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The Power of Having a Fitness Tribe, According to 'The Biggest Loser' Trainer Jen Widerstrom

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Taking on a fitness challenge is an intimate venture. Really, even just deciding you're going to start living healthier overall hits home on a super personal level. All at once, you've created some seriously high stakes for yourself in terms of success in a realm where it's so easy to stumble—and odds are you will (everyone does!). Still, I see so many women go it alone. But just consider for a minute what might change if you risk opening yourself up and include other people in your mission: You set off a domino effect that sustains your momentum. (Here, more reasons working out is better with friends.)

1. It starts with a nudge.

Just that little move of picking a confidant or two is a powerful motivator. Me, I used to be terrified of running, and for years I told no one. I thought it made me look weak. I was a hammer thrower, focused on lifting heavy and certainly not running anywhere. Any distance farther than 400 meters seemed completely out of my reach. I felt strong but slow and had zero confidence when it came to any kind of endurance training. History proved this anytime I attempted to run past that quarter mile, when I'd have to shamefully walk. But I finally shared my fear with someone at my gym.From then on, whenever he saw me running, he encouraged me through nods and high-fives—it was enough to keep me going.

2. And that creates a tipping point.

Just this low-key bit of accountability can alter your mindset to push past any fear or hesitation and bump up the importance you give your goal. That little shift even sparks you to do things like wear workout clothes that make you feel powerful. You'll see—where the mind goes, the body will follow.

 

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3. Next thing, you're on a roll.

When you share what your goals are with similarly driven people, suddenly the hurdles you face (like going on that first run) don't seem quite so daunting and those setbacks are not so stressful. Now you're part of a larger group effort and you realize how human it is to trip and fall and begin again. In my case, my gym buddy started waiting for me at the end of runs, even at times running alongside me. Without even asking for it, I received the exact support that I needed—and all because I was willing to show my cards.

4. This is when it turns into a party.

When you do find your tribe, you feed off one another's drive and enthusiasm. (Really— your friends influence your workout exercise habits more than you think). In other words, their motivation is contagious, as is yours. Now that little group of yours starts to generate energy, and everyone gets to thrive from it. And the more you tap into the power of your tribe, the more you'll be able to harness this positive energy, even when you're not actually together. Can you push just a little harder? Yes, you can.

 

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5. Always take your victory lap.

The greatest triumphs come from putting your goal to the test. Mine: running a mile without stopping. I let my friend who'd been there for me all along in on it, and he was the first one with whom I shared the exciting news that I ran that mile in less than 10 minutes without walking a step. I felt that win was as much his as it was mine; it showed me how nothing can keep you going strong like success. Let your tribe in on your triumph whenever you cross a finish line to lean into that pumped feeling. Next thing you know, you're dreaming of bigger mountains to conquer.

Jen Widerstrom is a Shape advisory board member, a trainer (undefeated!) on NBC's The Biggest Loser, the face of women's fitness for Reebok, and the author of Diet Right for Your Personality Type.

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