How to Stick to a Fitness Program
Recognizing Roadblocks continued...
"Until people find out that they have these kinds of problems, anything
that they do to try to get themselves motivated is, in general, going to be for
naught," says Gerrish.
For instance, people who resolve to work out at 5 a.m. daily may have a slim
chance of success if they do not realize they have low-grade depression,
seasonal affective disorder, or a hormone imbalance that could make getting up
early an extremely difficult task.
Once people figure out obstacles to change, they can determine how to
address them. To treat a medical or biochemical problem, Gerrish recommends a
visit to a doctor. Psychological trouble could be managed with the help of a
mental health professional.
"The likelihood of success will be much greater if you address obstacles
right upfront," says Gerrish.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
John C. Norcross, PhD, co-author of Changing for Good, conducted
small scientific studies on New Year's resolutions and found successful
resolvers behaved in a similar manner.
"For the most part, it's what you do, not who you are [that effects
change]," says Norcross, noting that personal characteristics, types of
problems, and levels of motivation make little difference. "Behavior is
According to Norcross' research, successful resolvers did the following:
- Made a New Year's resolution. Norcross found resolvers
were 10 times more likely to make a change at six months, compared to
contemplators. The latter were people who had similar problems and similar
desire for change, but who did not make an effort to make a resolution.
- Armed themselves with realistic confidence to make a
change. Their confidence did not necessarily come from self-esteem,
but from a readiness to make a particular transformation.
- Stayed positive. Successful resolvers stumbled from their
resolutions just as much as the unsuccessful in early January. The difference
was in what they did when they fell. Successful people said the slip helped
them refocus and reconnect with their goal. The unsuccessful saw the fall as
evidence they couldn't achieve their objective.
- Prepared a healthy alternative to the problem behavior.
The triumphant did not just promise to stop overeating. They managed their
diet. They did not just vow to be less of a couch potato. They exercised.
- Reinforced themselves. Successful resolvers strengthened
their resolve somehow. No specific technique stood out as an effective
strategy, says Norcross, emphasizing it was the act of reinforcement, not the
method, that mattered in victory. As an example, some people rewarded
themselves for meeting certain objectives. Others complimented themselves,
regularly monitored their behavior, or made a pact with someone. "Everyone
needs a slightly different reinforcement," says Norcross.
- Fortified themselves with social support. Although
Norcross found social support didn't matter as much in the beginning of a
transformation, he found it indispensable for successful people beyond the
first month, regardless of their source of support. "What's important is
that everyone gets some support, not that they go to a support group, or that
they have to do it with someone in particular, or that they make a resolution
with someone at work," says Norcross.
Norcross steers clear of giving specific strategies on what could help
people with their resolutions. He says research shows it's best to give people
broad strategies and methods and let them figure out the particulars. What
works for one person may not work out for another. Plus, there are variances as
to what's available and what's realistic for each individual.
For instance, chocolate might be a good reward for someone, but not for the
person who is allergic to it. Writing a to-do list may help someone focus and
be ready for change, but the task might overwhelm somebody else.