Positive Peer Pressure: How to Leverage Your Squad to Get In Shape

“Just beat Level 8!”


A few months back, a group of my friends and I engaged in a digital arms race. You see, I made the horribly amazing mistake of downloading the brutally difficult and perfectly balanced mobile game, “Geometry Dash.”

Your goal is to get your automatically moving square to hop over increasingly challenging triangles and boxes by touching the screen. I know, squares hopping over triangles sounds like thrilling game mechanics.

No joke, I’m warning you to NOT download this game:

You’ll swear words you’ve never said before, you’ll pull your hair out, and then you’ll say “one more try.” And you will do this thousands of times When you finally beat a level, the sheer joy you’ll experience is unparalleled, only to repeat the process on the next level.

Although the game took over my life for a few weeks, it taught me a valuable lesson about the positive benefits of peer pressure. Today, you’re going to learn how to enter your own arms race with your friends and use peer pressure to positively level up your life.

With us opening the doors for a few days to our monthly team-based, story-driven, habit creating fitness adventure Rising Heroes today, I want to talk about the power of teamwork and peer pressure!

Geometry Dash Teaches me a Life Lesson

So, about that aforementioned Geometry Dash…

Within 5 minutes of playing for the first time, I was hooked. I quickly fired off a text to my text chain with my close friends from high school and college (Joe, Cash, Saint, Eric, and Helder), told them to drop what they were doing, and download this game.

Reluctantly they did, and then I ruined all of their lives:

“This game is stupid….but I can’t stop playing.”

“I’m almost done with level 1, but that damn last jump!”

“Just made it to level 2, BOOM. Ugh that was tough.”

“Wait I’m still stuck on Level 1, give me an hour.”

“Just cleared level 3! If you’re stuck on level 2 you’re a loser!”

Day after day, for weeks, the above scenario would play itself out. Some nights I’d go to bed relieved that I finally beat a level and I could move on with my life, only to wake up to a text from Cash who had beat the next level. You could hear my groan from outer space as my competitive brain said: “Steve! You can’t get left behind! If he beat that level, so can you. Go go go!”

I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled the game at least two dozen times, each time believing I’m free of its grasp…only to get sucked back in with a single text or screenshot from Cash or Joe or Saint who advanced farther than I did.

And thus I would re-download the game, spend hours trying to beat a stupid level, get past everybody else, and then share with the group that I’ve succeeded and thus no longer deserving of torment or good natured ridicule.

I was in the gym the other day, in between deadlift sets, trying to beat the 11th level in Geometry Dash, an idea popped in my head: Why don’t I take the Geometry Dash mechanic and apply positive peer pressure to my life in a HEALTHY way?

Positive Peer Pressure Proves Powerful

“You are the average of the five people you associate most with.” -somebody way smarter and more successful and probably with better hair than me.

We all have people in our lives that we want to see succeed (at least I hope!), and they want us to succeed too: be it with weight loss goals or building gym habits or advancing in our careers.

If you don’t have that at home IRL, maybe you have made friends with members of the Nerd Fitness community through the free message board community or one of our courses.

I’ve come to learn something pretty powerful about the differences between people who struggle for years and years to get in shape, and those that find a way to crack the code and find permanent success!

With few exceptions for either group:

Those who struggle are often alone in their journey. They have nobody cheering them on, nobody keeping them accountable, nobody to support them. They do something AMAZING (getting their first pull-up, doing a handstand for the first time, or running a mile non-stop), and they don’t have anybody to share this with! This is a lonely road that is littered with optimistic people who started off strong but ran out of steam when the going got tough. It happens to the best of us

Those who succeed are part of a group. And not just any group – but a ground that inadvertently challenges them to be better. It’s the videogame equivalent of grouping up with people a few levels above you: they make the game more enjoyable and you get better! The people who succeed have squadmates that keep them accountable: regular check-ins, support, and somebody to call them on their bullshit when they make up an excuse why they missed their workouts!

Now, I would imagine that many in the first category actually have plenty of important folks in their lives, who care about them and want to hang out – but because this group isn’t interested in getting in shape, the ‘peer pressure’ is of the “hey let’s go out drinking! Skip your workout!” or “skip your run tomorrow am, we’re firing up another game of Overwatch!” variety.

Peer pressure can be negative, especially when you’re not getting support as you try to better yourself! My friends and I used peer pressure in a harmless way to encourage each other to beat levels in a video game – though it ended up taking up hours of our lives.

Not ideal!

However, what if we turned the tables? What if the peer pressure was used in a good natured and positive way to get your group of friends to do fun challenges throughout the day to better their lives?

