Motivation comes from the root word motive, or ‘something that causes a person to act in a certain way or do a certain thing’.
When it comes to health and fitness, motivation is what gets you started on a fitness program and healthy eating plan. It’s what moves someone from a sedentary lifestyle to an active lifestyle, from a diet of processed, foods to whole, energizing foods.
Motivation to exercise stems from a desire to change: either to move toward something positive (e.g. being healthy and fit), or to move away from something negative (e.g. avoiding disease, or weight gain).
Psychologists describe the desire to change with ‘The Stages of Change’ model. There are five stages of change.
Today, I will tackle the first three.
The first stage of change is ‘Pre-contemplation’.
In this stage, the subject does not act or think about change. One may be unaware of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, be satisfied with current state of health, or may simply not care to change. Chances are, if you are willfully reading this article, you are at least thinking about fitness, and are not in this stage of change.
I rarely get the opportunity to meet people in the pre-contemplation stage, since the act of calling me or searching for fitness opportunities implies a contemplation of change. If you are in the pre-contemplation stage (perhaps someone is forcing you to read this), or if you know someone who should start exercising, but has no intention to start, a good beginning is to increase awareness of the importance of healthy habits.
It is not realistic to try and move a pre-contemplator to action with advice. The idea is to be a listening ear and be there to help the person when they do decide to take action.
The next stage of change is ‘Contemplation’.
In this stage one has intention to change, but not right away. They might have mixed feeling about exercise, and low confidence that change is possible.
If you are in the contemplation stage, now is the time to do a ‘pros and cons’ list.
In one column, write down all the reasons why you want to get into better shape. It might be to feel amazing in a bikini on your Mexican vacation, to reduce your blood pressure, or to set a good example for your children.
Writing your reasons is a great exercise to do, whether you’re thinking about exercising, or have already started.
I regularly use this exercise with my clients to ensure their continued motivation and success.
In another column, write down all the reasons why you should not start exercising and eating better. For example, a few reasons might be that you will need to pack your exercise gear to work, you’ll be home a half hour later at the end of the day or have to shop for produce more often. Compare both columns and decide whether the pros outweigh the cons.
Consider both numbers of pros and cons and the importance of your reasons.
If your pros outweigh your cons, congratulate yourself. You have progressed to the next stage of change!
The third stage of change is ‘Preparation.’
Preparation describes one who may have tried to change in the past year, may already be making small changes, or intends to change in the next few weeks.
If you are in the preparation stage, focus on the reasons why you want to change, and set a goal.
For tips on how to set goals, go to ascendfitnesscoaching.com/goals.
Once you know where you want to be, it’s important to create a plan to achieve your goals.
Make sure your plan is manageable.
You can always increase your activity level or further change your eating habits down the road.
An example of a plan may be to walk for 20 minutes on your lunch break each day, and to replace your processed snack foods with fruit and vegetables. A qualified fitness professional can help create a plan that works for you.
No matter which stage of change you are in, follow the action steps to progress to the next stage.
In my next article, I will discuss the final two stages of change, and offer ways to stay motivated once you have started your exercise program.
Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Inc., a private training studio. Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals work to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition. For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.