An interesting article popped up in my newsfeed today. It’s from The Atlantic Monthly, and it’s on the topic of achieving fitness goals. it’s timely, because many of us have fitness goals in mind this time of year. For some, it’s a physical goal like getting into a certain size of clothing. For others, it’s a challenge like a Tough Mudder race. Whatever the goal is, we all know how challenging it is to actually reach that goal.

Many people get started with BJJ as part of this process, and that makes sense. It’s an extremely powerful, rewarding, and effective way to exercise. Just the other day I was talking to a student who has lost 50 pounds in under a year! He has surpassed his goal already. The article I mentioned got me thinking about why this happens so often in BJJ. I don’t think it’s necessarily because the exercise itself is the most effective in the world, because there are plenty of good ways to exercise. And the article mentioned the same thing, because it wasn’t about a particular type of exercise. It was based on a study in England that indicated that when people have a fitness goal (lose weight, for example) they have far more success when their spouse or partner is also working on that goal with them.

That makes sense – if you come home from a rough day at work and your partner is on the couch with a bag of Doritos, it’s that much harder to make a healthy meal or go to the gym. Interestingly. the study had no idea WHY it worked that way. They just found that “men and women shed more weight, get more active, and are more successful at quitting smoking when their partners are pursuing the same fitness goals.”

I think the answer is pretty simple, and it provides good news for single people and people with partners not on the same page.

The answer is that it works because you aren’t alone. Anything difficult is made easier by having a community around you. It’s a basic fact of human existence. Military units bond and create lasting friendships because they survive difficult situations together. You see the same thing happening with a group of people who went through nursing school together. Or a group of tech entrepreneurs that labored together to get a new product off the ground. It works because they did it together.

And in the world of fitness and exercise, it works the same way. This study is just one small part of the puzzle, one example of something you can see again and again. There’s nothing more typical than joining the local big box gym in January, only to cancel your unused membership in June. Those gyms literally lose hundreds if not thousands of members in the first and second quarter.

However, since we started Dark Horse, we’ve only had a handful of students leave. Certainly there are lots of reasons for that – I’d like to think what we do is just the right mix of rewarding, enjoyable, challenging, and useful. But I think the bigger thing is that people feel like they are part of the tribe. They never feel alone. That’s why they keep coming back, and that’s why they reach their goals.

If you’re somebody working on fitness goals this season, I’d really encourage you to find a way to not do it alone. Avoid the trap of joining a gym by yourself and working out alone. Find something that has a tribe, a community to it, no matter what that activity is. I promise you’ll have more success.

 

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