A wellness coaching client wrote, “Monday, I finally got to the gym and did a class. Tuesday I got too busy and today why should I bother I already missed a day? I don’t have any willpower.” Sound familiar? All or nothing! Every spring you decide to get fit, but your busy life gets in the way.The two hardest parts are getting started and sticking with it.
First be proud. Proud that you figured out when a class was at the gym, you dragged yourself there and went. Dump the willpower idea and instead look at your willingness to change. Ask yourself, “Why now?” Are you ready to change? Change is a process not a state. Once you discover, action is not the first stage of change and not the only stage of change you can forgive yourself and get started.
Most fitness programs are action oriented and focus on immediate behavior change. Behavior change is defined as overt, such as adopting exercise or reducing eating. These programs attempt to get everyone to adopt new behaviors, including people who are not ready to change. So you participate a few times, drop out and relapse into your old habits.
Dr. James Prochaska, author of the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) says the action-oriented approach does not reflect how people change their health behavior. You must move through a series of stages representing your level of readiness to change. You must move through the early stages where motivation and commitment are developed before really taking action and changing your behavior.
Stages of Change Applied to Exercise
Pre-contemplation Not exercising and not intending to exercise
Contemplation Not exercising but intending to start
Preparation Exercising occasionally but not regularly and intending to exercise regularly within the next 30 days
Action Exercising regularly for less than 6 months
Maintenance Exercising regularly for longer than 6 months
The Pre-Contemplation Exercise – “No Way!”
During this stage, you have no intention of changing. All you need in this stage is information.
Contemplation is “Thinking about Exercising…hmm”
You must be convinced of the many “pros” of making a healthy behavior change and at the same time you must be convinced of the “cons” and costs of not changing. All you do in the contemplation stage is make a list of the pros and cons. When the plus list outweighs the minuses you can move to preparation.
Preparation – Taking Steps Towards Exercising
You weighed the benefits of change and intend to take action in the next 30 days and get ready. You tell your family and friends of your plans and get your gym stuff ready.
Action – Participating in Regular Exercise
You are successfully exercising. The first six months are the most difficult. Remember exercise does not have to be intense to yield benefits. Remind yourself it is a healthy way to relieve stress. Reward yourself with non-food rewards.
Maintenance – Continuing to Exercise Regularly
You reached the ultimate goal to be exercising regularly. Keep the benefits of exercise visible by creating a list of your top 10 reasons to exercise and post it. Use fitness assessments to demonstrate positive results.
Relapse – Oops, You’ve Stopped Exercising
Relapses are inevitable whenever you change any behavior. We are human! Stress is the number one predictor of relapse. Identify situations where regular exercise is more difficult. The relapse is not as important as how you handle the relapse. Remember a relapse is not a collapse!
Spring is the perfect time to dump the old belief of “I have to have willpower” and turn the life you have into the life you want. Before you put on your workout shoes and get to the gym, dress yourself in positive beliefs why you desire this change. Remember change is a process not a state. The way to predict your future is to create it, one belief at a time. Better get busy!