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There’s No Place Like Home (Except the Gym)

CAC will soon open a Bucktown club just a few blocks from my apartment. Will I join? Maybe. But I’m leaning towards no.

WAC is my jam. I feel at home there, and it’s not just because I know the class schedule by heart or have grown attached to a particular treadmill. It’s because after becoming a more active WAC member since I joined two years ago — upping my attendance to 5-6 days a week and sometimes twice a day; squeezing in early morning, lunchtime, and after work workouts; and personal training sessions and bootcamp class with Jenna — I’m familiar with the instructors, trainers, and other gym goers and staff.

It’s nice to see these faces every time I go. Some I know by name and am friends with on Facebook. Some take the same classes or work out at the same time as me, so we’re more on a nod-and-smile basis.

I’m not the only person who keeps up her attendance by getting to know the other gym folk.

I recently read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, which touched on this very topic. One example from the book goes back to 2000, when the YMCA was looking for methods to stay competitive in the fitness industry and keep their members coming back.

The organization hired a mathematician and social scientist to review member surveys, and the pair discovered something interesting. Member retention had nothing to do with fancy equipment or sleek facilities. Instead, retention was driven by social factors. If a member made a friend at the gym or the staff greeted them by name, they were more likely to keep coming back because they felt part of a community. This made the gym attendance a social habit, and less about burning a calorie quota.

This same social habit is what will keep me at WAC, even if a new club opened just down the street from my apartment.

Though instructors or other members would never chide me if I skipped a class or a workout with them, I like to think they might miss my red ponytail and glasses just a bit. Plus, there’s a certain sense of “yes I did it!” when an instructor knows you by name or notices you’ve been gone a couple of weeks. Like the cool kid acknowledged you, so you’re now part of the “in” circle.

Some of them even take it one step further to motivate us to attend more classes. At the moment, if you attend any of Angela T.’s yoga classes, you’re entered to win a free month of membership. Spin instructor David is running another challenge; if you attend 10 of his classes over a 14 weeks, you could win a coffee gift card.

Of course, my gym buddies push me, too! One of my fellow bootcampers recently invited me to join her at a Saturday morning spin class. I never would have attended that class without a friendly nudge.

What about you? Who are the familiar faces at your gym who keep you motivated?

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Betsy Mikel | betsymikel.com

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