I’ve been re-reading Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone as part of the SuperCrew Book Club. In Chapter 6: Hold Hands with Strangers she shares some of the ideas and research around Collective Effervescence or Collective Assembly. Essentially it’s the phenomenon of true connection that arises from physically sharing moments of collective joy and showing up for experiences of collective pain. As she summarizes it, when we connect through these moments of joy and pain, “it becomes difficult to deny our human connection.” Whoa. Powerful!

As I re-read the chapter I wondered if that is part of the reason we’re drawn to exercise in groups. Whether in a running race or a fitness class – there is something transformative that happens when we share these moments of both collective joy and in some cases collective suffering or challenge (I resist the word “pain” in this instance, but in essence suffering or challenge is pain).

What if what draws us to group exercise formats is less about building our biceps, and more about building belonging?

In the book she shares some of the research from Gabriel, Valenti, Naragon-Gainey, and Young about what they call “Collective Assembly.” In their research they found that Collective Assembly contributes to a life filled with “meaning, increased positive affect (aka feeling good), increased social connection, and decreased sense of loneliness.”

I’d say that’s pretty impactful. And something we should make more time for – don’t you?!

Traditionally what has been studied is collective assembly such as attending a concert or sports event, but it strikes me just how impactful the collective assembly of fitness can be. The joy, social connection, meaning and peace that arises when we share in the experience of movement – whether it’s climbing a mountain or attending a yoga class.

As an instructor and coach I’ve witnessed it time and again. The true connection and sense of belonging people develop when they participate in a running clinic or regularly attend a specific fitness class. I’d love to take all the credit for people coming back again, and again, but honestly – I know it’s community – or this phenomenon of collective assembly. It’s all the good feels that come from pushing our boundaries and challenging ourselves – together!

I’ve had clients tell me just how important their fitness community is to them. They know they could go it alone, but doing it with others (even if it’s only once a week), is what keeps them charged and excited! It’s what helps them feel like they belong in this disconnected world. It’s what helps them find meaning and just generally feel good!

It’s so easy in the busy world we live in to just “squeeze it in” solo when we have the chance. But if we can step back and build in these opportunities for group and connection the benefits are clear. Not only will we gain all the wonderful benefits of our physical activity – but we benefit from sharing these moments of collective joy and challenge.

How can you build in these moments of in person fitness collective assembly in your life?

  • find a regular fitness class you love
  • participate in a charity walk or run
  • attend a run clinic (hey, I’ve got a new one starting soon for beginners!)
  • go to a one day workshop
  • attend a fitness or yoga retreat
  • go for a group hike

Whatever you do – remember to make it something you enjoy! Even if there is inherent challenge or struggle, there needs to be a kernel of joy to keep you going! Need some help finding something fit for you? Hey, I’d love to help! Let’s chat!

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