The Not-Always-Obvious Benefits of Group Workouts: Career, Confidence and Community

10/18/2017 12:20 pm ET Updated Oct 18, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness - WP

As a career coach, I often write about the usual topics: job search strategies, resume advice, interview tips, yadda, yadda, yadda. But career development doesn’t happen in some sort of professional vacuum, so occasionally I like to touch upon other lifestyle topics that – directly or indirectly – can impact a person’s professional development. From volunteering, to exercise, from meditation to various group hobbies, there are many areas of your life which, when explored and nurtured, can help boost your self-esteem, build your professional network, and provide clarity around career-related next steps.

This summer I joined my local Orangetheory Fitness (OTF), a studio that offers heart-rate monitored, high-intensity workouts in a fun and energizing group environment. Until then my fitness regime was rather laughable, save for running in the local park and the occasional weekend hike. A few of my friends and acquaintances had been raving about OTF for some time, not just about the weight they’d lost (which I could clearly see through their now-saggy clothing), or the muscle tone they gained (again, visible through their clothes), but also about the community-based aspect of the workout. So, I caved in and gave it a try, and was immediately hooked.

Rest assured this isn’t a sponsored advertisement for a specific gym or workout routine. I’m just sharing my own experience in case it helps that one person out there who is struggling on some level. If you’re still offering excuses as to why you don’t exercise, or if you’re stuck in a life predicament (e.g., a professional rut), or you simply have too much energy, or anger, or listlessness coursing through your veins, why not give it a communal workout a shot? Below is a list of the top benefits that I experienced and observed over the last few months at OTF. Certainly, I imagine many of these benefits apply to other group workout routines, but I can only speak to what I’ve experienced and know personally.

Confidence Boost

It’s not just physical. This may seem obvious, but working out with a group helps boost your self-esteem. Losing a few pounds, toning your muscles or increasing your physical endurance doesn’t just make you look more attractive, it makes you feel it, too. And that comes across in everything from your posture, your voice, your smile, and your assertiveness. I often find that after a workout people are aglow, and not just from the glistening sweat. Their vibe just seems to be more positive and energetic, and frankly, it’s contagious. I personally feel much more radiant and energized after a group workout than a solo session at the gym, and I leave ready to take on the day ahead (I prefer morning workouts).

Increased Resilience (Mental and Physical)

Many studies have demonstrated the health benefits of exercise on your immune system, mood and overall well-being. Sure, exercising by yourself can be meditative and calming, but exercising with a group introduces that very important social element. Whenever I see my fellow members sweat and grind through their workouts, it gives me that added bit of strength to power forward myself. Tackling a difficult workout successfully really can make us feel like we can tackle the other problems of our lives – whether it’s small (a nagging unpaid utility bill) or major (an interpersonal challenge with someone you care about deeply). The high-intensity workouts at Orangetheory often kick my behind, but the fact that I’m able to persevere and complete the workout, and that I keep coming back, really does spill over into other aspects of my life, including increased resilience at work, as well as with friends and family.

The Ultimate Anti-Procrastination Tool

Pure and simple, completing an early morning workout (even when I don’t exactly feel like it at first), gives me a pretty strong sense of accomplishment and fuels my momentum to continue crushing the other tasks of the day, everything from small errands to big projects.

Better Focus & Mental Sharpness

I used to think that group workouts would be terribly distracting. That I’d be too worried about what other members were thinking about me, or that I’d be too shy or distracted by attractive people… but I found the opposite to be true. Sure, there’s always eye candy, but if anything, that just gives me more pep in my step. Moreover, when I see how focused everyone else is on their own routines, it just gives me more motivation and immediately reminds me to shift the focus back on myself. And once the group workout is done, I tend to feel much calmer and more focused. Regular exercise has been shown to increase mental sharpness, memory and concentration. I’m not sure if there is a statistical difference between working out alone vs. in a group, but my experience has been that group sessions leave me with a lot creative energy and innovative business ideas to challenges that have been otherwise nagging at me for hours or days.

Stronger Networks, A Healthier Community

Most high-intensity workouts, including the one at Orangetheory, don’t leave much room for idle chit-chat during the session, which makes sense: you want to get the most bang for your back. But right after class, I’ve made some friends and met prospective clients and creative partners. I spoke to Paul, the owner of my local Orangetheory, who reiterated that friendships – and even some romantic possibilities – have developed between studio members. For the average uber-busy professional who shuffles between work and home, it’s not always easy to make new friends or grow your network. Most of the OTF classes I’ve attended have 20-30 people. These are folks who live in my community but whom I might not have otherwise met. As a bonus, the studio also plans occasional events where participants can meet up in a social setting outside of the studio, including in support of various community service and charitable organizations.

Inter-generational Interaction

One of the aspects of my workouts that I think is underrated is the incredibly age diversity of the participants, from teenagers to folks in theirs 70’s and beyond. It’s wonderful to see people of nearly all life stages invest in their health and fitness. It’s inspirational and socially beneficial. I think we all stand to learn a thing or two from people in different age brackets. Too often it seems that a lot of typical social interaction (e.g. at work, at the bar, online), is insular around people our own age.

Accountability & Motivation

Working out alone can work for some people, but I actually benefit from that added sense of (mild) social pressure. When I’m at OTF, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m competing against anyone else – I’m really there to have the best workout I can and I don’t worry too much about what the person next to me is doing – but there is an element of accountability, both from the group trainer as well as from the very presence of other bodies in the room. I’m less inclined to give up and call it quits halfway. In fact, I’ve always completed a group workout, whereas I’ve occasionally cut short a solo gym session while lifting weights or running on the treadmill, just because I didn’t feel like continuing and there was no one to persuade me otherwise. For the timid among us, a group workout can also be more palatable than a one-on-one training session, where some people might feel too awkward or too directly pressured by the constant and full attention of a trainer.

I’m pretty sure that none of the opinions or experiences I listed above are earth-shattering, but I wanted to share my journey on the off-chance it motivates someone – even just one person – to get out there and commit to their physical, mental and social health, or to try one of those group workouts that might seem awkward and intense in advertisements but are actually quite fun and effective in real life. Or you could just dig up that old treadmill that’s collecting dust in your basement, but where’s the fun in that?

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David (Dawid) Wiacek is a Certified Career Coach, resume + LinkedIn writer, and creative brand strategist. He helps individuals find more fulfilling, better-paying jobs; and helps businesses stand out in print and online. For more information, visit: http://www.davidthefixer.com

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