You probably see where I’m going with this…

Create Your Squad, Start Daily Challenges Today

You’re going to create a squad, and you’re going to challenge each other in an arms race to see who can live healthier or happier.

Here’s what you need to do to use peer pressure:

1) FORM YOUR SQUAD: You need a few good men/women (or self-aware robots) that are interested in taking up this cause with you. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, have them read this article: Start a Facebook group, text chain, Slack group, whatever you like with 4-5 of your friends or coworkers that you know are interested in living healthier lives. Your group should be at least 3 people, but I find that 5-6 is the sweet spot for participation.

2) Determine the ground rules. Your goal here will be to come up with a series of challenges that can be done anywhere, at any point in the day, in less than 5 minutes. This might depend on the healthiness and level of fitness of your group members.

Here are 5 examples:

  • “Went for a mile walk this morning before work.” with a picture of your feet on the pavement. Everybody else in the group then needs to share a photo of themselves completing their mile walk before noon.
  • “Just did 20 air squats in my cubicle, last one to do 20 has to do a lap around the office. “Oh yea? Just did 25, cute that you could only get 20 done though!”
  • “Took the stairs up to the 16th floor, you can’t use the elevator for the rest of the day or you owe everybody 5 bucks.”
  • “Did 10 push ups waiting for the bus to show up, second person to report in has to do 11, third has to do 12, fourth has to do 13, last has to do 20!”

Think of things that are challenging for your group, but done in a fun way. I would recommend something like: you can only declare one rule per person per day, 3 rules per day for the group at the most, and you can’t have more than one rule in an hour.

The point isn’t necessarily to exhaust each other or make the challenge brutally difficult, but rather to get you to increase your “Actions Per Day,” (aka increase the number of healthy choices you make in a day) as we’ve seen the higher the number of APD people take, the more likely they are to be fit!

4) One-up, make fun, repeat. If you can’t make fun of your friends, what’s the point? Feel free to groan loudly at the person who did the task, and make fun of them as well – whoever makes the declaration gets to pick it. If they do it, you can one-up them by completing an extra rep or climbing a floor higher…someway to outdo them.

Feel free to use the following terms in your insults as you text back and forth throughout the day when you outgun your friends:

  • Scruffy-looking nerfherder
  • Scalawag
  • Cotton-headed ninny muggins
  • Ragamuffin
  • Amoeba
  • Hooligan
  • Asshat

After all, what other name is there when you you wake up at 6:30, only to have text already in the group:

  • “Already walked a mile today. Walk a mile before work or you owe $5 to [stupid cause].
  • “Walked a mile, did 5 push-ups. Ain’t no thang. Hey Mike you’re up next.”
  • “I hate you asshats. Just did the mile, and 10 push-ups. Ugh.”

Squad Up, Tips and Tricks

Here’s another list of tasks and ideas you can use in your squad:

1) Add points, keep track of them month to month. Keep it simple. Everybody gets a column on a spreadsheet, complete your mission, you get a point. Most points at the end of the month wins the pot.

2) Add accountability. The quality of your squad race here will be largely dependant on the participation of the group. You need to have people that are invested, and the best way I’ve found to do that is to make people pony up cold-hard cash. Have everybody in the group contribute $50. Any time somebody misses a challenge, $5 of that money gets split amongst the others.

Diabolical? Donate that $5 to the charity that person hates the most!

3) Pick fun, healthy missions that your friends will loathe (but still do!), and then return the favor on the next day. Quick fitness challenges are fun, but you can expand it to include nutrition or even fear-based challenges too if you want to double down on the healthiness.

  • “Eating an apple you can’t use the vending machine at work or you owe 5 bucks! (nobody will like you for this one, muahahahaha) Just asked my boss for a raise, you have to do something that scares you within the next 48 hours! Report back with your results.”
  • “Push-up challenge: as many in a row, right now, wherever you are. Get whoever to record you. You have 30 minutes.”
  • “Climb all the stairs in the building you’re currently in, no matter how many floors. Take a photo next to sign in stairwell. Better hope you’re not in the Empire State Building!”
  • “Actually made my own damn dinner tonight. You have 48 hours to actually make yourself a meal – microwave pizza doesn’t count…needs to have at least one vegetable!”

