What an Instagram Fitness Crew Taught Me About Community

A woman checking in with her online community while tying her sneaker on the side of the bed early in the morning.

“Community” is one of those buzzwords that’s talked about just enough that you probably roll your eyes anytime it’s brought up.

It’s like “Pumpkin Spice Lattes” in the fall or “Chacos at bible camp.”

Is it really that big-a-deal?

Yeah. It is.

Especially when it involves thousands of strangers spanning the globe, all connecting on Instagram.

Here comes the inevitable eyeroll. You don’t even really know them, you might say. That’s not a real community.

You’re telling me that even though social media connects people from around the world…

Even though it shortened our communication time to mere seconds (paper letters being delivered across oceans in ships used to be the only option, peeps)…

And even though it gives us a platform to befriend others from anywhere on our planet Earth, the fact that I can’t reach out and give my Instagram friend a literal high-five means we’re not in a community?

I beg to differ.

Our gaggle of fitness fanatics are all on a quest for a healthier life, bound together by that common goal, a workout plan, and a trainer.

We’re on a journey together. And on that journey, I’ve experienced a slew of benefits from my online fitness crew — benefits unique to a life lived in community.

1. Sharing values from around the globe makes the world a little cozier

I joined an online fitness community with the goal of becoming my healthiest self.

But goals and values are different. Goals are dreams with an action plan, while values are how you live out that plan.

I love all things health-related, and I can chat for hours on end about studies, findings, and research that I read for fun in my spare time. Heck, my husband and I live a nutritarian (vegan, if you must) lifestyle to live out those healthful values we hold most dear.

But there’s something about knowing people around the world (in my case, 2,000+ individuals) share my values and are trying to craft their health journeys to reflect those.

It not only supports the idea that my values are worth living out, but also that sometimes, it’s really dang hard.

But that’s not a journey I’m traversing alone, so my world just got a little smaller and not so lonely.

2. Embracing your differences can expand your worldview

I’m on this similar journey with a lot of people from around the globe, but I am by no means clones of each of them.

Quite the opposite really.

Right now, I’m not a mother, not working toward a career in fitness, nor am I able to spend three hours a day in the gym. I don’t identify with a lot of other descriptors my Instagram fam does.

But I still have the opportunity — as a friend, as a member of the community, and as a human being — to meet my community’s individuals where they are.

I can choose empathy in their struggles, support in their tough decisions, and pride in their accomplishments.

It doesn’t matter that I differ in age, weight, stature, status, what have you. They’re my crew, and we lift one another up — not despite, but because of our differences.

3. Keeping others accountable keeps your goals intact, too

Where would I be at 5 a.m. without my band of fitness friends who also committed to an early morning workout session?

Still sleeping. That’s where.

But with my crazy schedule and expanding social calendar, a morning workout is my best option of getting one in.

And knowing my accountability buddies are waiting for an early morning message to make sure they’re up and at ’em too, makes me get up.

I can’t sleep in if they’re expecting me to be bright-eyed and putting in that early morning fitness effort. So I get up. I might be yawning throughout said workout, but that’s an aside.

The bottom line is that I know their goals, and they know mine. And meeting their expectations of ticking off my own goals keeps me on track.

4. In a community, you’re never in it alone

The funny thing about a band of fitness friends that span the world and fall into numerous walks of life?

There’s still something about being human that leads us to slip, trip, or fall flat on our faces from time to time.

And what’s great is that I can turn right back around to my friends and get back on track. I can own up to my failings, knowing full-well that these Instagram pals aren’t exclusively supporting perfection.

In our fitness community, you don’t scroll through a feed of everyone’s best day.

You find progress pictures; attempts at healthy meals; that cookie that couldn’t be passed up because “all things in moderation”; and battle scars from dropped weights, marathon toenail losses, or knee injuries.

Our community is in the business of pursuing or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And those don’t pair with perfection. They pair with effort, sweat stains, gritted teeth, and quite often, tears.

And that is picture-perfect pretty to me. That’s the stuff that should make up social media feeds. Because that’s real life.

We’re working toward our best selves, in community with other humans. And together, we’re reaching higher heights because we’re not traveling this journey — or through life — alone.

So next time you’re prompted to roll your eyes at a social media community, remember: they’re probably a bunch of human beings — much like yourself — who are on a quest for a better life and have found a support system for living out their values.

Grotto quote graphic that reads, "We're working toward our best selves, in community with other humans."

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