I previously wrote How six friends whipped a couch potato into a half marathon runner — all online (1) and How six friends whipped a couch potato into a half marathon runner — all online (2), out of sheer surprise how social factors worked.
In the last half-year, I have changed from a typical energyless couch potato to a running enthusiast, thanks to my friends’ casual cheers. Here are the five social factors I identified how this could ever happen:
- Social accountability: I had “cardio workout” in my new year’s resolution for many years only to roll it over to the next year without results. This year, the difference was that I told friends about the goal. It immediately formed soft social accountability. The force that made me get out of the door eventually was the casual accountability that I didn’t want to eat my words. That was the first step, and it kept me going.
- Mental barrier breaker: At first, I procrastinated going out for a run as it felt very awkward after no running for decades. Similar psychological barriers existed for signing up for 10K, 12K, and half-marathon races. If it were not for my friends talking me into those once-out-of-reach challenges, I would have never even tried. They crunched my mental block when they exemplified the feeling of triumph at the finish line, the taste of cold beer after, or the pride with the race photos.
- Interaction and fun: This was the key. After jokingly sharing my feeble first-run experience of grand 45 SECONDS (note that it’s not minutes but seconds), I found the pleasure of chatting with friends about my runs every other day. When I reported whatever progress I made to the group chat, a horde of emojis flared around. Friends commented, gave encouragement, and even threw in fun favors (like drawing a picture on the Strava map with running). I ran alone, but I felt (virtually) surrounded by friends chattering about the run. The fun factor got me a habit of running and reporting back to friends 3–4 times a week.
- Resilience helper: Quite often, I didn’t want to go out for a sweat. Or I caught a cold or was down with jetlag. There were many dips I felt terrible about my performance regressing or staying still. In those times, my friends reminded me that it would be a temporary dip, and I’d be coming back stronger. I was holding onto their kind words to get out of the slump.
- Co-tracking, co-celebration, and positive confirmation: So out of pure fun, friends tracked my running progress with me. Whenever I beat my longest run record, they nodded. Whenever I finished a race, they cheered. (All online; in a group chat; with messages, emojis, and giphys; from 3 different continents.) They celebrated milestones with me. From provoking (to go for a seemingly unattainable goal) to celebrating the achievement, they completed and repeated the positive confirmation loop.
As the transformation was unexpected yet so successful, I tried hard to figure out how it all worked out, in the hope to reuse it for other challenges in life. Then we have created an app called CoDo App to help ourselves and other people achieve their goals boosted by the social factors from friends.
Check it out with friends. Track, celebrate, and achieve together. I hope you can find your stronger self while having fun with friends as I did! Cheers!