Finding your tribe. The internet meme that launched a thousand instagram posts. The mantra that resonates across self-help books and you tube channels, from life coaches to greetings cards. It’s a saying that is used in such a banal manner that it is a concept that is, now, all to easy to dismiss. Let’s face it, the prevalence of #FindYouTribe is such that for many (*ahem*) it has become an empty cliché more prone to subtle derision that any kind of serious reflection. But yet, yet… these last few years as I progressed along my journey to strength I have started to realise what a powerful and profound thing your tribe is. If that is you find it in the right way and in the right place (clue: its not hiding in the depths of an internet maxim).
In common with many people’s roads to fitness, my adventures in strength training started as a resolutely individual, almost private, journey. Lifestyle changes, particularly those concerning health and fitness, are often rooted in a web of complex motivations – some of which are seemingly only obliquely related to the transformation at hand. ‘Fitness’ in all its guises is so deeply associated with a sense of self, be it self-image, identity or worth, that taking the first steps to truly change that relationship can be quite a personal and solitary endeavour. Even if you are ostensibly engaging with the wider community in your gym (through classes and group training), being open and honest about these questions, this sense of identity, can remain a decidedly private affair.
It was against this backdrop that what happened next for me was such an unexpected and profound shift. I started to realise that strength training had progressed to something more than a means of getting fit; that it had encouraged me to start to face the need for, and ultimately develop, a newfound mental resilience and grit. More than that, this strength was borne not just from facing what was needed to achieve my own physical goals but from becoming part of a community of people deeply committed to the same journey. That is, people who were willing to embrace the challenge of not simply pushing boundaries but, as Gay Hendricks discusses in Leap, to truly accept that they could develop entirely new ones.
But how does this bring us back to the topic of your tribe? What quickly became clear to me is that committing to being better, to being your best, shines a light on all aspects of your life. Taking yourself to your physical limits doesn’t just challenge you from a fitness perspective but it demands that you face your fears (of failure, of whether you are good enough), your dreams (to be a competitor, a success, able to challenge your long-held views as to your sense of self) and resurrects that web of emotions that you have carried with you up until this point. That is, those same emotions that delivered you to the door of a strength training gym feeling completely out of your depth in the first place. It is facing this type of crystal clear, completely transparent and unfiltered reflection of your own reality that requires a support that can often only come from those who are being bold enough to do the same. People who are also risking the exposure of honesty and failure for the ultimate prize of living their true and authentic best. With that comes a very unique and strong bond – one forged in the fire of digging deep and delivering – oftentimes against the odds.
I appreciate that, to some, this post could sound a little far fetched. That, putting it mildly, it is something of an overstatement to suggest that this kind of family (because that is what my strong-crew is to me) can emerge from the pursuit of fitness. However, all I ask is that you suspend disbelief and try it. Not, ‘hit the gym and try to add a few kilos to your lift’ try it, but ‘find a team of people seeking to truly push the boundaries’ try it. People who against all odds of ill-health, circumstance and accepted norms are, when faced with a challenge, adopting the attitude of ‘let’s do this and who’s with me?’
I feel privileged to have found my tribe and in creating this online space invite you to do the same. To use this as a place where we can dare to be different: to be honest in our pursuit of wanting to live our best lives and to take other people along for the ride. Because I don’t know about you but this year, this year, I’m all in.