submitted by Kerry McCrea MS BCBA, LABA, CPT
Certified Personal Trainer and Board Certified Behavior Analyst
Fitness IS behavior…..
Ever wonder why some people are programmed to be wide eyed and bushy tailed in the morning and others are not? I personally contemplate this phenomenon on a daily basis. I am not a morning person. I won’t ever claim to be. Two cups of coffee are what get me through a typical morning. On really bad mornings, it may take three.
However, I know that in order to be healthy and fit; I need to do something about it. I need to change my behavior. Some people have a life-time love of fitness and find it easy to get out there while others struggle on a daily basis to get moving. No matter what your fitness level is, we all struggle with motivation from time to time. How you conquer that struggle can be the difference between fitness success and fitness failure.
Everything we do as humans is behavior. From getting up early in the morning to exercise or eating that piece of candy from the office candy dish. Each decision we make is behavior or an action we engage in based on the influences in our environment. What makes us continue with this behavior, either good or bad, is the feedback we receive from that environment. So how do ensure success? We set up our environment to change our behavior ….in other words…We alter it….
Let’s go back to my dilemma of not being a morning person. Being a morning person or night owl is a mindset not an attribute. In reality it is an excuse and a self-fulfilling prophecy. In order to change this, I set a personal goal for myself to exercise consistently on Saturday mornings. I had been consistently exercising during the evening hours Monday through Thursday and attending Pilates class at 9am Saturday mornings. However, I would reluctantly drag myself out of bed on Saturday morning to go to Pilates and then secretly wish I had gotten up earlier to take Spin. I was always envious of the morning people because I knew I would never be one of them. So in order to change my behavior I set small achievable steps. I started with signing up for class ahead of time and then making my goal public. I began telling people at the studio I was coming to Spin at 8 am. I knew that by going public (verbal behavior) I was altering my environment. For fear of disappointing myself and the embarrassment I would face when others asked where I had been; I started attending Spin class at 8am on Saturdays. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a person of my word. If I say I am going to do something, then I will do it. Setting that one goal and making the verbal commitment was enough for me to initiate the first step in my behavior change. Other ways I altered my environment was preparing for the next day before I engaged in any fun Friday night activities. This included setting my alarm clock to wake me up, making coffee and setting the programmable timer on my coffeemaker, gathering my breakfast items, and putting out my clothes and sneakers. The last part of my behavior change program was building in reinforcement or a reward. Some people are lucky enough to be intrinsically motivated and others need something additional to get them going. I’m someone who is motivated by a little bit of both. My external reward was a Saturday outing with my husband san kids.
By starting with that one small achievable goal, altering my environment, and building in a reward system, I set myself up for long lasting behavior change. You can too by making small changes to your behavior and rewarding your successes. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is long lasting behavior change.