Don’t wait until clients get off track...Educate them now on how to avoid exercise relapse.
As a new year begins, our group fitness classes are packed and our personal training schedules are filled. We have more clients than we have time, and they are motivated for change and eager to train. While setting goals with these motivated people holds tremendous potential, equally important is educating them on exercise relapse and how to identify and overcome barriers such as injury, temptation and negativity to minimize their impact.
As part of goal setting, I always discuss exercise relapse with clients, many of whom can relate to the struggle. They’ve started a routine in the past and were determined that exercise was going to be a lifelong friend, only to fall off the wagon 6 months or a year later. Learning how to avoid relapse is similar to learning to turn in to a skid in driver’s education. If we understand the resistance, we can work with it rather than against it. It is vitally important to engage in this discussion when a client is beginning an exercise program, rather than waiting for something to cause them to veer from their goals.
Identify High-Risk Situations
Temptations act as resistance to exercise. If clients can identify situations that put them at risk, we can help them develop contingency plans for action.
Reflect. Encourage clients to think about past situations where they fell off the wagon and stopped exercising. What was going on in their life? What happened? What circumstances led to their relapse?
Write down their barriers. Have clients write down the situations or obstacles that got in their way. Common barriers include:
- work travel
Develop a plan. Once clients identify the situations or obstacles that got in their way, you can help them develop a plan for how they’ll deal with them in the future. Make sure that their plan involves action--a way that they will change the situation, their thoughts and behaviors in response to the situation, or all of these.
Cultivate a Support System
When clients are trying to develop a lifelong habit, it takes time and discipline. They are more likely to succeed if they have a support system. A workout buddy serves as great support, but if they don’t have a workout buddy, family members, friends or co-workers can help them stay motivated throughout their journey. Encourage them to think about who might be supportive so they can share their goals with that person.
Avoid Negative Mental Dialogue
Our mind is the boss! Negative dialogue is powerful and self-defeating because the words we use matter to our mental mindset. When clients understand the power of their words, they understand that goals need to be framed in terms of something positive they’re striving toward versus something negative they’re trying to escape. Any time a goal starts with the word stop, it’s grounded in negativity.
Check out this goal, and see how it sounds with a negative connotation versus a more positive spin:
- Negative: Stop eating late at night.
- Positive: Start eating a healthy dinner that will help prevent late-night cravings.
Replace Shoulds With Wants
“I should work out today because otherwise I’ll gain weight,” is the type of message that makes clients feel guilty and resentful. “I want to work out today because I love how I feel afterwards,” is the type of message that makes them feel empowered. Help clients replace shoulds with wants to change the way they feel about exercise.
Goals are impactful. In the words of best-selling author Melody Beattie, “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” Goals give our clients direction and help them to stay motivated. Best of all, goals lead them to accomplishments they might never have thought possible. If we can help our clients set realistic goals and avoid common barriers, we can set them up for a lifetime of success.