Thursday, February 04, 2010

Esprit de Corps

A wee little French for my gorgeous friend Shelley - "Esprit de Corps" is roughly translated as "the spirit of the group".

The "spirit of the group" is embodied in a concept that sports psychologists call "group cohesion". When I was at University last (lol!) I studied sports psychology as part of my Exercise Science degree. It's easy to see in many events the power of group cohesion. Think of rugby and cricket matches where the power of the group pulling together creates the winning try, wicket or whatever. Stories of group power and cohesion have become legendary in many a sporting biography.

My question is - why don't many of us fitness enthusiasts tap into this potential more often? The need for group cohesion is so strong in us that we create "Our Team -eg our trainer, our nutritionist, our massage therapist etc etc" and we create forums and blogs, hoping that we'll meet "like minded" people. We complain that our world is "small", yet at the same time I read about many fitness enthusiasts discourage others from communicating with them in the gym - you put your headphones in to drown out the questions, you show disdain towards a hapless newbie and you (inadvertently) give the impression you're a complete narcissist, when you're trying to give the impression that you're truly dedicated to your training.

I love to train as hard as the next person - but where's the fun if you can't share the love around occasionally? As somebody who works in a gym teaching Group Fitness, my mission is to involve as many of our members as possible in our classes, in our gym, and possibly socializing a bit after class - many a fitness enthusiast has started off being scared stiff in the back row of a class and has gone on to become a lifelong member. Often that "newbie" gets even more confident and ventures out into the weights room - keen as mustard for more - so by being welcoming, who knows, you may get a training partner, client, or good friend out of it - another member to add to "the tribe" so to speak.

Yesterday I had a new and very nervous lady in my Step class, who didn't give the impression she was into fitness . She did a great job, especially as it was her first visit to the gym. On my way out, I saw her sitting by herself and I took the opportunity to sit down and have a chat.
We talked about the class, how she'd come to join the gym and before I knew it, the words, with a tear in her eye were tumbling out - "I'm too fat to be in here, I don't belong. I want to do this for my sanity but I just feel so intimidated".

My response was to give her hand a squeeze and tell her how much I enjoyed that she had taken the time out of her day to come, that I loved meeting new people and that having kids myself that I understood exactly where she was coming from sanity wise. Then I told her that once we got round to introducing her to the other girls, she would see that no one could give a fig about what she looked like, only that she was enjoying the journey." I'm genuinely hoping to catch up with her next week in class. This example is not to big note myself but rather to say that having everyone "buy in" to the fitness experience together is so powerful. Magic happens - I've seen divorced couples reunite, strong friendships form and a new level of trust in my group fitness coaching. I was that girl once, who was fat and awkward and look what happened - little bit of love, trust and pixie dust!

So promise me that next time you're in the gym with your headphones on and a fitness newbie speaks to you, TAKE THEM OUT, shake their hand and say "welcome". It only takes 30 seconds to point someone in the right direction and perhaps sow the seeds of a beautiful friendship.


Kirstie Robson said...

Heya Liz

That's such a beautiful post :) and so great that you spoke to your newbie in the class. I bet she felt a million bucks after that and will return next week.

you rock girl :) x

KatieP said...

Wise advice gorgeous one.
The world is a better place with you in it.

Dianna Broeren said...

Good on you for making that lady's day Liz! XX

LizN said...

Back atcha sweetpea :)

LizN said...

Thanks girls, love your work! xoxox

Anonymous said...

Liz, that is sheer beauty and grace. You are right in that some of us just do our thing irrespective of what goes on. I will take a leaf from your book and welcome someone. Thank you posting this.

ss2306 said...

Hooray for you!!

Wisdom comes from experience and from experience comes understanding.

Love you for being you.

Leanne said...

That was really nice of you Liz, you are always willing to help & even though we have only seen each other briefly a few times I have seen that in you;-)
I really hope that lady does return & gets the sanity she needs each week x

Carolyn said...

It's so important to welcome new people into the fitness family. I know all to well what it feels like to feel like you don't belong in a gym, because you are bigger than most in there.

I really hope too that some of the hard heads who are just on a mission for themselves stop and think for a minute - that they could have a positive effect on someone who may just need that bit of encouragement. We want more people to share in the health and fitness lifestyle, not scare them away with our "hard core focus" or "go away and leave me alone to train" attitudes. Yes, sometimes we can be in a hurry and need to knuckle down, but taking the time to welcome new faces is worth it. Giving of yourself like that is the best gift you can give someone - you never know, you might just be the one who inspires them to keep going.
Great post!!
Carolyn xx