Forced Friends

At my Crossfit class this evening, we were asked to partner up and grab a wall ball from the rack. The lightest wall balls, which were most popular, were stored on the top rack. The rack was hard to reach for most people. I stood back and watched for a second. They either needed to climb up the rack (safe, but a bit precarious), or ask for help. A few climbed, a few offered to help. I thought it was a perfect encapsulation of the group dynamics of a fitness class.

But why were those wall balls so hard to reach? Was it badly designed? Or was it purposeful? I like to think it was made that way to force you to climb or help. I love the idea of designing social interaction. Crossfit is generally very good at this sort of thing. For some classes, the coach will make you pair up for exercises, or even introduce yourself to other people. Question of the day is another social routine. 

Other examples might be the design of the waiting area. If it’s dark and has lots of comfortable seating, people will tend to sit apart, look at phones or keep to themselves. If there’s nowhere to hide, or if you are encouraged to stretch/warm up in the open, you’re more likely to start conversation or at least acknowledge each other. Often this design and combination of physical space and programming can make or break an exercise club. 

I think there’s a fine line — these sorts of interventions should always have another purpose, so it doesn’t feel forced or awkward.

May 1, 2018