It’s normal to feel a bit awkward when joining a new group, but don’t let that hold you back from exercising with people.

Group of male and female athletes relaxing after workout in park

Entering a new social situation is tricky at the best of times. For those of us who aren’t born extroverts, the thought of meeting new people and striking up conversation with a stranger can be daunting — or at the very least, not fun. And throwing exercise into the mix certainly doesn’t help.

For this reason, a lot of us avoid group exercise and team sports. However, there’s a whole range of benefits to working out as part of a group — and Jane Flemming, Relationship Director of Live Life Get Active is here to soothe our fears.

Why exercise in a group?

There are many proven benefits of exercising as part of a group. Think of it this way: you’re much less likely to cancel that run if you know there’ll be people waiting for you. Nobody likes being the flakey friend, and the same goes for exercise groups. Besides being held to your commitment, here are some other positives to consider:

  • Lower levels of stress. In a recent study, Australians aged 18 or over who participated in team sports were less likely to report feeling stressed or anxious, compared to those who didn’t.
  • Support and advice. By joining a workout group, you’ll be supervised by a trainer who can help you with proper form and make sure you don’t injure yourself. Or if you’re in a more casual setting, like a local running group, you’ll get access to knowledge on things like running routes and events.
  • Healthy competition. We all get a little competitive from time to time, and when you’re exercising as part of a group, you might find that you push yourself a little bit more than you would alone.

On top of these, Jane also says that you’ll get “...friendship, encouragement and a common experience.” By moving your workout to a social setting, you may find that exercising doesn’t feel like a chore: “For sustainable participation, it really helps for the group to be socially connected. Then, regardless of what sort of exercise it is exercise, it becomes just an excuse to catch up with friends.”

What if I feel awkward?

If you’re still feeling worried about getting out there and making new friends, don’t panic. Here, Jane addresses some of the common concerns people have about joining in:

  • I’ll be a sweaty mess. “Everyone sweats, so don’t worry about that. It’s just the body’s way of cooling down. Make sure you wear what you feel comfortable in so you can concentrate on working out and not how you look.”
  • I won’t fit in with the ‘sporty’ crowd. Jane says that, at her Live Life Get Active classes, “We attract what we affectionately refer to as ‘gym rejectors’ and ‘sports atheists’ so our classes are incredibly user friendly. Like anything new, once you’ve tried it for the first time you’ll usually realise it’s not as bad as you first thought.”
  • What if I get told off for not being fit enough? “I would be really surprised if this ever happened in any exercise environment.”, Jane reassures us. She adds that at Live Life Get Active, “We’re about participation, not excellence. We just want our members to feel welcome and at ease while improving their physical and mental health and making friends.”
  • I’ll lose motivation and stop going. If you’re concerned about running out of steam and being a no-show for the group, Jane says to remember that ,“the hardest thing about exercise is getting changed and getting there. Once you’re there you always do the workout. So don’t hesitate — just get there.”
  • What if I have to partner up with someone? For many of us, the one-on-one aspect of joining a workout group can be intimidating. So how to break the ice? Jane suggests, “Work out at conversation pace — and ask them about themselves. It’s a subject they know a lot about and inevitably a common ground will be found (if it hasn’t already by being at the class together).”

How can I get started?

If you’re feeling ready to join a group, a good place to start is the Live Life Get Active website. Live Life Get active run group exercise classes all across Australia, and the kicker? They’re 100% free! Take a look here to find a class near you. Other options could be seeing what’s on offer at a nearby gym, checking out niche offerings like yoga or F45, or even just starting your own local group. Whether you enjoy running, cycling, swimming or more, chances are good that there’ll be people in your community who would be happy to join you.

It’s perfectly normal to feel a little awkward when meeting new people, and you’re unlikely to be the only person in the group who feels a bit like a fish out of water. Working out with other people can be a great experience, and with so many additional benefits, the only thing left to do is jump in and get involved.