Tip: Motivation, Social Anxiety, and Fitness

Want to get a friend or loved one into the gym? Well, you're probably going about it the wrong way. Here's how to get them hooked.

Are you trying to get your buddy or spouse into the gym? Well, most people go about this the wrong way, and they may do more harm than good. Here's what to do.

Consider that Person's Perspective

Think about why he or she doesn't want to be in the gym. Intimidation and motivation are there biggest barriers.

Remember your first day of high school? You probably hyped it up in your head for years as a place being packed full of intimidation. You had stress, anxiety, and maybe you just didn't even like class. But if it wasn't for being forced to go to school, at least a couple kids would opt to stay in mom's hot car while she's at work instead of braving that environment over again.

Fast forward to now. Social media is filled with videos of "over the top" gym goers making it seem like it's a place only for super experienced or fit individuals.

It isn't, and those of us who are there regularly know that all too well. But I mean come on, it's easy to see why people might shy away from finding a gym to jump into the lifestyle. I'm not advocating the infamous purple gym (you know the one) to hide from it all. But there needs to be some sort of introduction that'll allow a person to ease into it.

Social anxiety may be the biggest thing keeping these individuals from really diving in and learning to enjoy fitness. I know you might be saying, "But Thoren, can't these shy people just work out at home?"

Sure they can! But when you haven't yet established a routine, then laundry, cooking, cleaning, and family time is always going to be a distraction. There will always be a mountain of excuses at home that are left behind when you leave the house for a workout.

How to Help

Offer this person some times or places to work out that are quiet and have low foot traffic. Let them get into the swing of things before they experience the gym during busy times. Emphasize the fact that it'll be "dead" around that time and you'll be pleasantly surprised how much more quickly they warm up to the idea of working out more often.

Now let's talk motivation and get a little scientific with it. Motivation to stick to a routine is different from one person to the next, and we can't treat each individual like they're supposed to share our same reasons for getting into exercise. Extrinsic factors like our appearance, social rewards, and praise are often reasons people begin exercise.

Unfortunately, these factors aren't really linked to long-term program/lifestyle adherence. For example, let's say "Kim" jumps into an exercise regimen to get revenge on her ex for dumping her. She wants to show him by improving her physique and getting a body that turns heads and fuels jealousy.

But hold on... As time goes by and her anger fades, so will her desire to show up and kill it in the gym (unless she's found more reasons to keep going). Why?

Because these emotions aren't sustainable. You want abs? Great! But if you're doing it to look good for other people, that motivation starts to slip and be replaced by other needs and priorities.

How to really help: Assist your friend in developing intrinsic motivation. It's been shown time and time again that finding motivation through enjoyment, social interaction, and personal satisfaction promotes longer lasting adherence to lifestyle changes. So...

  1. Make sure they enjoy the workout!
  2. Pick a modality of exercise that appeals to them. Don't force them into powerlifting if bodybuilding appeals to them more.
  3. Make sure to give them verbal recognition of their improvements. The more they hear it, the more they'll stick with it.
  4. Community is everything. Finding a gym that matches their interests will give them that sense of fellowship and accountability. Why do you think so many people get so "all in" with CrossFit? It's that sense of community that keeps people coming around.
Thoren Bradley has a masters degree in exercise physiology. He has a foundation in strength and conditioning in the D-I of the NCAA and tactical sector. Thoren uses his own research and evidence-based practice to integrate all schools of learning into physique and performance enhancement. Follow Thoren Bradley on Instagram