Written by Ashley Dier | Academy of Lions Media Team | Toronto

Growing up I feared team sports. It sounds ridiculous, but the thought of playing on anything that resembled a team (with the exception of basketball) would send me into a panic. Volleyball, I'd do anything I could think of to avoid any ACTUAL contact with the ball. Baseball, I would willingly let people skip ahead of me in hopes of never having to swing a bat. It wasn't fear of the sport itself that had me crippled in terror, it was the fear of messing up, of letting the team down that stopped me. As I grew older, I mellowed out (a bit) and began to welcome the sports team dynamic. I still occasionally fear failure (who doesn't), but along the way I've discovered that the team sport environment and a partner workout atmosphere has some serious advantages.

Working Harder
"One Kansas State University researcher found that those who exercised with a teammate whom they perceived to be better increased their workout time and intensity by as much as 200 percent." (sciencedaily.com) That "fear of failure" kicks in when you work out with someone whom you perceive to be better than you, especially if you're working towards a single points goal. It's called the The Köhler Effect, and is essentially, not wanting to be the weakest link in a group or partner atmosphere that pushes you to work harder, in the end, making you more fit. It's true, think back to a partner workout vs one done solo...notice a difference? I sure do.

Social Support
Knowing I have people waiting for me at the gym gets my ass up out of bed in the morning. Stanford University found that simply receiving a check-in phone call that asked about your progress every two weeks drastically increased the amount of exercise participants did..some by as much as 78%. Think of the #InThisTogether Project, Academy members set reachable goals for the year and commit to them by posting it for all to see on the Squad Goals wall. Week after week more photos and goals are declared and added to the wall, showing the motivating support and power of friends and community.

Celebrating Success
Box jumps and I have a love/hate relationship and I have the scars on my shins to prove it. The women I train with in The Camp were there to see me come crashing down (literally...multiple times!!!), much to my displeasure it even became a running joke between a few friends. Those same women were there when I got back up on the horse, albeit a bit shaken, and jumped again and celebrated right along with me, It was a great feeling. Having someone along for the ride on my fitness journey allows for individual successes to become group successes. Who doesn't love a high five?

When thinking back to that younger me, the one who prayed the volleyball never came anywhere near her, I've come along way. I still don't like baseball, that will probably never change, but I wholeheartedly welcome team sports environments. I push myself far more than I ever have because of the support I receive from groups and those that show me that I can. Many of my personal and professional successes can be attributed to the positive effects of said groups in my life, through both running and the Academy. A positive community or team is a powerful thing, find your tribe, your lion pack you'll be surprised by what can happen.