This is what happens when you hang out with active people

I’ve been a member of the ParticipACTION team for just over two weeks now – they have been two of the most active weeks of my life.

I’ve gone on two different hour-long walks around the city. I tagged along on a stand up paddleboarding adventure one afternoon. I’ve already taken part in the creation of a human pyramid. And I’m writing this article at a standing desk, after having just taken a half-hour walk during lunch. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Of course, it must be said that I wasn’t inactive before. Before joining the team, I already tried to go to the gym as regularly as possible, I routinely opted for stairs over escalators, and I knew that being active was important for my physical health and mental well-being.

Yet, staying motivated was a constant struggle. Sticking to a good routine was always a challenge. I tried to be active, but I wouldn’t say that it came naturally.

But in the past two weeks that’s exactly how it’s felt. Natural. So why the difference? Why has it suddenly become easier? What is the magic of working at ParticipACTION?

The ParticipACTION difference

The difference hit me when I was out on the water paddleboarding. I was paddling away, struggling to keep my balance having already fallen in twice, and I remember suddenly thinking, “How did I get here? This isn’t something I would ordinarily do, or even think to try.”

I looked around at the ParticipACTION crew. Some were playfully trying to knock each other off their boards, joking and laughing. Others were more leisurely enjoying the gorgeous view of the city. Everyone was paddling away.

And that’s when I realized what it was – I was surrounded by people who genuinely enjoy physical activity. They love biking to work. They work out during lunch or jog in the evening. They play tennis and volleyball and compete in triathlons. They move more than any other group of people I’ve ever known.

So what was I doing out there on the water, a place I would have never imagined finding myself before joining ParticipACTION? I was doing what comes naturally when you’re surrounded by active people.

Why it works

The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize how quickly the culture had taken hold. I was already being more active in my everyday life without really wondering why.

No one told me I had to be more active. No one insisted that I walk more or go to the gym or take up a sport.

Somehow it just happened organically. I didn’t consciously decide I needed to keep up with everyone. It just happened, naturally.

I started waking up early enough to go to the gym in the morning because I knew almost everyone else was biking to work. I walked part of the way home one day for the same reason. It’s just what everyone in the office does. They make activity a priority, instead of a second thought.

I’ve already received invitations to be on a volleyball team, to participate in an office tennis tournament, and to work out at lunch with a coworker. A few people are thinking of taking up a Tuesday spin class.

It just goes on and on, and yet it’s not overwhelming because everyone is so encouraging. You can join in, or do your own thing. There’s no pressure, just opportunities to be active.

And that makes all the difference in the world. In no time at all my views on activity have started to shift. It seems like less of a chore and more of an opportunity. I hope that in time that it will become a way of life, like it clearly has for the rest of the office.

How this can apply to you 

I think there are a few general lessons here that you can apply to your own life.

First, hang out with active people as much as possible. Regrettably, we can’t all work at ParticipACTION, but I think we can all find friends who enjoy physical activities. You can meet people at the gym, or through team sports or group classes. Most of us know someone who is active. Invite them to go for a walk or a jog. Take the first step and I guarantee they’ll take the second. Activity is contagious like that.

Second, culture matters. At the ParticipACTION office it’s accepted and expected that people are active. It’s okay if you look a little disheveled in the morning – a good bike ride should mess up your hair a little. Want to stand and stretch during a meeting? That’s great! It would almost be weird if you didn’t.

Third, activity should be normal. This is by far my biggest takeaway from my first two weeks at ParticipACTION. It’s not that everyone forces themselves to move more. It’s not that they’re way more dedicated or determined than other people. The difference is that it’s normal.

Activity is viewed as an essential part of life, just like eating and sleeping. It’s not something you have to make time for, it’s not an inconvenience or something you do to look good. It’s just what you do. It gives life purpose. It’s a passion. It’s a big part of a life well-lived.

Once you make that shift in perspective and start seeing activity as an opportunity, the rest is easy.

So go find some people that love physical activity. Surround yourself with people that recognize that it’s a vital part of life. And soon, it will be a part of yours – it’s just what happens when you hang out with active people.