Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Group Motivation

        Today, while running my usual loop around Town Lake in downtown Austin, I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  As it happened, it was a balmy, 75-degree day outside so naturally Zilker Park was packed with all sorts of people taking advantage of the pleasant weather.  As you can imagine, this influx of pedestrians created quite the traffic jam on the jogging trails.  As I made my way around the lake, I saw more than just the usual joggers and bikers.  The sunny weather had attracted entire families, many of whom clearly were not at all acquainted with jogging trail protocol, wading around slowly in giant packs that took up more than half the trail!  As I continued along my route, I was forced to constantly speed up or slow down, veer left or right and occasionally even come to a complete halt as I faced the seemingly endless swarm of Austinites!   

            The main reason I like to jog around Town Lake is that by surrounding myself with other people I am typically more motivated to push myself to do better.  While, today, I was disappointed that I was being forced to abandon any semblance of a “steady” pace I felt that I was receiving additional motivation from all the extra people I was zigging and zagging past.  Still, I assumed that my overall time would suffer from all the stopping and going.  Much to my surprise, however, this was not the case!  In fact, my time improved by about 2 ½ minutes!  How could this be?

   The answer:  Group motivation. 

Sure, every now and then, I had to slow down; occasionally even leaping off the trail to dodge an especially large group of walkers.  However, with every person I passed I felt a renewed sense of motivation.  You see, when you speed up to pass someone, especially another runner or, on the rare occasion, a biker you are obliged to maintain that pace until you are a safe distance ahead of the person.  There’s nothing more embarrassing than running out of gas right after passing someone and then having to watch them pass you a minute or two later!  Today, I must’ve passed 200 runners!  Each person I passed acted like a turbo boost chevron in Mario Kart Racing, propelling me forward with a quick burst of speed, which I maintained for at least 100 yards.  Since I was constantly passing so many people today, I wound up running at an overall accelerated pace, thus resulting in a much faster time!

While I still have a lot of respect for the discipline required by those who choose to exercise alone I think that the benefits of group motivation are too real to pass up.  At the start of 2014, I entered into a pact with a handful of family members and friends in which we were to hold each other accountable for completing a set amount of exercises per month for the entire year.  January has gone very well so far and I think it’s fair to say that the majority of participants are experiencing the benefits of group motivation on a weekly basis!  I have also, resumed my outdoor, Bootcamp classes in which I exercise with a group of about 10-20 people for an hour, Monday through Thursday.  Bootcamp is made up of people of all different ages and abilities and I strive to keep up with the class’ leaders.  Seeing the incredibly fit 60-year old woman next to me pushing through the workout gives me the extra motivation required to bust out those last 5 pushups, which I more than likely would’ve skipped had I been working out on my own at home or the gym.

Anyway, I think, by now, I‘ve made my point: There’s power in numbers.  We alone decide whether we are going to exercise for the day, eat right, and get a full night’s sleep.  However, it’s only with the assistance of a friend’s encouraging words or by challenging ourselves to match another jogger’s gait that we are able to push ourselves beyond our own predetermined limits and take our fitness to the next level!
Guest Blogger: Thomas Wilder


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