As a bodybuilder I primarily workout alone. My coach provides me with a plan, a roadmap to achieving my goals. My workouts are structured and move in a set order, where I repeat the same sequence weekly. This doesn’t allow much room for a workout partner, because the plan is tailored specifically for me and would not fit their goals.

Although I am training alone, I am by no means on a solo path. I have learned over the years working with clients and in my own personal experiences that success is best obtained when we surround ourselves with a strong support system of like minded individuals.

This support system can take various forms. It could be small and just include a couple of friends or family members. It could simply be a coach or trainer that guides us. Even social media if handled correctly can bring some encouraging people into our lives.

For me, support and a positive impact has come in various forms. My family has been my rock both mentally and physically. My husband and oldest daughter have both traveled with me to shows, helping me to stay calm and focused. When we were at Masters Nationals my husband would heat up my meals. That may sound like a small gesture but believe me it’s a big deal. I was anxious, eating eight times a day, and the only hotel microwaves were several floors down with long lines of competitors doing the exact same thing. During both my on and off season my husband helps me meal prep and even follows a meal plan similar to mine.

I also have support from my coaches, Matt Allen and Wendy Fortino. They not only prepare my program but also help me with posing and are at the show two days in advance to help the team prepare. They have carried me through some pretty intense times of self doubt and discouragement over the past four years.

Another positive source in my life are the clients I coach. They cheer me on and get just as excited as I do about the competition.

And finally, I have the support of friends. Honestly, the most encouraging have been fellow gym goers, competitors on my team or whom I’ve met at shows, and some wonderful people on social media. Yes, a good portion of social media can be negative. However, I’ve also interacted with some amazing men and women who send kind messages, share their own fitness journey with me, or drop a line of encouragement on one of my posts.

Without all these people, it would be far more difficult to live this lifestyle. I’ve seen this many times in coaching. Someone will come to me wanting to make a transformation, change their lifestyle, or compete. If they have the support of friends and family coupled with my guidance, they typically are more likely to accomplish their goals. Yes the motivation must come from inside themselves rather than from outside circumstances. However, having that support makes it more likely they will follow through on their goals.

So what do you do if you have decided to make fitness a lifestyle and you don’t have that encouragement in your life? I have found five strategies that have helped me and my clients.

First of all it can help to communicate your concerns with loved ones. If they don’t share your enthusiasm for fitness, you can ask them to respect your desire to live a healthier lifestyle. I remember telling my husband I couldn’t go to the movies when on prep because of the smell of popcorn. He respected how I felt, and we focused on other activities.

Secondly, you may need to make some reasonable compromises with family and friends. I began competing when my kids were still young. We would always eat a healthy meal together as a family. However, my husband and I would provide some food choices on the side such as pasta, cheese, or salad dressing. I had to learn to do my thing without resenting the fact that they were having foods that weren’t on my plan. When we ate out, we compromised by going to restaurants I knew would accommodate requests such as no butter or sauces. My family still had the foods they wanted, and I was able to stay on track with my goal. The important thing was that we were enjoying the meal as a family. It didn’t really matter who was eating what.

Third, you may need to set boundaries for both yourself and those around you. This is particularly true when friends are the issue. They may want you to go out drinking or to a restaurant that has no meal options for you. Are you able to still be with your friends and avoid certain pitfalls? Sometimes we base our pleasure around things such as food or alcohol rather than simply enjoying someone’s company. However, the answer could also be to say no and ask friends to join you for different activities such as movies or coffee. If you are like me, there will be certain friends that left when my lifestyle changed. This can be painful, but ultimately I was saved by their rejection. It was something that needed to happen in order for me to move forward.

Fourth, is to seek some type of group support. It could be in the form of an exercise class, hiking club, or even a Facebook group of like minded people. When I first decided to seriously pursue fitness, I began attending group fitness classes and later I introduced yoga into my lifestyle. I found a collective energy and group spirit that encouraged me to move forward with my goals. These were people who were just as excited as myself to be attending the class. Fitness became something that was fun. Eventually I began teaching those very same classes and was naturally led into the career of coaching.

Fifth, coaches and trainers can be a great support. They will give you accountability and guidance needed to reach your goals. If this is something that isn’t in your budget, there are usually community resources to help. There are local biking, walking, running, and hiking groups that welcome new members. I currently train a hiking group that meets up twice weekly and travels together as well.

Support won’t always come knocking. It may require reaching out, compromising, or changing perspective. Sometimes we are all guilty of sitting back and automatically expecting people to understand and encourage us. I learned this one the hard way and was genuinely surprised. Those I thought would be the most supportive were the first to leave, while people I barely knew or never expected to understand were the ones to step forward and cheer me on.

The important thing is to realize that yes motivation must come from within. Yet, we were never designed to do life alone. Find those people who will encourage and challenge you to grow.

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