The Truth About Exercise & Social Media

It seems there are two types of people in this world.

Image result for facebook likeThere’s those that post about exercise, whether it’s Facebook statuses about running, Instagram pictures of Crossfit rigs or tweets celebrating a particularly bendy yoga session. Alongside them are the people who like these posts, comment with congratulations and support, ask questions, seek knowledge, share and in myriad other ways interact in a positive way…

Related image…then there’s those that just don’t get it. Some of these group are vocal about not getting it, mocking people for posting about exercise, levelling accusations of “always posting about running”, feigning surprise when another picture of trainers/a watch face/the running track hits their timeline. These people can sometimes be so vocal it stops the athlete from publicising their activities via social media.

But I’m here to tell you it’s okay, in fact it’s good for you to share that status, snap that Garmin, tweet that race result, and here’s a few reasons why…

Image result for dopamineChemistry – We all know exercise leaves you feeling good, right? That’s because it releases a number of chemicals in the body including serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine is the key one here, it is the body’s way of rewarding us with feel-good vibes, and is a large part of the reason for addictions (as most addictive behaviours – drinking, gambling, drugs – stimulate the release of dopamine). Know what else promotes a flood of dopamine in the body? Social interaction, and recently it has been proven that this includes likes/shares and comments on social media. So that runner’s high we all love so much can be reproduced and extended by a strong support network on social media. In fact that support network is key…

Image result for runners talkingBetter Together – Running can be a particularly lonely pastime and is fraught with the risks of injury, poor technique, crap training plans and never knowing which of the dazzling array of races available each weekend is the best. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a local club or running network we can be a part of, and this is where the online running community is so brilliant. One of my favourite hashtags is #AskSomeoneWhoKnows and with social media you can do exactly that. I’ve been given a speed session plan by an Olympic gold medalist on Twitter and  learned a new way to coach running posture from a Facebook video, and this wealth of knowledge is available to anyone who can log on!

Image result for motivationMotivation’s What You Need – If you want to be a record breaker! Motivation works both ways… Firstly there’s how social media can motivate you to be better, perhaps in the form of following other athletes who you aspire to emulate or coaches who’s advice you trust. But also there’s just the sight of others getting out there, doing the thing you love, that can be enough to inspire you to lace up and hit the streets. We’ve all sat and watched the rain on the windows, making excuses for not running, but as soon as you see a “I didn’t want to but I did and it was awesome” post you’re pulling on the lycra and getting excited about the rain on your face and wind in your hair! Never underestimate your ability to motivate yourself either, Facebook memories can often throw up reminders of that perfect run last year, or the race in 2014 when you know you hadn’t done the training and it sucked. Use your own past experiences to fuel your fire now. The other way is incredible too, there is little more rewarding than being told “you inspire me”, few things will light your fire more than the idea that your running is helping others to enjoy theirs…but if you don’t post about it that can’t happen!

Accountability – This is a bit of a weird one, because it relies on you being of a certain mindset to begin with. If you get in the habit of posting your training plans there are people out there who will know what you’re meant to be running. Some of those people care enough to ask you how your session or long run went, and telling them it didn’t happen sucks! Another version of this is the morning declaration, “only 8 hours of work and then I can get out for some miles, can’t wait!”. Posts like that, with the right support network, can keep you accountable and make it harder to skip those important midweek sessions when it’s raining or you just can’t be arsed! (I know one athlete who schedules their post-training posts in the morning so they have to see it through or go and delete things embarrassingly!)

Image result for echo chamberThe Echo-Chamber – 2016 was a weird year, not least because of all the new phrases we had to get used to – Brexit, post-truth, pengest munch – and one of the most interesting was the idea of the echo-chamber. Essentially what it boils down to is this: the circles you move in (online and off) are dictated by your choice of friends/career/location etc. Therefore the people you surround yourself with are likely to have similar philosophies and beliefs to you, which is why no one can quite believe we voted to leave the EU when everyone they know voted to stay and everything they saw online said we would. The same was true in America; all the negativity for Donald Trump echoed around the interweb among like-minded individuals but as they were unlikely to have friends/followers on the other side their voices were never heard by their opponents. How is this relevant to exercise? Well imagine if your echo-chamber bounced back to you lots of positive chatter about exercise. Your friends list will, over time, become inundated with fellow athletes and on Twitter it can be even more immediate as you follow whoever you choose. Surround yourself with the right people online and suddenly your running community is huge and supportive and wonderful and when you aren’t a part of it you miss it…what better motivation to get out the door and do something worthy of a Tweet?

So there you have it, social media can be an athletes greatest ally. Use it, post about your efforts and hard work, your successes and the runs that maybe don’t go so well, and see who and what comes back to you. You may be surprised by the results. I’ll leave you with this thought though…

Image may contain: 6 people, people smilingThe Internet Is Like A Sports Bra – By which I mean it’s more supportive for women! I’d love to get blokes better at chucking around the kudos the way the girls do, movements like #ThisGirlCan are absolutely brilliant and there’s no reason why boys can’t provide that same level of motivation and support for each other. That’s why I’ll be using social media a lot more in 2017 to promote running, my own and other people’s, and if you’re part of that group that just don’t get it? Well, you’ve been warned!

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