Managing the Social Aspect of Change

TAGS: social dynamics, five social networks, lifestyle habits, family, david allen, mental toughness, balance, strongman, fat loss, muscle, athlete, strength, strength training, training, Nutrition

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My wife and I hosted an engagement party for one of the employees at the gym. We had around 20 people there, all from NBS Fitness. At the time, I was prepping for a bodybuilding competition, as were several other people at the party. I wasn’t able to eat many of the food options that everyone brought. Obviously, it would’ve been nice to enjoy some of the food available, but after it was all said and done, it really wasn’t that bad of an experience.

Everyone knew that I was getting ready for a competition, and they let me do my thing. I couldn’t help but compare that to the last time I did a bodybuilding show about six years ago when I worked at a commercial gym. Every social experience sucked because people were constantly trying to get me to “break” my contest prep. At one point, my manager called me into her office to offer me a cupcake at about two weeks out (and yes, she knew what she was doing).

There are several important strategies that must be used whenever you’re looking to implement some type of change, especially one that revolves around health and fitness. Mental toughness is vital. Goal setting and a good plan are necessary as well, but I think far too many people fail to properly develop a social strategy for change.

We’ve all heard the saying that you're the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. So if we want to change the sum, we must address the particulars upon which that sum is determined. With regards to changing your training, nutrition and lifestyle habits, you'll probably have to address five social networks: family, friends, work, gym and online. Having spent the last 15 years addressing these social networks myself and helping others address them as well, here are my strategies for managing the social aspect of change.

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Family

Everyone’s family has a different dynamic. This could refer to your household, your blood relatives or your non-blood relatives who are like family. In the end, family is your foundation. It’s who you look to for help in times of need and comfort in times of sorrow. They’re your rock. On that same token, family can also bring lots of stress. They’re the most likely to express their opinions, especially if that opinion is dissatisfaction in something you’re doing. You need to be prepared to address any type of change when dealing with family.

The most important aspect of this is still making family a priority. Hopefully, you have a supportive wife at home (God help you if you don’t) and/or a supportive family structure that is willing to grow with you during your progress. In the end, they care about you and want to see that you care about them. This can mean making time to spend with them, making sure that time is quality time and, if time is scarce at the moment, planning for time to be spent together in the future. This could be planning a vacation post-competition or planning a family get together.

Dave Tate has talked about the importance of “Blast and Dust” and that is a great principle to apply here. Priorities can shift at different times. Just make sure that they come back in balance. If your family isn’t supportive, that sucks, but there isn't a whole lot that you can do other than explain why you want to make whatever changes you're making and make sure that you aren't fighting fire with fire. Showing love and compassion is much more likely to gain you love and compassion than anything else.

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Friends

Friendships are built on common bonds. Unfortunately, when you decide to potentially change those common bonds, it can put your relationships with friends under some pressure.

I remember watching the television show “Made” on MTV back in the day. It usually involved some teenager wanting to make some drastic change in his life. Maybe he played tuba in the band and wanted to be on the football team. Maybe she was a skateboarder and wanted to join the choir. Whatever it was, at some point during the show, the person would sit down and tell his friends what he was planning on doing. Every single time, the friends would get upset and “disown” the person, so to speak.

Now, maybe this was built up for the drama factor of television, but I’ve seen it happen in real life plenty of times. I’ve seen friends literally try to sabotage a friend's diet by inviting him out to dinner and peer pressuring him to eat something he didn’t want to eat. I’ve seen strong friendships fade because someone changed gyms or stopped working out.

You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. True friends will support you in whatever your goals are, and if, in the unfortunate circumstance, they don’t, you will build new friendship that do support your new interests.

Work

The place you work can be a tough place to try to change your diet. Depending on where you work, you could literally be the only person at the office who eats anything remotely healthy. Combine this with the fact that these are the people you spend the most time with and it can make for an interesting situation.

Most importantly, treat people with respect. Don’t rub it in their face if they eat a crappy diet. If you’re “suffering” because of your diet, that’s your choice. Don’t take it out on them. No one likes the office asshole. Be polite and be respectful, and you may actually find that you can positively impact some people. They may see your changes and be motivated to make some of their own.

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Gym

If you’re just getting into training or exercise, the gym will be a new place full of new people. It’s a good chance to immerse yourself into a new community of like-minded people. That being said, whether you’re new to training or have been at it for a while, you need to make sure that you’re at the right gym. As a gym owner, I may be slightly biased, but I've seen firsthand the difference the right gym can make.

From an atmosphere standpoint, being in an atmosphere that is conducive to results is vital. Like stated above, you don’t want to surround yourself with a bunch of people who have the exact opposite goals as you do. If you’re trying to push yourself to new limits, don’t train at a place where the members go for free pizza, coffee or cheap tanning. Furthermore, being around people with the knowledge and capability to get you to where you want to go is vital. A bunch of knuckleheads with no clue what they're doing isn’t really the situation you want to be in if you’re serious about your results.

If you’re training for a certain type of event (i.e. powerlifting, Strongman or Olympic lifting), you need to be at a gym with the right equipment. I’ve been to many powerlifting meets where someone is lifting on a squat bar and out of a monolift for the first time and it throws them off. If you live in a place that doesn’t have the type of gym you need, purchasing your own equipment and creating a group of lifters to train with may be a better choice. If you do have a gym in the area with that type of atmosphere, knowledge and equipment, you need to join. If you don’t, you're a dumbass (again, I may be biased…but you’re still a dumbass).


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Online

The social media aspect of fitness has grown significantly over the last decade. It can be a double-edged sword sometimes, but in the end, it's all what you make of it. Some people thrive on the controversy, some people thrive off the sexuality, some people use it to build a business and others use it to share information. Whatever your purpose behind your social media, remember that the world still goes round regardless of what you do. If you put yourself, your body, your training, your knowledge and your accomplishments up on a social pedestal, you risk the very likely situation that it will, at some point, come crashing down. Be honest with yourself. Do you really use your social media platform to help others, or do you use it to boost your own ego? Be careful what you post for the world to see. Navigate the waters of social media carefully. If you do a good job, you may reach a wonderful new destination, but if you sail carelessly, you may find yourself in water that you don’t want to be in.

A quality training program and diet are important, but don’t neglect the importance of putting yourself in a situation to succeed. Surround yourself with the right people and treat them the right way. You’re far more likely to change for the good.

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