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Outside series – Outside in the zoo

18 Jun 2010

– by Scott

Yesterday’s post reminded me of something I initially struggled with upon moving to a city… the constant presence of others. Back home, when I worked out outside, I was in the woods and the only witnesses were the dogs and any squirrels they happened to tree.

However, when I go outside in the city there are people all around. That means that whatever I do will probably be watched by others.  Since I often do some strange workouts, whatever I do will always be watched by others.

This was initially disconcerting to me, and I felt very cognizant of others’ eyes on me. I felt like I was on display in a zoo… and I often hesitated to workout because of it.

After a while, however, I got used to it. It didn’t happen overnight, but perhaps my experiences can help you overcome the ‘zoo’ feeling faster than I did.

Most people are watching because they are interested. Our goal here at ClanFit is to spread information and to get more people to “sustainably make their body a better place to live.” When people see someone having so much fun outside, they become intrigued. In fact, I’ll often have other fitness enthusiasts come up to me and ask me what I’m doing because they want to enjoy themselves as much I enjoy myself.  These chats have become routine, and I meet many people this way.

In addition, people who are not necessarily fitness enthusiasts may become converts simply because they witnessed your workout. Even (perhaps especially) if you are a beginner, people want to learn. Being fit and happy is contagious, and you are someone else’s Patient Zero.

Work out with others. Humans are naturally social creatures and social groups tend to reinforce behaviors. I used to work out by myself because I felt like I got a better workout. One day a friend came to work out with me, and I realized that I was much more confident and less concerned about others when I already had a supporting social structure. Nowadays, I work out with a few good friends and my wife. We have a great time and push one another to work harder. More importantly, we no longer notice onlookers until they come talk to us.

Just like a ‘regular’ at a bar, there are ‘regulars’ at your workout spot.  Humans are also creatures of habit. Thus, when I alternate between my two favorite workout spots, I often see the same people. This includes dog owners who know my dog by name and various pickup sports teams. Even if many of them don’t know me by name yet, they wave and say hello. They know what I’m there to do, and they have grown comfortable with that. With enough time I predict that my workout spots will become like Cheers to me, where everybody knows my name.

If you have similar tips to overcome this feeling, email me or leave a comment.

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