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A Fork In the Road

Getting the Fit Fitter or Getting the 80% Moving?

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Cathy Spencer BrowningCathy Spencer Browning

Look straight ahead, squint your eyes. Can you see it? Right there. It is coming up right there in front of us. Can you see it now? It is a fork in the road. Stop. We have to make a decision. We have two choices. Veer left, and that is the road where we get the "Fit Fitter." The traffic is really light, not many cars on that road. The road is paved with an abundance of shame-based motivation promising ripped abs, better glutes, arms to die for and quick weight loss. And, the way to achieve this? No pain, no gain! The road to the right has many people who have been living two pandemics simultaneously, COVID-19 and the pandemic of physical inactivity. The world has been increasingly becoming more inactive prior to COVID-19, and since COVID-19, many more have stopped moving. This road has heavy traffic... 80% or more of the population. This is definitely a more challenging and longer road to travel. But, the destination is so much more rewarding... Because on this road, we can really change lives. And, because on this road, so many more people need our direction and support.

The road to the left is where we promise weight loss goals and body shape goals, and we assume that people are willing to do anything for that goal. Work out five times a week, sure. Keto, why not? It's the road of HIIT workouts, heart rate monitors, fitness trackers and score-based workouts. It's highly competitive.

But, on this road, the 80% cannot get where they want to go. It's too much, it's too hard, and it takes too long to achieve. This leads to extremely high attrition rates. And, this road is actually littered with fitness fanatics, which many are probably better described as the "fickle fit." They are known for their lack of loyalty because they are conditioned to drive and chase after fitness fads. They go from being your member to joining CrossFit to joining SoulCycle, then possibly coming back to you, or joining the next shiny new health club or extreme Boot Camp of Such-and-Such.

But, we cannot drive the road to the right the same way we drive the road to the left. This is the road we must drive with empathy. It is where we talk to our members about different goals than weight loss, muscle gain or body shape changes. The goal we must discuss is movement. We ask them how we can help them get moving and how we can help them to create some movement habits. We lean in, and we are sensitive to their realities. We understand that most people cannot start out exercising five times a week; not everyone is coordinated or movement skilled; most aren't motivated by feeling the burn and no pain, no gain; and not everyone will fall in love with exercise. But, maybe, just maybe we can help them to fall "in like" with moving their bodies and eventually build the desire to exercise regularly.

On this road, we talk about results differently. Rather than results that use words like inches, pounds and six-pack abs, we talk about results that use words like better sleep, improved mood, less stress and anxiety, enhanced Movement Health, elevated self-esteem and better brain health. These results happen much more quickly, some after just one workout. Rather than words like train, pain and gain, we use words like move and improve. On this road, we honk horns for successes, like simply just turning up.

To the right, we care about the journey, and we must smooth the road as much as possible. We really help people navigate toward their self-chosen destinations. The road to the left has many speedbumps and potholes that make the journey rough, like workouts that are too intense, too boring, too mindless, too unenjoyable, like shoving people on the dreaded treadmill, aka the "Dreadmill" or starting them with a HIIT workout. There is little to no chance that they will arrive at their destination. They will veer off course, do a U-turn and head back to where they started... inactivity.

When we choose the road on the right, the programming we offer matters, the staff matters, the way we talk to people matters, advertising and marketing matters, how we make people feel matters. It all really matters.

We can even choose to ride on a bus rather than leaving people on their own to drive. By putting people together in groups, we can create a social fabric, a road that is about community, being social and being connected... We call it the "sticky web..." something that, when we get to the other side of COVID-19, people are going to need more than ever. People are socially starved and physically famished.

Many of us have had no choice but to put on the brakes because of COVID-19. Maybe being at the fork in the road is the perfect time to really consider a new road. Go left and continue to get the fit fitter or go right and get more than 80% of the population moving.

To learn more about MOSSA, our mission to get more people moving and our M4 Programming: Movement, Music, Motivation and Metrics, visit www.mossa.net.

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