Yes, social circles can hurt your training results! Your social circles influence how you make decisions. Thus, they influence the decisions about your training.
The simple fact that social circles influence your training decisions isn’t harmful. It hurts your training results when your goals don’t align with the circles goals.
“The people you surround yourself with influence your behaviors, so choose friends who have healthy habits.” – Dan Buettner
Example: Bodybuilding and Strength Training
For outsiders bodybuilding and strength training look the same. Guys with great physique lift weights in the gym. But, there are crucial differences. Body builders train for an aesthetics body. Their goal is to have a great looking muscular body. They lift moderate weights in 8 -15 repetitions and 3 – 5 sets. The goal of strength training is strength. People in strength training want to be stronger. They lift heavy weights in 3 – 5 repetitions.
Most people start lifting because they want to look good. They train in the gym to lose fat and gain muscles. Their goals align with the bodybuilding goals. But often times they train with people from the strength training camp. They ask them for advice. (For a beginner it looks the same.) If enough people are doing something and we are uncertain, we follow them.
In Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion there is an excellent chapter about this concept called social proof:
“It states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn box in a movie theater, how fast to
drive on a certain stretch of highway, or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party, the actions of those around us will be important in defining the answer. The tendency to see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it normally works quite well. As a rule, we will make fewer mistakes by acting in accord with social evidence than contrary to it. Usually, when a lot of people are doing something, it is the right thing to do. This feature of the principle of social proof is simultaneously its major strength and its major weakness.”
Social proof can work for or against us. The point is, we should be aware of the social circles we move in. With that awareness we can ask: are the circle’s goals and our own the same? If so, great! If not, we should get into the right circle. This does not only apply to training. It is also the truth for all your decisions in life.
A long time ago I started lifting. My goal was to lose weight and gain some muscles. I asked some people for advice and searched the Internet. With the found information I made the decision to train with heavy weights and few repetitions. I wrote down some goals. For example, to train twice weekly. Thus, I protocoled my training sessions. On paper I made progress. But, I couldn’t see results. I looked the same. Something had to change. I used the protocols as a feedback cycle and looked at the problem with the 5 why technique. I trained for strength but my goal was to look better. I changed my training to bodybuilding. After a short time I could see the desired result. With the change, I searched and found friends in the bodybuilding community. They help me to make right decisions. The point is, we should be aware of the social circles we move in!