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.