Physical activity is necessary for well-being. Consequently, physical inactivity is a major risk factor for development of chronic disease and premature mortality. I know, I know, way to start things off on a light note. But in all seriousness, we are now facing one of the worst epidemics in American history. Our country is more sedentary than ever, and the numbers prove it. According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey: Over 70% of adults are considered overweight and 36% of those adults are considered obese.
It would be safe to assume that as a personal trainer, exercise comes easy and I look forward to doing it all the time. Reality is, 90% of the time I don’t really feel like working out. Even as someone who is in the gym 8-12 hours a day and who’s job is to help enhance other people’s physical fitness, I still have to find motivation within myself to exercise daily. I make time on my busier days, I fight through being tired or just not feeling like it, and some days I fail. The biggest thing that has helped me is to change the way I think about exercise and realizing that it doesn’t always have to be something you find easy or really enjoy. On days where I am tired or lacking motivation, I tell myself: “Just get going, you will feel better after.”
I’m sure you could list off ten things you loath doing but need to do them anyway. I mean who does the dishes or their laundry because they really like doing it? However, you wouldn’t eat dinner off a dirty plate or wear dirty clothes (unless you like smelling of wet dog and moldy cheese). I don’t exercise because I always love it, I exercise because I want to be healthy and live a long mobile life. I’ll go as far to say you can even dislike it. That doesn’t take away from the fact that you still need to do it.
The key to making exercise a normal part of life is to find intrinsic and extrinsic forms of motivation throughout all stages of the behavioral change process. I’ve been a consistent exerciser for most of my life and I will tell you it never gets easy. I struggle most days and am consistently reminding myself of the reasons why I make exercise a regular part of my week. Extrinsic forms of motivation can be successful, but intrinsic forms of motivation will help instill lasting behaviors by changing the way we think about exercise. The self-determination theory to changing behavior says three components are needed to be successful: Competence, Autonomy, Relatedness.
Developing Strategies to Self-Determined Physical Activity
- Competence – Understanding your need for change in behavior, willingness to learn, and realizing your ability to reach the behavioral outcome.
- Autonomy – Being able to carry out behavior change on your own terms in a non-controlling environment.
- Relatedness – Develop feelings of belonging and making connections with others who have likewise or similar goals.
If you are having a tough time incorporating regular physical activity, I would suggest sitting down and writing down a plan to changing your behavior following these three points. Start by believing in yourself and realizing, “I can do this”. Choose something you like, not something your spouse or friends think you should be doing. Develop your plan on your own terms, no one likes being told what to do. Finally, be a part of a community and surround yourself with people who have common goals.
Here are some tips when starting to incorporate exercise regularly:
- Be active on most, if not ALL days of the week. Set a goal to accumulate 200-300 minutes of activity per week.
- Walking is probably the most underrated form of physical fitness and is proven to be one of the best exercises for aiding in fat loss. Running is not ideal for most individuals and can be very taxing on the joints. Walking on the other hand places a lot less stress on the body and can be very therapeutic.
- Strength train 2-3 days/week at moderate to high intensity. Start slow, performing compound exercises. Compound exercises are movements that involve more than one muscle group (squat, hip hinge, push up, bent over/inverted row). Performing multiple muscle movements will burn more fat, involve the core, and translate better to everyday life. Isolated movements might burn, but they won’t burn much fat and will rarely activate the core.
- For example: Instead of doing seated leg press (isolated movement), work through sets of goblet squats (compound movement).
- Rest and recovery are just as important. Listen to your body, get solid amounts of sleep, and fuel your body appropriately. Be careful not to over train, the process is going to take time and changes cannot happen overnight. The key to building lasting habits is to make gradual gains and not go too hard out the gate.
- Find a fun and comfortable environment to exercise in. Even though exercise is hard and not always most enjoyable, it is a lot more fun if you have some friends or a motivating coach/trainer to suffer alongside.
- Set goals and map out a plan to reach them. Goals should be individualized to what stage in behavioral change process you fall under.
- Pre-Contemplation – Goal is to start thinking about being physically active and address barriers.
- Contemplation – Consider the pros and cons of starting physical activity and set specific goals and plan to overcome barriers.
- Preparation – Increase physical activity to recommended levels (30 minutes or more on most, if not all days, of the week).
- Action – Maintain physical activity and identify possible risks of relapse.
- Maintenance – Continue to maintain physical activity. Find ways to enhance enjoyment and prevent boredom.
- Progress through the stages of behavior change and understand you may fall off along the way. The key is to to work your way back to maintenance and reevaluate where you stand every few months or so.
I hope this information helps kick start or rejuvenate your fitness journey. If you have any questions or need help mapping out your plan, feel free to reach out and I would be happy to help.
Happy Training 😊
Rebecca Carley B.S, ACSM-EP