Power of the Group – Exercise Together

SAMSUNGFor about six years now, I’ve been lucky to be part of a small group of women who regularly hike together (along with some yoga, cycling, etc.) We call ourselves OEBs, short for Obsessive Exercise Buddies. Okay, maybe “committed” would be a better word choice than “obsessive”…but the benefits are huge!

There are four of us, so even if two can’t make it, I still have a workout buddy. Together we try new things. None of us had cycled on anything but a cruiser a few years ago. Yoga was a bit of a stretch for one of us (pun intended). We’ve been there for each other, talking through problems up and down mountains, and we’ve had some doozies, from death of a spouse to breast cancer.

For anyone wanting to create a consistent and enjoyable exercise routine, joining a group or finding a workout partner with a similar fitness level and goals is going to practically ensure your success. I urge my coaching clients to find this type of support, but it’s not always easy, so here are some tips:

1) There are countless numbers of exercise groups out there that offer not only fitness but also a great social component. For hiking, check out local groups online. Mayo Clinic offers advice on How to Start a Walking Group. If you’re into cycling, almost any bike shop organizes regular group rides.

2) Classes are a great way to stay motivated. You meet new people, time flies by, you’re challenged well beyond your regular 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, and most gym offer a variety of cool classes.

3) Chances are you and your spouse or partner share some similar interests. Capitalize on those by gardening, biking, or taking early morning walks together. Even just sharing what kind of exercise you did that day is a positive way to give and receive support.

Fergus Closeup4) Dogs are the BEST accountability partners. Who can deny that face when he wants to go for his regular walk? Establish a pattern, and you can be sure that he’ll remind you when it’s time to go.

5) A friend in another city or country can also be your buddy. I know of a man who trades texts with his brother each day about their workouts. It’s not a contest (at least he says it’s not) but it’s a motivator as well as a nice way to connect.

6) Signing up for a 5K, participating in a bike race, or a charitable walk puts you in touch with others who have a common goal. Sign up with a friend and train together. A few months of that may make the difference in creating a positive habit of regular exercise.

It’s hard to overemphasize how enriching and helpful sharing your exercise routine can be. The physical benefits of exercise are well known, but adding a social component takes it up a notch. The PERMA theory of Well-Being created by Positive Psychologist Martin Seligman shows us how. Exercising with a buddy or a group touches each of the five elements proven to increase flourishing or happiness.

P – Positive emotion — the endorphin rush, and the satisfaction you feel when you’ve completed your workout along side your friend, or the feedback you get when you report your activity to your partner,

E – Engagement — being committed to and invested in regular exercise with others,

R – Relationships — meeting new people, deepening existing relationships, and growing together,

M – Meaning and Purpose — sharing goals and reaching them together,

A – Accomplishment – following through on your workout plans, making it happen, and getting it done.

P.S.  I had some interesting feedback on this post. One client said her exercise time is sort of sacred–a time to be alone with her thoughts. Another said it was just too hard to coordinate schedules, accommodate another person’s pace, and to be at the whim of someone else canceling at the last minute. She prefers to get it done alone. I want to acknowledge that side of the coin, and reiterate that you have to DO WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU! For more on that, you might enjoy a great post by one of my favorite bloggers at Move, Eat, Create – Why the Workout ‘Buddy System’ Isn’t For Everyone (And That’s Ok!)

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SOURCES

Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press.

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Are You Positive?

We all know people who just never seem to have a bad day. They’re always perky, up, ready to go, eager to please — kind of like a puppy. But when you’re not feeling it, and maybe the day hasn’t been all that great for you, that person’s sunniness can be annoying at the very least, or on our worst days, can be something we simply can’t relate to or even believe is genuine! Yet there is usually something there that is attractive and admirable about their optimism. We want what they have, maybe just a touch of it.

So what is positive psychology, and, if you sign on with a coach, counselor or therapist who espouses positive psychology, are they going to try to turn you into a Pollyanna?! Rest assured, the aim of positive psychology is NOT to see the world through rose-colored glasses. In his book Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching, Robert Biswas-Diener describes four key points about the field:

1)   Positive psychology looks at what is right with people.

2)   It recognizes negative emotions, failure, and problems as natural and important parts of life.

3)   It is first and foremost a science backed by research that leads to the creation of real-world interventions that will improve school, business, government, and other aspects of individual social life.

4)   Interventions are largely positive with a focus on promoting superior functioning, instead of alleviating pain or restoring a normal level of functioning. (p. 5)

So the science of positive psychology and the art of coaching intersect at their common goal of promoting well-being, happiness, and personal success. In her article, Positive Psychology: The Science at the Heart of Coaching, Carol Kauffman expresses the popular belief that  ‘positive psychology provides a robust theoretical and empirical base for the artful practice of life and executive coaching.” She goes on to say that psychology began the 20th century developing tools to measure human pathology. Our current century is seeing the development of “assessment tools, interventions, research methods to study strengths and virtues.” Just as psychologists have devoted their careers to diagnosing mental illness, the new wave of practitioners of positive psychology are measuring “strengths, hope, optimism, and love reliably. Studies show them to be effective with sustainable impact.” (p. 221)

You can see that positive psychology is not about unbridled optimism. Instead it helps us discover where our strengths lie, and what is already working for us in our lives. With that knowledge a coach or other practitioner can work with us to set appropriate and realistic goals concerning any and all aspects of our lives. We can harness the energy and talents that come naturally to us. We can choose the partner, hobbies, career, and lifestyle that capitalize on our strengths, and help us to maximize the joy and flourishing available to us throughout our lives.


Sources

Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Practicing Positive Pscyhology Coaching: Assessment, Activities, and Strategies for Success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.

Kauffman, C. (2006). Positive Psychology: The Science at the Heart of Coaching. In D. Stober, & A. Grant (Eds.), Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting best practices to work for your clients (pp. 219-253). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.

Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press.