“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.”
This quote couldn’t ring more true. As human beings, we can’t survive alone and what we do influences others, whether we like it or not. We are part of something bigger than ourselves and therefore can’t escape human connections. This is why we seek to make those connections rich while developing a sense of community in our lives.
The feeling of community has a tremendous impact on our overall health and is the reason why more and more people are enrolling in group fitness classes, like CKO, than ever before.
Creating that community feel within a gym environment is no easy feat. Initially, it relies on cues from leaders, but is up to both them and its members to sustain it.
HOW IS COMMUNITY CREATED IN YOUR GYM?
A community is a group of people with a similar characteristic in common, in this case, working out. But it’s much more than a group of people striking and kicking a bag together to make a community, well, a community.
There are four elements essential to develop that “sense of community” (McMillan & Chavis, 1986):
Being a member is the first step. Having that key tag is your “in.” You’ve paid your dues and are an active participant, showing that you value your time here. It takes people to create a community, so you need them as much as they need you.
This is where that “continent” part of the quote comes in. You are just as valuable as the next guy and are a vital piece of the puzzle. Never forget that.
Members’ needs and feelings influence other members. Walking in the door with a smile on your face and a ready-to-go attitude influences others to feel the same. You continue to influence other members by how hard you push yourself; other members see this and feed off of it.
Another part of the community, the instructors, are influenced by what they see and feel from you. By watching you work and chatting with you before and after class they obtain new perspectives and inspiration for how they run their class.
And, of course, those instructors influence you. That’s why you’re there, after all.
They are there to teach, motivate, and drive you to do your best, providing modifications and challenges as they see fit. They watch you to see where you are at, how you are progressing and are cheering you on.
Your instructor’s voice, urging you to move, grind and push a little more. That’s community at work.
3) Integration and Fulfillment of Needs
In a community, everyone needs to bring something to the table and likewise everyone’s needs must be fulfilled. It’s your typical symbiotic relationship.
Members join gyms for individual needs: to lose weight, to tone up, to feel empowered, to make friends. As long as one of your reasons for joining your gym are being met, then you experience value in joining and are, inadvertently, becoming a part of the community.
And what are you bringing to the table for others? Yourself.
Your presence alone can inspire others. And the more the merrier since that energy you feel in a packed class just does something to us, moving us to hit harder, faster and stronger.
4) Shared Emotional Connection
There’s an unspoken understanding between members of a community. When you are engrossed in a community it becomes a part of who you are. You value and cherish it and those within it.
When you’re pounding the bag like everyone else in class is, you’re sharing a bond. You understand each other’s struggle and pain because you’re both going through it.
It’s a connection that can’t be faked. It can’t be understood by outsiders. It’s what joins you together, makes you understand the look in their eyes and what their “you got this” wink really means.
“CONNECTING” IN TODAY’S WORLD
When you’re not hanging out with your gym community, you may be fueling up a popular spot in your local community; the coffee shop. These days when we walk into a coffee shop it seems that the first thing we do, even before ordering our almond milk latte, is ask that all-important question. “What’s your wifi password?”
And if there is no public wifi (gasp!) we must hurriedly google another nearby caffeine-rich venue. After all, we have to connect.
There’s that word, “connect” which in today’s world means the ability to access your kid’s preschool Facebook page and stream your favorite podcast, while simultaneously checking your email and placing that Amazon order.
We are doing this more and more. In fact, a report by Nielsen found that on average adults are spending 11 hours a day consuming media in the forms of watching, listening and interacting. 11 HOURS!
This means we’re serving our minds and hearts technology instead of fulfilling the original meaning of connection: a relationship with another human being.
As technology takes away our time to form connections and establish a sense of community, we need it wherever we can get it.
The gym is the perfect place to find it.
Though we all join a gym for differing reasons, we all come because there is something about ourselves that we want to improve or change. When we show up that first day and come back again and again, we are indirectly admitting to each member around us, “Hey, I’m human too.”
We are putting ourselves out there, admitting that we’re not perfect, that we need help. We are naked for all to see (figuratively, people, figuratively) and in these moments we are fully and undeniably vulnerable.
Vulnerability. That word has immense power to it, for it is when we show vulnerability that we have the greatest chance of forming a connection. It’s like an open door and a chance to show, and for others to see, what’s behind it.
When and where are we most vulnerable? Well, the gym sure grabs that top spot! Beginning a hardcore workout, our fitness ability out in the open, dripping with sweat, clad in our tight workout leggings. We are saying, “Here I am, people. This is me and this is where I am at.”
The great thing is that even though it’s so hard to be vulnerable, gyms like CKO expect vulnerability, accepting you and meeting you where you’re at. Additionally, each of us feel for each other in these moments and thus form a connection because we are in the same boat, striving to do our best, bag to bag with one another.
THE COMMUNITY AT WORK
Once connections are made, and a community is established and strong as steel is when the influence of the community extends it reach; in this case, beyond the gym doors.
What better way to get more out of a tight-knit community than by embarking on missions to help other communities? Knowing that “your people,” those whom you value within your community, are giving back makes you more willing to contribute as well.
These communities take on 5K’s together, compete in relay races and embark on creative fun fitness challenges, all in an effort to raise funds for important causes.
CKO Kickboxing, for example, is well-known and respected for its commitment to community. The company does more than change members lives; its members continue the trend by changing others’ lives, obtaining “Real Results” in the community.
From relief aid for natural disasters to supporting local families struck by tragedy, CKO does it all.
“Punch-A-Thons,” are the primary charitable events that CKO is known for, intense kickboxing classes hosted at multiple CKO locations that help raise awareness and support for cancer research, military veterans, autism awareness and other important causes.
American charitable giving increased over 5% to $410 billion in 2017, the first time the $400m mark has ever been crossed. 70% of these donations came from individuals, many of whom raised funds through their participation in these fitness-themed events.
Attending these events with your community members helps serve the greater good and further connects you with each other, further strengthening your sense of community.
WHY DO WE NEED COMMUNITY?
No matter how independent you claim to be, you cannot live without others.
For example, picture yourself alone on a beautiful deserted island. Perhaps the swaying palm trees, crystal clear waters and thoughts of a sun-kissed glow make you say, “Heck Yeah! Count me in.”
Not so fast.
Who’s gonna hoist you up that palm tree to grab a coconut? Who’s gonna take first watch while you sleep? And don’t say that Tom Hanks didn’t have anybody in Castaway. That was NOT based on a true story.
But since you mentioned Tom, let’s go with it. He obviously needed community, otherwise he wouldn’t have created “Wilson,” a washed up volleyball that accompanied him throughout all of his wins and woes on the island. And let’s not forget what kept him alive; his love and longing for another human being back home. There’s that human connection thing again.
Yes, you can work out alone, but the benefits from working out alongside others are astounding. Just as Wilson pushed Tom to keep going, to do better, to have hope, we too do that when we hit up the gym.
When the end of class is near and you’re about to give up on your plank, you look over to see another member struggling too but holding on for dear life. So what do you do? You lift up your hips, put your eyes on your bag and hold with her.