As a child, I had adults around me who were active – I don’t recall anyone specifically working out, but my mom walked everywhere, and my step-dad was frequently outside working in the yard. My older sister would ride her bike with a close friend, and my dad would take me and my brother and sister roller skating. On weekday evenings in the summer, my mom, brother, and I would walk from our home to church for choir practice or to the library about a mile away. At the library, we’d pick out books and, sometimes, movies, and then we’d walk the mile back home. None of this was labeled exercise. It was just part of life, and, in many cases, quite a bit of fun.
As a teenager, my sister would take me roller skating, and, as we got older, we continued to meet at the rink and skate when our schedules allowed. At some point, we both bought roller blades and started blading in the park on Saturday mornings or in the evenings after work. We moved from skating and blading to Zumba, Jazzercise, Pilates, yoga, ice skating, and line dancing (not in that order), and then we jumped into strength training. Our exercise dates were inconsistent, and it was more about spending time together than it was about getting or staying fit.
My family members were my exercise influencers when I was younger, and, though some of the activities and participants have changed, I still have strong exercise influencers in my life. In addition to my sister, these include my husband (who got me into running), J (my best running friend who keeps inspiring me to run faster and further), L (another friend who completes amazing physical feats), my step-dad (who runs and climbs rocks and buildings and who knows what else), E, A, A, A (lots of runner A’s), J, J, B, M…well, you get the idea. There are a whole bunch of people in my life that inspire me to move. To move regularly and to have fun. To be active and to enjoy the process.
Here’s the thing – I may have been stuck with my family as a kid, regardless of whether or not they had good physical fitness habits (and I admit, thinking about this makes me realize that I kind of won the “good-fitness-habits-are-normal” lottery), but the majority of my exercise influencers right now are people I found – people I chose to look up to and learn from, people who have made running or whatever they do a priority in their lives…and all of this has had and continues to have a ripple effect on the people around them, including me.
So my question for you is who are your exercise influencers? If you can’t name people you know, what about people you don’t know? If you are in a place where moving regularly is a foreign concept or, maybe you work out occasionally and you’d like to be more consistent, then you could benefit by spending time with others who have better fitness habits than you currently do. Think about who inspires you – it could be a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker, acquaintance, or even a celebrity or professional athlete. Why do they inspire you? What is it about their fitness habits or physical achievements that makes you want to be more active yourself?
Identifying your exercise influencers (or lack thereof) will help you to see where you have potential support for making changes to your lifestyle and where you have potential gaps in support or even resistance toward your efforts. It is a lot easier to make changes if someone is going on this journey with you or supporting you with knowledge of what you are experiencing.
Taking a group fitness class, scheduling a weekly date with a friend to go on a walk or bike ride, running/biking/swimming with a local club – these are ways to build regular activities into your life and meet other fitness-minded people, which will help you if you don’t feel like you have any strong exercise influencers in your immediate circle of family and friends. The more people around you who are making physical fitness a regular part of their lives, the more likely it is that you will succeed in your efforts to incorporate movement into your daily life.
Surround yourself with exercise influencers…and don’t be surprised when you realize that you have become one yourself. 🙂