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by Tony Gjokaj February 16, 2022 6 min read

One of the things that was a huge challenge when I was dealing with my severe bouts of depression and anxiety was isolation.

I would push myself away from people because I thought it would be better for me and for others around me.

This led me down an even worse path of loneliness to where I believed there was nothing left in this world.

I contemplated suicide regularly.

The turning point was the decision that I believed there HAD to be more for me.

I was too hard-headed to quit on myself.

So I got into fitness.

And that helped me in more ways than one.

In fitness, I noticed that there were communities of people that actually wanted to support my journey.

They wanted me to succeed.

In my gym, I would find that I gravitated towards people on the same journey as me.

I would find that many of them were battling similar demons like I was.

I wasn’t alone.

Fast forward to years later, I know some AMAZING people into fitness and they have truly helped me get through some really rough times.

Community is an essential part of living an active lifestyle, and it’s something I really want to help you all with.

In fact, according to a study done on mountain hiking, those who participated in a group experience of it saw a decrease in suicidal ideation.

So here are a few strategies I recommend doing for building relationships and being a part of a community that supports your goals.

Let’s dive in!

You can also watch this video I made on this topic here!

I. Find The In-Person Fitness Community That Interests You

The first thing I would recommend in doing this is to build up to finding a style of fitness you enjoy.

Finding a group class you’re interested in or joining a gym that interests you (UFC Gym, a Powerlifting gym, etc) can be very beneficial for helping you on your journey.

In my personal experience, I always found the weight room to be a great place to meet people.
The best time to go is early in the morning or in the afternoon (after 12pm) at most gyms. You’ll meet some pretty cool people around those times.
Once you get comfortable in that environment, shoot for the crowded times after 6 pm. My best relationships built were definitely around those times.
You can definitely try this out in your other classes.

II. Ask People About Their F.R.O.G.

Not an actual frog, but F.R.O.G.

F.R.O.G. stands for Family, Recreation, Occupation, and Goals.

It’s an abbreviation I learned from a fellow friend in my entrepreneurial group who is AMAZING at building relationships and connecting with people.

Ask about their family: do they have a wife, a girlfriend, do they have kids, etc?

Ask about recreation: other than working out, what other things do they like to do?

Ask about their occupation: what they do for a living.

And then there are goals, one of the easiest ice breakers in the gym.

Ask them the following:

  • “Are you training to build muscle or build strength?”
  • “Do you do this to be more fit or to manage stress?”

Even if it’s not one of those options, someone will tell you what they’re in the gym for.

Tell them why you’re here — tell them you’re figuring things out but want to work on some stress and anxiety relief.

They will definitely resonate with that.

If they’re the big or fit person at the gym or in class, they’ll be willing to give you tips.

Most of the time, people aren’t rude or mean at the gym and they’re willing to help you reach your goals.

Once you do this consistently, you’ll notice your circle getting bigger.

This is definitely not easy for us, but if you start at one person a day, that one will become two.

That two will become six.

Next thing you know, you’ll be friends with some great people.

It’ll be hard to leave the gym after a workout session.

III. Give Compliments.

Some of us can be intimidated by people who lift heavy or are just overall beasts in the gym… but paying them a compliment on an exercise of a sort is normal in a gym environment.

A “nice lift bro” or “nice lift sis” can really make someone’s day.

This will also help you realize some of the assumptions you had about certain people in the gym are wrong.
Some people in here are very cool.

These kinds of things have always helped me meet more and more people in my gym.

IV. Have Your Headphones Off At Times.

This is going to seem psycho to some avid gym-goers, but headphones off during some exercises at least.

One of the things my friend Blake (RIP) told me was to blast music when you’re lifting heavy. But when it’s lighter weight and machine work, take the headphones off and be in the moment.

And in being in the moment, you’ll notice that people will be willing to talk to you more when your headphones are off.

V. Find an Online Community.

Now that we have the in-person stuff out of the way, let’s talk about communities on the internet.

There is a community for EVERYONE online.

And due to changes to algorithms as the years have progressed, social media pages and groups have become very niche-specific.

This means that people join pages or groups based on a specific interest or goal.

And people will support your goals in these communities most of the time.

There are fewer trolls in niche-specific communities because most admins or moderators of these groups don’t tolerate it.

One of the biggest tips I can give you with building relationships in groups is: to provide value to the community (give) and ask for help after.

Giving can be talking or documenting your journey: talking about what challenges you are currently facing, and how you are going to attack these challenges.

And the more frequently you do that, the more people you’ll befriend in these groups.

You may also potentially become the person that people go to for advice, which is an incredible feeling as well.

I have done this in one of my business groups and it has helped me foster so many great relationships and business opportunities.

If you’re looking for fitness for mental health group, we have a Discord Group that we are working on. 

Our goal is to help people through their fitness for mental health journey.

You can join it here.

Just One Interaction.

As I mentioned prior: start with one interaction with a different person daily.

Then add to it.

Two. Maybe Three new people.

Then Five.

Over time, you’ll notice you will eventually befriend someone who is very social at the gym, who knows so many people.

They will introduce you to their circle of gym friends, and those people will do the same as well.

You might eventually find that you enjoy the gym so much that you don’t want to go home.

I’ve definitely been there when the work is being done and the great conversations are happening, and you’re having a blast.

Today, some of my gym friends support my business, we go to Sports Bars together, we celebrate wins together.

It’s an amazing experience.

My hope is for you to have the same.

If you want to help us create a fitness for mental health community, again I recommend our Discord group

We are pretty small right now, but I aspire for it to be a big community eventually.

If you want more immediate support, I would recommend the EOOD (Exercise Out Of Depression) subreddit group. There’s a lot of mental health support in that group and I feel welcome in there whenever I post.

You can also easily find Facebook Groups that support your needs as well — you just need to search.

Now with that, I want to thank you for reading this post.

If you need anything, I’m here for you.

Until next time!

PS: If you need an extra kick in the ass on your fitness and mental health journey, you can grab our 3 Hacks That Boost Mood Fitness Startup Guide. You can get it by signing up to our mental health email list here!

Check Out Our Fitness For Mental Health YouTube Channel!

Exercise For Depression Discord Accountability Group

Visit the Reforged Website

PPS: Recommended Supplement List is coming soon, I promise!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help millions exercise their way out of depression and anxiety.

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