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If you’ve ever been a part of a group and felt stronger because of the positive energy circulating among your peers on a regular basis, you’ve found a tribe. You know it at the office — there’s a group of you that gets a lot done in a 15-minute brainstorm. It’s why you show up for a basketball pick-up game every Thursday night. 

It’s a powerful thing in your workout, too, whether you’re motivated by an instructor, or just notice that you and handful of other Thursday night regulars have something in common: you’re all showing up and working hard. 

The tribe effect is not competitive, and it’s not random. So what is it, and how can you get it?  

The “why” behind belonging to a group

This group phenomenon is one that’s been heavily studied both by psychology and business experts, and it’s a real thing. In fact, that sense of belonging that you can get as part of a group at the gym is something you just may need in your life. American psychologist Abraham Maslow lays out the elements that people require for their psychological health in his often-cited “Hierarchy of Needs” theory, which says that a “sense of belonging” is one of the essentials a person must have to live a fulfilled and successful life. And perhaps when it comes to fitness, that sense of belonging can also be a factor that helps people to become committed to a regular routine.

It does exactly that, according to Phil Timmons, Director of Group Personal Training at 24 Hour Fitness. He says if you do find a tribe at the gym, you’re much more likely to stay accountable to your regimen and ultimately meet your fitness goals. Timmons has firsthand experience witnessing the significant changes that people can make when working in the group setting, and he says it doesn’t take long to experience the positive effects of that community feeling in the gym. 

“It usually takes just one or two classes to feel the difference between training by yourself vs. training in a group, especially a group including the same people each time,” said Timmons. “It’s a feeling you need to experience to understand.”

That feeling is something that Timmons has helped foster at 24 Hour Fitness to encourage more and more members to be successful. Timmons is the brains behind TC24 (Training Club 24), a 24 Hour Fitness exclusive group training program. Structured workouts are led by a coach three times a week, with the same group of participants attending every 50-minute session. 

Meeting people where they are

Timmons looked to the experts when designing the TC24 program. Drawing from noted Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on happiness and flow, Timmons recognized that the workout environment needs to feel like an escape — a time where participants can forget about their mortgage, hectic schedules, pressing deadlines and anything else coming at them. That’s why, according to Timmons, TC24 features workouts that are not one-size-fits-all. The workouts are designed to create enough mental and physical stress to create challenge that’s engaging, not intimidating, and coaches can help participants work at their individual full potential.

 “We want to meet people where they are,” he said, “yet we also want to provide them with a continuum to flow through as they achieve new levels.”

Achieving more with the support of others

And when it comes to getting as much as you can out of your workout, sometimes you just need someone else to support you when you’re not all there. “If you’re not on your A-game, your peers will rally around you,” said Timmons. “In a group program, you start to foster friendships, and those friends will push you on your off days.”

Also, he said that everyone can benefit from the group aspect, even someone who has his or her own thing going. “Avid gym-goers are surprised at how much more they can do in group setting.” There’s also the side-benefit of distraction — he said participants have commented that being around other people seems to make the time pass even more quickly.

In addition to working harder, Timmons has seen participants try new things and take on new challenges when working as part of a tribe. “You can really get out of your comfort box — within reason,” he said, citing TC24’s focus on functional three-dimensional movements not always found in a regular workout program.

Committing to change in a group

The influence behind TC24 and the reason why group programs can be so helpful for even the avid gym-goer who has an established routine is because it’s a change. Citing Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us,” Timmons identified what motivating factors help people to succeed when it comes to behavior change. In order to see transformation, someone has to make a change, without resisting that change because of fear. When it comes to a joining a “tribe” or a group workout, that may mean always showing up at a scheduled time and participating to the best of your abilities in the work at hand. That regular commitment will put in place a new routine, and at times that’s just what people need to make a difference in their level of fitness.

Not to mention, sometimes it’s just more fun to work out with other people. Over the years, Timmons has seen how in a group setting, “norms” and unwritten rules are established among the members. That might mean that everyone texts each other reminders about showing up on time, or people take on informal roles like the “mom or dad” of the group to keep people going and in line — all the while, working toward a common goal.

“Everybody is joining a gym, seeking the best version of themselves,” said Timmons. “So everyone is aligned already. You just need to find a group of people you can get together with to attack it together.”

There’s a tribe for everyone

There are many different tribes around the fitness world, and finding a tribe in the gym could be as informal as joining a group of friends for regular sweat sessions, attending group fitness classes or participating in small group personal training programs. It’s never too late to find your tribe, and the support to make real change in your life.

What to consider as you look for your own tribe in the gym:

According to Timmons…

  • Accept where you’re at and don’t beat yourself up if you’re a beginner.
  • Realize that you won’t always find your tribe on the first try, and you don’t have to accept the first tribe if it doesn’t feel right.
  • Get to know the personal training team at your gym.
  • Participate in group fitness classes.
  • Try a premium small group training offering like TC24.

TC24 is a 24 Hour Fitness exclusive group training program, offered nationally. These small group sessions invite anywhere from 6 to 20 participants the chance to meet three times a week with the same people, going through a three-dimensional workout for 50 minutes. A coach leads participants through the session, offering options, modifications and challenges for every participant. See the fitness manager today to sign up.