Want to start exercising, but aren’t sure how to begin? Starting a new exercise program, especially by yourself, can be daunting, but you can ease this transition by enlisting the aid and support of those around you.
No exercise groups in your area, you say? No problem! This article will provide tips that combine the ambition of the do-it-at-home exerciser with the determination of the do-it-yourself exerciser so you can begin a supportive group exercise program in your neighborhood.
Starting a group exercise program can be a difficult but fufilling endeavor.
Starting an Exercise Group
Starting an exercise group is not hard, but there are some considerations and logistics that need to be addressed first:
- Consider what type of exercise group you want to start. When I was a young mom, with three small children and a husband deployed to Iraq, I needed and wanted the support of other moms. Hence, I began a neighborhood walking group in our small on-base military neighborhood. As the word spread, and as people saw our daily stroller parade, more people joined us. Not only was this a great support system for the moms, but it was also a great way to socialize and exercise, as well as relieve stress.
- Consider the time commitment. Do you want the group to meet daily or every other day? Does your group have a set time to begin and end? Does your group have a common goal for each session? For example, will you walk for one hour or will you walk until you have completed five miles, no matter the time?
- Consider safety. If you exercise in the early morning or late evening, will you need reflective vests? Does your exercise area have sidewalks? Does someone have a list of emergency contacts for all members of the group? Will everyone be responsible for bringing his or her own water? Are headphones allowed during the exercise session?
“Once your exercise group has been established, staying motivated, especially during bad weather or on low-attendance days, can be difficult.”
Create the Good, an organization created by the American Association of Retired Persons, helps connect people with volunteer opportunities that encourage the sharing of life experiences, skills, and passions within communities. In keeping with their mission statement, Create the Good relies heavily on volunteers to build stronger relationships with family, neighbors, and/or co-workers in local communities and offers the following tips to start and maintain a successful exercise group:
- Identify a local partner. Call local community-based organizations and see if they would be interested in helping to start or support an exercise group.
- Promote your group to family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Try posting fliers at your local YMCA, library, community center, health club, or place of worship.
- Kick it off. A start-up meeting is a great way to get the group together so everyone can meet. Meet in a public place, such as a local park or coffee shop. At the meeting, make a plan and pick a start date. You should also set up a system to contact members for reminders, changes to exercise sessions, etc.
- Set goals. Encourage members to set goals for themselves and for the team.
- Start exercising. On the start-up day – go! It’s as simple as that.
- Celebrate your successes. When your team meets its goals, celebrate. This can be as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee after an exercise session.
How to Stay Positive and Motivated
Once your exercise group has been established, staying motivated, especially during bad weather or on low-attendance days, can be difficult. Again, Create the Good has some inspiring ways to help your exercise group stay focused:
- Give your group a name and have t-shirts, hats, and other gear made.
- Enter charity walkathons, community parades, or 5km races together.
- Invite a local speaker to talk about fitness and nutrition.
- Share articles on exercise.
- Record the team’s progress.
- Set weight-loss goals.
- Share success stories.
- Recognize group members for their progress.
- Start a newsletter that chronicles the group’s adventures.
- Have coffee or lunch after a session.
- Organize a community walk to inspire others to join in.
“Goals can be as simple as attending every session for ten weeks or something bigger, like participating in a 5km charity event in a few months.”
One of the primary reasons exercise groups fall apart, is the lack of goal setting at the start of the program, as well as not adjusting goals as the program progresses. Goals should be set not only for the group, but members should also be encouraged to set individual exercise goals. Create the Good has come up with some ways to encourage the success of your exercise group:
- Have accountability. Whether you take attendance or assign partners or groups, be sure to hold your group members accountable to each other and to the group. Simple rewards for attendance, such as stickers, certificates, or a shout-out, can be enough to keep the group going.
- Write down goals. Goals can be as simple as attending every session for ten weeks or something bigger, like participating in a 5km charity event in a few months.
- Tell friends and family. Having support from those important to you will make sticking to your goals easier and more rewarding.
- Track progress. You and your fellow group members should write down when you exercised, how long, the number of steps displayed on your pedometer, etc. This will bring your progress to life and help you determine what’s working and what isn’t.
It’s Time to Start Your Group
So, ambitious do-it-yourself exercisers and determined do-it-at-home exercisers…how about starting that exercise group, now?
What sort of group would you like to start? Or have you started one already? Share your thoughts and experiences to the comments below.
Check out these related articles:
- How to Coach a Good Group Exercise Class
- How to Create a Better Outdoor Training Program
- Having a Workout Partner Can Double Performance
- What’s New On Breaking Muscle Today
1. Create The Good. “Start a Walking Group.” 2015. Accessed June 28, 2015.
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