I’m a lucky person, I’m an in-house artist who gets to work from home, and I started a workout group that is continuing to thrive. Life is relatively good –with all things considered.

Pre-COVID-19 life, the mornings started with a bike ride into the office before sitting down at my computer. Commuting to work is now reduced to rolling out of bed. This new commute isn’t sustainable. I’m the type of person who needs to move and physical boundaries promote work-life balance. After waking up, I immediately jump out of bed and start the day with a calisthenic workout in the living room. Then I close the day with a second round of exercise. Routine exercise helps break up the workdays and feed my addiction to endorphins.

As a photographer, making visual content during these unique times has been a challenge. The social distancing, protests, and constant wildfires have left me creatively paralyzed. Instead of forcing myself to take photos, I opted to share snippets of my workouts on my Instagram stories. I’d rather share an activity that I’m enjoying.

And this is where things take off. My friend, Karen Wang, started copying my IG workouts and asked me over DM what my next workout would look like. I told her to FaceTime me in the mornings and we could workout together. Within a few days, we started inviting other like-minded friends and unintentionally started a workout group.

Our group has been working out together for over a month now. Honestly, it’s one of the few things that is nourishing me physically and spiritually. 

How it Inspires Me

Human Connection

Screenshot of morning workout group

Although, I’m an introvert… I miss hanging out with groups of people who are not my immediate roommates. The need for human connection can be is satiated by hopping on a video call with a bunch of friends (Brady Bunch style!) Group workouts also lead to a decrease in perceived stress and an increase in physical, mental, and emotional quality of life compared with exercising on one’s own or not engaging in regular exercise.

Accountability

Peer pressure works. For many, it’s difficult to stay consistent with workout routines, but having a bunch of friends bombard you with messages the night before or the morning of will provide you with the motivation and accountability to get up and move. Group video calls also puts everyone in the spotlight and keeps everyone exercising together. This also acts as a preventative measure to avert falling into the hole of scrolling through the cell phone.

You don’t want to be that person who’s sitting pretty while everyone else is sweating balls.

Leadership

I am a stereotype of the INTJ Myers Briggs personality, meaning I am a reluctant leader. It’s not my thing. In this case, I’m accepting of this unspoken gym leader role because I enjoy exercise (and I miss friends.) This is pushing me to go beyond my comfort zone by speaking and providing structure to a group of people.

Likewise, this has shown me that leadership is contagious. I learned that I’d be out for a week due to being on-site for work within two weeks of our morning workouts. Up until that point I had been organizing the exercises. I thought that our tribe would fizzle out, but to my surprise, three of our 12 folks stepped up to lead. It both inspiring and humbling to see people step out of their comfort zones and take charge. We continue to rotate leading on different days!

Exposure to New Ideas

Bringing people together who have different interests and are at different fitness levels will introduce you to new perspectives and ideas. Having others share and teach workouts they love is a shortcut to finding new ways to challenge yourself. You’ll end up working on different muscles and moving in ways that you’ve wouldn’t have tired on your own. For instance, thanks to James, I’m now picking up shadowboxing with egg weights, learning basic ballet forms with Andi Terada, and committed to starting the day with a yoga 30-day Challenge with Minji Chang of First of All Podcast. The notion of trying any of those things wouldn’t have crossed my mind had it not been for this group.

It’s a lot easier and more fun to try new things when there’s a group involved. Oh! There’s that accountability factor again!

Creativity

No gym equipment? No problem!

Since gyms are closed and the price of workout equipment is unethically marked up, it’s been fun seeing how everyone is using what they have available. Couches, tables, and chairs are the new staple for gym benches and weights.

Physical and Mental Change

Change is bound to happen when you’re expected to show up. Also, in the time of quarantine and California fires… what else can you do? Where can you go? There are no excuses! Seeing your group push themselves can make you feel a little less alone and encourage you to go harder as well. For me, at the start of shelter-in-place I could do three reps of clapping pushups with good form before collapsing. I’m now up to seven.

I also have abs that remain visible when I sit down, this pleases me .

How to Start Your Own Workout Group

People

Invite people to join your group who you not only vibe with but who also share similar goals and values. These are the folks who will motivate you, keep you accountable, and teach you something new about yourself.

Set the Tone

What’s this group all about? Is everyone going trying to set PRs and get epic gains? What’s the focus? Are you a calisthenics group? Martial Arts? Yoga? HIIT? Does anything go???

My mentality is to show up, move with whatever you have, and push yourself when your body says you can.

Logistics

  • When – What time you’ll meet, for how long, and how often? Keep the “when” consistent to make it easier for the group to make time for fitness.
  • Where – In the Covid-19 environment this means which platform? Zoom? Facebook Room? Google Meet? Whichever you decide, create a dedicated URL so that it’s easy everyone to know where to go.
  • Who – Have a dedicated person lead the workouts (this role can rotate among members.) They’ll be responsible for keeping track of time, setting the pace, and staying focused.
  • What – What workouts will you do? Plan and research a list of workouts you’re going to do the night before. Jot down a list of different exercises to challenge different muscle groups. Keep the workouts varied so that you’ll never get bored!

Final Thoughts

It’s been 180 days of life in lockdown. At this point I’ve must have accumulated over 7,500 pushups in my living room (every Tuesday is 300 Pushup Day.) Bodyweight and movement-based workouts have been pivotal for my sanity over these months.

The ease and convenience of video calling have also created an avenue to reconnect and deepen my relationships. When all that’s required to join a group exercise is to put on clothes and get out of bed there’s going to be a more consistent attendance. And consistent contact is one of the key ingredients to sustaining relationships.

It’s a bittersweet notion, but this is the best and safest option that we have to workout and socialize exercise together while under lockdown.


References

1 Comment

  1. Karen 2020-09-12 at 05:07

    Melly, this is such a heartening addition to your personal journey of navigating the strangest of times. Thank you for reminding me of how valuable it is to document thoughtfully and regularly, which in and of itself can be a striking form of art.

    I retraced the steps to here and now only to realize that, yes, I was looking for an AMRAP cool people on IG were doing AND, beneath the surface, the next gateway to human connection. You’re right, introverts need a specific serving size of that and thanks to technology, reaching out and sustaining a sense of connection becomes easily attained while being investment-friendly. Thanks for being gung-ho to a random DM. Who knew it would turn ourselves into a community!

    Sky’s the limit from here. Yay for fitness and friends where the common thread is “free” yet priceless at the same time.

    P.S. Special request to deconstruct the art of the clapping push-up. Please and thanks 😀

    Reply

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