider for branching out to find different types of supportive and like-minded crews to help you:

  • Take a class that isn’t fitness related. There are so many places in the Boston area that offer different types of classes now, and wellness related events are seriously on the rise. I’m sure you guys can find something wherever you live, whether it be a healthy cooking class, attending a free educational health seminar at Whole Foods, or going to a wine and cheese pairing lesson. These are great examples of places to meet people who have shared interests as you!
  • Join a local group. This could be a running group, a book club, anything! I have a friend who recently moved to a new area and had a baby a few months later. She joined a local yoga group for moms without knowing anyone, and she is so happy she did because now she’s made a connection and found community with other mothers in her neighborhood trying to stay fit post partum.
  • Look for opportunities at work. Suggest walking meetings with your team or ask a co-worker if they will join you for an afternoon stretch every day. One of my friends at work started a monthly potluck and recipe exchange group for plant-based eating because that’s her particular area of interest. I know another guy at work who started a board games group that meets the first Tuesday of every month after work and someone else who organized a cycling group for after work bike rides. Base your group or club on your personal interests for sure! If you want to get more easy crock pot recipes, start a crock pot cooking club. If you simply want to take more stair breaks during the day, approach someone you know already does the stairs every day, and ask if you can join them.
  • Join a group online. Have a wearable device or use a phone app? There are many companies out there such as Fitbit or MyFitnessPal whose online platforms allow people to create groups for digital accountability. Do you follow any local bloggers? If so, join in on their conversations on social media and participate in any events or challenges they host. You may end up connecting with others also participating and the result is feeling a sense of community. I definitely see this kind of community come together when I host my annual Holiday Hustle Challenge. People open up and share their accomplishments, triumphs, tips, struggles, challenges, and more.

Whether you are the one creating your tribe, or whether you find a tribe to already join, one key point to drive home is to make sure you surround yourself with people who will legitimately be happy for you throughout your journey. The last thing you need when you are making an investment in yourself and taking positive steps for your health are people who will talk you out of making healthy choices or sabotage your process. They shouldn’t become snarky when you talk about even the smallest of fitness wins, and if they do… that’s more about an insecurity on their end than it is about you and your journey. Negative Nancys and judgers? Get out.

To help remind you guys of the key characteristics you want to look for in the people you will count on to help you along your journey, I’ve developed a little acronym for the word tribe.

The people in your tribe should:

Team up with you for accountability and support 

Respect the choices you make without judgment or bullying 

Inspire you to get out of your comfort zone and try new things

Be there for you and cheer for you along the way

Encourage you to be the best version of yourself 

Basically, you want to harness the power of those around you who are already making healthy choices and can fulfill the above characteristics instead of trying to force your health journey on to those who aren’t ready to join you. Healthy habits are contagious, and you are more likely to make positive choices and stick with them for the long-term if other people are making them too. And then maybe those significant others, parents, kids, friends, etc. who aren’t ready yet will feel inspired to start on their own.

Gym Friends at the Club

I hope this helped some of you who are struggling with not knowing where to go for support in your health and fitness journeys. Just remember, that your vibe attracts your tribe. It really does, so channel that positive energy and put yourself out there. I promise it just make change your life. I know it did for me.

Still unsure about where you could start finding your tribe?

Consider joining Wellness Your Way, my new 12-week group coaching program that kicks off on January 16th!

Wellness Your Way is simple and stress free lifestyle coaching for people who want to lose fat and get lean without all the rules and restriction, and because this program is facilitated in a small group atmosphere, by the end of the 12 weeks you will establish strong and meaningful relationships with the other women participating in the program. Every week we’ll be sharing our successes as well as struggles with each other, and the best part is that everyone is genuinely rooting for one another! I am confident that the deep relationships formed (yes, even online!) + the personal accountability that comes from being a part of a small coaching group will make the program well worth the investment. You will 100% have a tribe by the end of the 12 weeks!

Enroll in Wellness Your Way here. Registration closes Friday 1/6/17!