Making the gym into a lifestyle instead of a temporary fix, or casual occasion, is not always the easiest transition. There’s a few different kinds of people that frequent the gym with different outlooks on what they are doing. The first kind of person that comes to mind is the person that truly loves being there. The kind of gym rat that loves physical activity, hits the gym six to seven days per week and rarely, if ever, misses a workout. Another kind of individual hits the gym religiously, but does not genuinely enjoy the process. They like the results that come from their efforts and find no shame in taking two or three days off once in a while – it’s more of an ‘I have to’ situation, rather than an ‘I want to.’ Lastly, the person that finds it hard to be consistent, rarely stays active in the gym for more than a few weeks at a time. They’ll start with a program and quit half way through, it’s a perpetual yo-yo of ‘on the wagon’ and ‘off the wagon.’ For some reason, this person finds it terribly difficult to remain consistent and hasn’t made the transition from quick fixes to lifestyle change.
After high school sports ended, I did not have any consistent physical activity in college other than walking to class. There were times I’d head to the gym and do some cardio on an elliptical, but hardly anything I’d call a full-fledged workout or strenuous activity for that matter. It was more of a way to keep the freshmen fifteen off of my tushy. I really didn’t enjoy going either because I felt like I had no clue what I was doing. Fast forward to present day, I love my time in the gym. I lift weights as often as possible, have a favorite weekly split and genuinely enjoy my time spent working up a good sweat. Without any motivation from other people, I made the transition from hating my life walking into a gym to looking forward to and loving my time spent working out.
Whether you are looking to make the gym a bigger part of your life, or you want other people in your life to be more active, there’s several stages of change in thought process people generally go through to make the transition from temporary to lifestyle. Everyone may not have the same transition process, but most are very similar to the following stages of change. Knowing where someone, or even your own self, falls into the transition spectrum is very useful in making the gym a lifestyle.
The Process of Changes
Before any thoughts of change come about, the individual does not consider changing their lives. This could be from lack of information about the negative health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle or they just haven’t experienced any adverse effects yet. Whatever the reason, they don’t want to change. I won’t even sugar coat the fact that I really did not want to be a gym rat in college. I did not want to change my activity level and definitely did not listen to people who tried to educate me on the benefits. I thought it was a waste of my time to do cardio or exercise.
The beginning of making life changes is when you think of what you would like to change as well as the reasons why. But, there’s still no action actually taken. A great example of this was when my clothes started to fit me differently about half way through my first semester of college and knew that added activity would help shed the unwanted weight, but still avoided the gym like the plague.
At the end of the first semester freshmen year, I had had enough of feeling like a sausage being squeezed into my jeans, which were normally loose, and I decided to take a peek at the on-campus gym. This is the part of change where something gets done to achieve the goal that has been thought about. A shift in thought happens to the person that makes them want to take strides towards achieving what they want. For me, this was getting comfortable with the gym I would start becoming a regular at.
The transition to actually making the change is a huge step. This is when you finally start doing overt actions to accomplish what you’ve thought so much about. I still remember the first day that I walked into the Wellness Center at the University of Miami with my sweatpants on, iPod in hand (I’m getting old, you had a Nokia phone and an iPod) and water bottle in tote. I had no clue how much of a difference this day would impact my life in years to come. About ten years later, my cardio bunny days of college were left behind, and I became a competitive bodybuilder.
Using the Stages of Change
Knowing the general process of the psychology behind making changes in life and what takes place is very useful, but does not always mean you are going to follow through all of them. Being aware of this information and making it functional to become more healthy and active are two entirely different things. Also, not everyone will flow through the stages in the exact same manner or go through each one of the stages. But, being aware of the stage of change you or someone is in and using this information to inspire further action will be very useful to inspire an active and healthy lifestyle change.
If you can identify which stage of change someone else is in or even yourself, such as the very beginning and not thinking that there is a change to be made, it would not be wise to invite them to your favorite boot camp with you. They’d probably laugh in your face. However, giving them a website to look at about the benefits of becoming more active or having a conversation about the adverse effects of not working out will have on your health might have an impact. You might inspire some thoughts of needing to get more active and wanting to progress towards doing so. Use knowledge of the psychology to make the progress through the stages quicker or even push yourself harder to take action because you realize you’re stuck procrastinating and just thinking about the changes.
Regardless of how you can motivate yourself or someone else to follow through the phases of life changes to start making progress towards consistency in wellness and fitness, it’s important to do it. Have flexibility in how you get there and try to recognize positive motivators along each different stage to reach the ultimate goals of a healthy and active lifestyle.