We sat down and asked Lauren Padula, RACEPLACE ambassador, Lululemon ambassador, Boston Marathon qualifier and San Diego’s November Project leader, how she stays in such great shape and motivates her community to do the same. Here’s what she had to say!
When you ask people why they don’t exercise as much as they should, you will most likely get a myriad of reasons. There isn’t enough time, personal trainers are too expensive, the gym is boring. What if you could workout before or after work, for free, and with your friends? The motivation to adhere to a fitness program would skyrocket. This is exactly the motto behind the growing field of community based fitness, including run clubs and groups like the November Project and the North Face’s Mountain Athletics program.
So what’s the goal of group exercise?
To change the way people look at fitness. No longer is it a solo activity that you must suffer through, but is instead a positive environment of sweaty, social support. While these groups may vary in their focus (running, strength training, etc.), they all have a few common qualities: the belief that fitness should be fun, the understanding that friendly competition can produce better results, and the knowledge that commitment and accountability drive progress.
The idea of fun fitness is not new. Think back to your childhood. Gym class and recess were two of the best parts of your days. Did you ride a stationary bike with headphones in or use an elliptical while watching TV? No. Did you look at the clock every minute hoping your thirty minutes was over? No. You played games, you chased each other, you laughed. And yes, you sweated. And when the bell rang or the class was over, you were already looking forward to your next chance to play. These community based groups still believe that we can have fun with our fitness, even as adults. You’d be surprised how hard a game of tag, partner hill sprints, or wheelbarrow races can be.
Can anyone participate?
Just like the idea that once the more fun loving people show up to a party, it will make the entire party that much better, these groups understand that the more quality athletes that show up to the workout, make the entire group train harder. This doesn’t mean these groups are exclusive, or that members are negatively competing against one another. This means that these groups use the innate competitive drive in everyone to help elevate the entire group’s fitness, but they do so in a way that is inclusive to even the back-of-the-pack athletes. This may be through setting workouts up in a circuit fashion, so athletes of all abilities are always overlapping each other, or by having modification options available. This idea of friendly competition also encourages participants to interact in a positive way, with high fives and words of encouragement as they race up the hill or around the park.
What’s the biggest secret to a successful fitness program?
Your commitment. The gym membership that gets purchased in January, used in February, and ignored from March to December isn’t going to produce results. Adding the social aspect into the fitness routine makes the workouts or group runs not only exercise, but a chance to hang out with friends. Committing to workouts with friends forces a different level of accountability. This accountability drives commitment. And the thought of missing a fun activity with your friends can induce FOMO (fear of missing out), which is strong enough to get you out of bed early in the morning or into your running shoes after work.
What group are you most passionate about participating in?
With November Project in 19 cities (and counting) in North America, Mountain Athletics by North Face in 5 cities across the US, and countless run clubs, there’s bound to be a group for you in your city. So if you haven’t yet, find them. A whole network of fun, fit friends is at your doorstep, probably waiting with open arms to give you a big sweaty hug.
Where can you find these groups?
Where to begin:
- www.november-project.com. November Project tribes exist in 19 cities in North America and workouts take place on Monday, Wednesday, and/or Friday mornings. Check out the website for specific locations and meeting times.
- www.thenorthface.com/en_US/mountain-athletics/. Currently in Boston, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco, these groups meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings for free outdoor workouts.
- www.lululemon.com. The yoga giant also offers free run clubs led by their run ambassadors once a week from most of their stores.
- Your local running shoe store may offer a weekly free run club. Check out their Facebook or other social media pages for specific details.