For the Health of It

Columnist Tania Gustafson and Dorothy Witzke are regulars, along with many others, at the YMCA.

“We come (to the Y) every day because if we don’t, we can’t.”

Wise words from fellow long-time YMCA member Dorothy Witzke as we chatted one day about how we both just keep showing up. Not sure how long ago we met, but she’s a bit of a fixture too.

Dorothy and the other die-hards who show up to work out first thing are part of what I call our “morning tribe.” Not sure where I got the name from, but it came out one day and seemed to fit, so it stuck. There are always new people coming and going, but our core group, the Tribe, I’d say has been coming consistently for at least six or seven years.

Some have always worked out, some didn’t start exercising until later in life. But to show up regularly to the same place at the same time, for years on end, regardless of what got them started, is pretty cool.

Some might even say it’s impressive while others ask, “What the heck do you do that for?”

I’m that person who’s been showing up regularly since 1987, so of course I think it’s cool and can’t imagine anyone not wanting to do what I do.

But of course, we’re not all the same. So what does motivate people to get started — and it doesn’t have to be a gym, just exercise in general — to show up and keep going?

For starters, people don’t really like change all that much. So in order for someone to actually make a change, the conditions have to be right. People are more apt to act on something when it stirs up an emotion rather than hearing about facts, statistics or being told it’s the right thing to do.

Things like wanting to lose weight, look and feel younger, impress someone, meet someone, keep a friend happy because they invited you, or your doctor tells you you don’t have a choice anymore and you need to get started right away.

All these can trigger emotions that would likely compel you to get started. Vanity, shame, love, fear are all powerful motivators. Motivation gets people started, but what keeps, or will keep, you coming back is almost more important.

The most obvious reason for continuing to do something is that you like it. Sometimes, people are reluctant to begin something because of a pre-conceived notion of what they think it will be like, but after trying, they’re hooked.

The next most obvious reason is getting results. Someone who starts a health and fitness program to lose weight and drops 10 pounds in the first month is more likely to continue than someone who didn’t lose any.

Then there’s logistics. For some, it’s as simple as the location and time worked for them so as long as they don’t hate it, they will keep showing up. But for how long, that’s the better question. And lastly, but most importantly in my opinion, is connection.

Making a connection in some way, shape or form is what brings people back again and again. Speaking for myself, and I’m sure Dorothy and the rest of the Morning Tribe as well, I can say it’s the camaraderie.

Let’s face it, for me going to the gym is fun. I like lifting, I like feeling strong, I feel it’s a great way to start my day. I could go to a different gym and get the same results. But I choose to show up with the rest of the Tribe everyday because I feel like Norm from that old sitcom, Cheers — ‘where everybody knows your name.”

We joke, give each other a hard time when we come in late, celebrate birthdays before sunrise and we check up on the ones who have been away for a few days. Clearly the connection is what makes the difference.

So, if you find yourself knowing you should exercise, but aren’t. If you’ve been told to get moving but you don’t. Or you were doing something, but stopped and can’t put your finger on why. I suggest you find your tribe, your very own Cheers where feeling like Norm becomes your normal.

Because when you do, showing up is easy. You won’t need reminders or other motivation pushing you to go because you’ll naturally be drawn to show up. And really, isn’t the key to success in anything just showing up?

Tania Gustafson is a nutritionist and fitness coach. On the web: fuelignitethrive.com. Email: tania@fuelignitethrive.com. Tune in to her “For the Health of It” podcast every Saturday at 8 a.m. on OkanaganValleyRadio.com

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