You may be a gymrat if you get angry when someone is on “your” treadmill… not sharing however does not fit the holiday spirit… nor is it terribly good for exercise. Fitness can be quite an emotional experience. For those that are not regulars in the gym, a few miles on the spinning bike can be a humbling experience and even an anxiety provoking one. To the religiously fit, the health club can be a place of single-minded, teeth-gritting drive. And then there are many more that experience the glory of victory and the agony of defeat with each wellness accomplishment or goal unattained. Despite simply being rooms of concrete, steel, and iron, gyms are pools of emotion.
Perhaps it is time to consider harnessing and spreading exercise emotion. James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis researchers on the Framingham Heart Study found clearly that happiness and health are shared through social connectedness. In essence, the emotion you bring to your treadmill will infect the person running next to you… and potentially the entire row of runners/walkers… a potential exercise nudge for everyone towards their exercise goals! Positive psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson explains this phenomenon as “positive spirals,” subtle but powerful vibes that radiate outward energizing the networks around us.
Throughout each and every day we spread emotion. Not so much through our words, but through subtle actions, demeanor, and openness. Geography seems to be most powerful predictor of how contagious these emotions become. As the winter has arrived more exercisers will head to the gym – close quarters. The spaces and places of exercise will yield opportunity for anxious exercisers to be supported and ardent exercisers to be aided towards their goals. Carrying warm emotion will allow energy to jump from one treadmill to the other.
In cold and flu season, take note of the energy you are spreading as you run, walk, lift, and stretch. Exercise generously… for the fitness of others, for the fitness of yourself.
Dr. Adam Naylor leads Telos Sport Psychology Consulting and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Boston University’s School of Education. He has a decade and a half of experiences working with professional through amateur athletes – of note: US Open competitors, NCAA champions, Olympians, Stanley Cup winners, and UFC martial artists. Beyond sports, over the past five years he has served as a corporate performance and wellness consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ahnaylor.