Imagine you walk into a gymnasium. Different people doing different things all over. There are all sorts of stations: weightlifting areas, cardio machines, fitness rooms. There is a yoga room and a room for a spin class. There is a basketball court.
Too, there are all sorts of people all throughout the gym. They’re each doing their own workouts, trying to get fit. Maybe it is January, and they feel like it is time to get serious about their resolutions! Weightlifting, elliptical, treadmill, stair machine, calisthenics, aerobics. Each with their own plan, or no plan.
Some people have come in small groups. They enjoy working out with friends. It motivates them, and it is fun.
Into this gym, now add a few trainers and coaches. Some people are being trained one on one. Others in more small groups, being led on how to do certain exercises. These coaches can help them build skills, stay motivated, progress, and stay on track.
There are larger fitness classes, in some of the side rooms. Yoga, led by a yoga teacher. Cardio, led by a fitness instructor. Spin class, led by my friend Kenny. These classes also help people build skills, build connections with others, and get fit.
Now . . .
Imagine that some of the coaches and fitness instructors are trying to pass along more than just workout routines. They want to teach their students and groups that they can get fit anywhere. That all they need is some fresh air and a place to run. That they can do it themselves, along with others if they so choose, without any special apparatus or guidebook or video. Imagine the yoga instructor enjoys helping people do the poses, but also wants them to walk away knowing that they could do the yoga at home. Or, that they could themselves teach their family how to do the poses. These coaches and instructors are trying to pass on a mindset toward health.
These kinds of coaches and fitness instructors are a bit analogous to some of the people in civic life you might meet in communities. Sure, they work on projects, but they also try to do so in a way that leaves behind greater capacity. They want to arrange things so that when the project is over, everyone involved can go on to start their own projects, and work on their own issues.
Back to the gym. Someone started that gym. They decided that they wanted to lease the land, build the building, install the equipment, and put effort into making sure it is there for people. Imagine that the owner wanted it to be the kind of place where the coaches and instructors we talked about before felt at home. Imagine they wanted it to be the kind of place where coaches could pass on lifelong fitness attitudes, and it could be a place where people could come together to work out – and to do more than that. The gym could become a place where people got a new mindset toward what they are already doing.
Sure, people come to work out . . . but they are doing more than that. The coaches are trying to do more than that. The gym owner is trying to make it a place where it is welcoming for all kinds: people just working out, and people who have been bitten by the lifelong fitness and health mindset.
The gym owner is somewhat like the institutes, or centers, that exist in some communities. Organizations that work with others who are in turn doing their own projects. These institutes serve as a way to knit together disparate efforts, making space for them, and creating a place where people can learn from one another.
Imagine a learning community or network made up of these kinds of gym owners and some of the more expansive-thinking coaches. They share what they are learning about how they approach their craft, how they set up their spaces. Their craft isn’t exercise routines – it is awakening people to fitness.
Just think what all these gym owners and coaches could unleash, simply by arranging and fostering the right kinds of conditions, and removing obstacles to this kind of development. Imagine what they could learn from one another about how to do that.
Imagine what a new gym owner, someone with the germ of an idea, could learn from such a network.