Create your squad today

My friends and I have done this with a simple text chain and some good natured ribbing. You do NOT need to overcomplicate this! To recap:

  • Recruit a group of 5 of your friends, either in real life or from the Nerd Fitness Community
  • Come up with a list of some fun basic missions you can complete that make you live better, but can be done anytime, anywhere.
  • Add accountability, and come up with the first challenge you’ll complete
  • Whenever anybody proposes and completes a task, find a way to one-up them and yell at them.
  • Repeat
  • Profit. I mean, get in shape 🙂

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that we actually have a whole squad system built out in our monthly, story-driven, team-based fitness adventure, Rising Heroes. You can simply click a button and be assigned to a squad of five where you can start supporting each other today! Here’s one such group looking for one more…

I’ve seen some pretty epic friendships come out of this experience, so if you don’t have a group in your life that is pushing you to be better and keep you accountable, this could be the thing you’re looking for!

I’d love to expand upon the examples I share above, leave a comment below with a fun, quick challenging mission you can challenge your friends to complete no matter where they are in their day.

Anytime you can get people climbing stairs or doing push-ups in their cubicle or air squats in their bathroom stall is a good day, in my book!

Leave a comment below, we’ll pick a winner at random and hook em up with a free month of Rising Heroes!


PS: Because everybody goes through the story together so they can work together, Rising Heroes is Open!

photo credit: Reiterlied Master Yoda’s New Gang, mag3737 Week 32 – N36 – Study of geometric shapes, Mary Anne Morgan MAM_0600, 1upLego Belle Reve Breakout, Lego Suicide Squad Teaser, clement127 I’m back!


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45 thoughts on “Positive Peer Pressure: How to Leverage Your Squad to Get In Shape

  1. I love this! I’m going to text two buddies right now and get this started. I’m thinking we all walk a mile today! BOOM!

  2. Geometry dash, huh? Sounds interesting. *glances at phone*
    I mean… nah. I’d better avoid it. *toys with phone* How addicting can one game be, anyway?
    ANYway, I’d better start texting friends now. Before I accidentally do anything less helpful.

  3. This is a great idea! I’ve done something similar with my sister where we text eachother every time we make a healthy choice, and provide positive feedback for eachother. This steps it up!

  4. I really need to get a local squad going. It is so much easier to go to the gym if I know someone is expecting me to be there. My mom and I used to do that when we lived in the same city. I suppose I could try it long distance, but she is at such an advantage because she is retired! Well, maybe it makes it my advantage too!

  5. This is a great idea! My friends and I are all horrible at drinking water so I’m thinking some challenges like ‘drink 2 glasses in the next 30 minutes’ would be a great way for us to try and improve on our weaknesses!

  6. Solid idea and concept Steve. Thanks for sharing! I think I’ll keep Geometry Dash at arm’s length though. Lol

  7. I love this idea! I need to show my husband this. We compete against each other all the time! This is a great way to use that!

  8. Reading the diabolical suggestion reminded me of a video boyinaband on YouTube posted about using a “threat bet” to motivate him into getting work done. If you want to see the video, it’s called “The Happiness Experiment”.

    I’m presently wondering who I can drag in for some positive peer pressure…

  9. Thanks for the suggestion. I started this the same day with my squad and so far we’ve done: push-ups, planks, eating a fruit, eating some greens, lunges, squats, 10k steps a day and having a blast supporting/teasing each other. Fun times!

  10. “Cotton-headed ninny muggings” made me laugh so hard! I have to admit that friends making fun of each other over exercise paints a funny picture in my head.

    But seriously, using peer pressure as a positive force in people’s life is something I never have even considered. People can be really competitive (something I’m guilty of myself), so channeling it towards having fun with the group is a great idea. I’ve struggled with going to the gym, or even exercising at all, since no one was there to encourage me to keep on going.

    How would you suggest to keep the energy going with this? While exercise is great, it takes a lot of motivation from me to do so. But that could just be me being a worrywart. I’m still excited to try this out! Maybe I can convince everyone to go without junk food for a week unless they want to lose out on my cooking ;).

  11. I agree that your mom has an advantage because she has more time on her hands, and it will make you even more motivated to step up your game so she doesn’t beat ya. This type of motivation is a great, positive experience for everyone involved. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and talk to new people too! You never know what kind of relationships could build by being friendly and saying “hello” to someone.
    Be polarizing; be yourself 110% with new people to quickly let you know if those individuals will get along with your personality or not. 🙂

  12. Just coming across your blog today. Had a good laugh when I read

    “Whenever anybody proposes and completes a task, find a way to one-up them and yell at them”.

    With friends, the one-up approach has led to some great workouts and some ‘what the heck were we thinking’ type moments.

  13. The question now is, do I go download Geometry Dash or call up a few gym buddies to set up an accountability system?… decisions, decisions…

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