Last week I wrote a blog about exercise relapse, what causes it and how to distinguish a lapse from a relapse. Now it’s time to talk about prevention. Two of the most critical considerations when starting an exercise program are learning how to identifying situations that put us at risk for relapse, and learning how to avoid relapse.
How to Identify Situations that Put You At Risk:
1. Reflect: Think about past situations where you fell off the wagon and stopped exercising. What was going on in your life? What happened? What circumstances led to your relapse?
2. Write down the situations and obstacles that got in your way. Some common barriers often include:
Lack of a consistent routine- variable work schedule or inconsistent schedule in general, therefore exercise time isn’t consistent
Lack of planning- when exercise isn’t scheduled the way we other responsibilities, it often falls to the bottom of the list
New relationship or relationship difficulties
Job Stress, job loss, or even a new job
Time Management- “no time” to exercise is often perception (more on this in next week’s blog)
Lack of Motivation- usually stems from not being in a routine. Routines give us a sense of purpose and we stick to them because they become habit.
3. Develop a Plan. Once you identify the situations or obstacles that get in your way, it’s time to develop a plan for how you’ll deal with them in the future. Make sure that your plan involves action- a way that you will change the situation, your thoughts and behaviors in response to the situation, or both. Let’s use job travel as an example.
a. Situation: In the past I got out of my exercise routine when I traveled frequently for work.
b. Plan: In the future I will pack an exercise band in my suitcase, download my favorite exercise DVD (before I go), and get up 30 minutes early to workout in my hotel room.
Now that you’ve identified your triggers and developed a plan, it’s time to talk about prevention. Here are six steps to help you prevent relapse.
Six Steps for Prevention:
1. Realize that you’re not alone: The first step in prevention is recognizing that nearly everyone who attempts to maintain a consistent exercise program relapses. The key is to recognize what causes you to relapse and have a contingency plan for action.
2. Develop a support system: When you’re trying to develop a lifelong habit it takes time and discipline and you’re more likely to succeed if you have support. A workout buddy serves as great support, but if you don’t have a workout buddy try to get family members, friends, or co-workers on board to help you stay motivated and support you throughout your journey.
3. Avoid common obstacles. A simple thing like putting your fitness clothes in the car so you don’t stop home after work and get sidetracked can make a huge difference. Another simple solution is to place your tennis shoes next to your bed so they’re the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning- instant motivation.
4. Avoid negative dialogue. Our mind is the BOSS! Negative messages are powerful and self-defeating. Messages such as, “I’m going to be traveling a lot for work so why bother,” set us up for failure; while positive messages such as, “I’m going to workout today so I’ll stay motivated when I travel,” set us up for success.
5. Replace “shoulds” with “wants”: “I should workout today because otherwise I’ll gain weight,” is the type of message that makes us feel guilty and resentful. “I want to workout today because I love how I feel afterwards,” is the type of message that makes us feel empowered. Replace “should’s with “wants” to change the way you feel about exercise.
6. Maintain perspective: Remember that a temporary lapse is just that- temporary. It’s only catastrophic if your mind makes it so and that only undermines confidence and willpower. Maintain perspective by remembering that it’s not uncommon to relapse, but if you take positive steps toward prevention you’re far more likely to experience success.
Best to You in Health & Happiness~