Hats off to all of you gutsy legends that took the courage to wander into my gym (or any other like mine) without knowing a single other soul. No friends came along with you for support, you didn’t really know any of the staff beyond your enquiry call, you just rocked up with the hopes that the gym you were entering was going to fulfil your health and fitness desires and potentially be a place you will enjoy coming to.
But there is so much unknowing. Such an amount of unknowing that can paralyse you and prevent you from making that first step into the gym.
“I don’t know anyone.”
“Will anyone talk to me?”
“I’m not really one to go up and introduce myself to everybody.”
“I don’t want to look stupid.”
“I don’t know anything about CrossFit, but everyone in there will.”
“I’m going to feel alone.”
“I’m going to feel secluded.”
Some people experience these feelings to the extreme, but even the most confident of people would have their nerves about walking into somewhere new, even if it is just butterflies. Heck even bodybuilding gym junkies are too scared to come try CrossFit even though they want to. They say it is because they’ll ‘lose their GAINZ’, but it reality it is because it is new and intimidating to them (and their ego may take a hit when half the girls can lift more than them ?)
As an owner of a gym, I am very very sure there are a tonne of people that have thought about coming to try out that still never have. More people than the total members we have. Because those fears are too crippling.
It is all on us as operators of the gym to make sure that we can be as inviting of a place as possible. From the way we present ourselves online, to our presentation in the gym. From the way we chat to you on the phone or in text, to how you are welcomed on day one. Following all of those barriers to entry there is the group of people you will be sharing a class with. It is vital that that group makes you feel welcome and a part of it all. If us as operators don’t foster that community and culture, many people will stop at this barrier. Many of you current members may not even be here with us today. It is usually just starts with something as small and simple as a “Hey, I’m Matt, nice to meet you.” Receive a few of those and there is an instant reduction in stress and a little increase in our sense of belonging.
Belonging is important, feeling safe in your surroundings helps you belong. So when members of the gym shake your hand, listen to you, smile and speak with interest and excitement, you feel safer.
When you have been running and operating a gym as long as I have, it can be very easy to forget these little things and how extremely important they are to all new people taking the risk to try out a new gym. Even if you are rocking up with a friend, it can be bloody daunting! I am comfortable at CrossFit Cranbourne, it is my home, it is my little baby. If I treat it like my comfortable little home and hidey hole and just assume everybody else feels the same, that is when I will run into trouble.
Over the past couple of months I had this nagging urge to go back and give footy a try. I haven’t played for 7 years and have been enjoying a life of bruise and impact injury free fitness. But that little voice was constantly bugging, “will you regret it if you don’t?”
I don’t know many people in the local footy world anymore, plus my past teams are located too far away from where I live now. So if I was to start up again, it would be at a new club and I would have to dive in not knowing anybody and take the risk.
Before deciding on where to play I identified what I actually wanted out of going back to footy. What I wanted most was:
  • to be a part of a really good community
  • all sharing a common goal
  • all with the same desires I have to succeed in sport as a team
  • all willing to work together for the greater goal, not just themselves
  • to be a part of a fun and supportive culture
Much like CrossFit Cranbourne, but in a competitive team sport setting.
For anyone that hasn’t been a part of senior football clubs I imagine you would be asking, “isn’t that the goal of all football clubs?” Yeh you would think… but there are a fair few football teams out there that operate with the intent on mateship, fitness and on field success (some actually believing they are achieving it), but in reality, more of a desire to get on the beers, party drugs and to sleep with each others Mrs. These traits are what drove me away from the game years ago.
I spent a few days researching the local clubs online and talking to several people that may have better knowledge than me on who they believe may best suit my needs. In his book Principles, Ray Dalio discusses that “triangulating with believable people” (seeking the opinions and having thoughtful discussions with multiple people that are in the know, specific to your issue) is integral to “enhancing learning and and sharpening the quality of your decision making”. So that is what I tried. As I result I landed on the Langwarrin Football Club.
I think I made the right choice.
On arrival to my first training session I was actually pretty damn nervous. I’ve played about 14 years worth of footy and am very fit. So I shouldn’t need to worry. But those ‘new place, new people’ worries, that fear of the unknown certainly gave me butterflies. As soon as I arrived the coach came up to me the second he saw me. He introduced me to the co-coach, all of the assisting staff and board members and a bunch of players. We had a chat and then training got started. In the first huddle the co-coach introduced me to the group and throughout the entire session I had at least ½ of the 60 strong group come up, say hi and ask about me and where I was from. I was instantly made to be a part of the team and felt welcomed into their community with ease. I thoroughly enjoyed the session and am pretty keen to get stuck back into footy, something I thought I was never going to go back to.
I would have most likely not stuck around if I wasn’t given that sense of belonging.
What was important to me when picking a football club and what should be important to EVERY person when looking for a new gym or any type of group to join, is if the community and culture suits you. Is it a place that is going to make you feel welcome? Is it a place that is going to support your values? Is it a place that is going to help you become a better version of you?
Picking a group based off benefits such as convenience and price is a fools move.
So to you guys that have ever rolled solo up to a new place, group, gym or even my gym… hats off to you. That takes guts.
To you guys that have a desire to try something new… do some research. Give yourself the best possible opportunity for making a good decision. If it doesn’t work out, no biggie, try somewhere else.
To everyone that is in a position similar to mine… cozy and with no real need to put myself into uncomfortable settings, go and do it! Put yourself in others shoes, it’ll ensure you think good and hard about those that are reaching to you in your place that you take for granted.
“Groups succeed not because its members are smarter but because they are safer.” – Daniel Coyle