Why do you stay interested, excited and motivated in your exercise routine? Many people experience lapses or drop out of work out programs due to a lack of mental readiness, inappropriate exercise prescription, difficulty in changing habits and injury. When the training program is overly restrictive, too challenging for beginners, or does not promote self-responsibility, it is easy to quit. Exercise psychology studies the mood changes associated with exercise, both desirable and undesirable, in order to describe, explain, predict and intervene.
Common exercise goals consist of muscle toning, body sculpting, weight loss and cardiovascular fitness. Less common reasons for engaging in an exercise program are mood enhancement, stress reduction, social interaction and experiencing flow. Flow happens when you have achieved the state of peak performance in physical, technical and mental training, so you have a total immersion in the activity.
Common mistakes made in training include overtraining, undertraining, performing non-specific exercises, failure to schedule a long-term training plan and failure to taper before performance. Tapering includes a short-term reduction in training load prior to competition to allow the muscles to resynthesize glycogen and heal from training-induced damage or delay onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Let’s review, what is exercise? Exercise is large muscle activity involving repetitive body movements that are planned, structured, and purposeful and intended to enhance physical fitness, well-being and health. (For further information, review The Wave article “Exercise to Improve Flexibility, Strength and Endurance”).
There are six known exercise psychology strategies for enhancing exercise adherence. Behavior Modification Approaches consist of prompts, verbal, physical or symbolic cues used to initiate behaviors, and contracts including the expectations, goals, responsibilities, behaviors, contingencies and consequences. Reinforcement Approaches include charting your attendance and participation and providing rewards and feedback for attendance, participation. Cognitive Behavioral Approaches comprise of goal setting, which can be flexible, set by the individual, and time based. Decision Making Approaches involve you, the exerciser, in the decisions prior to beginning your exercise programs to create a decision balance sheet. Social Support Approaches incorporate your family and friends, buddy systems and increased group identity into your exercise program for further support and encouragement. The sixth method for enhancing adherence is Intrinsic Approaches which focus on increasing the fun and enjoyment of working out through focusing on the experience and the process, typically through engagement in purposeful and meaningful activities (For further information, review The Wave article “Leisure Time and Recreation Perceptions and Goal Setting Blueprint for the New Year”).
Everyone can improve one’s consistency and reduce negative thoughts associated with sports, exercise and staying physically active through adopting the idea, “Let’s focus on what you can do.” When embracing excellence in psychology, focus on dreams to stay excited; on successes and how they are influenced by free will, change and lifelong learning; stay positive through being your own best friend, biggest fan and greatest coach; and create your own reality through keeping things in perspective.
Another important consideration is “don’t forget to have fun!” To create the perfect exercise program for you, start by using your critical thinking skills to make two lists. The first list will answer the question “Why don’t I exercise?” and the second list will focus on “Why do I like to exercise?” After reviewing the lists, act on your opportunities (to learn more, review the article “Form a Support Team”).
The first step in developing a realistic fitness plan is to first have a fitness assessment. Exercise and diet are essential parts of achieving health related fitness. Health related fitness consist of five components: strength, muscle endurance, cardio respiratory or cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and body composition. Strength is your muscle’s maximum ability, while muscle endurance is how long your muscles can perform a task. Cardio respiratory or cardiovascular endurance is the body’s ability to supply oxygen to working muscles, especially during aerobic exercise such as walking, biking, swimming and dancing that work most of the body. Flexibility helps redistribute blood after bouts of exercise and stretch and loosen muscles and joints. Body composition is body fat percentage.
I also recommend goal setting strategies and positive self-talk, like “Today I will…” Eating healthy food and following a balanced diet is critical to achieve fitness. You should ensure you consume the right nutrients, including a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, water, minerals and vitamins, through making good food choices and having a food plan.
This article goes out to the supporters of Rockaway Walks fitness program: St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, Joseph P. Addabbo Health Center, Stop & Shop, Modell’s Sporting Goods, NYC Parks & Recreation, Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation and The Wave newspaper. To learn more about exercise routine, getting started and adherence, visit www.walkprograms.com, where you can also learn how you can become one of the ambassadors in partnership with Healthy Lifestyle Changes, Inc.