I think a lot about the transitions people make in their approach to exercise. Lately, I have been thinking within the framework of Behavior Analytic mechanisms, because that’s what I am trying to apply to my services as a trainer. Typically, the explanation of a person’s increase in exercise frequency, duration, or quality becomes something like; the activity becomes a source of reinforcement, rather than a means to a source of reinforcement.
I realize also, that within each session of exercise, each workout, your approach can change. For example, yesterday, finding myself lacking in enthusiasm for my scheduled run (9mi.) I moped around for a while, then looked over my (completed-scribbled all upon) training schedule from Portland, read a few blog entries from professional runners, and watched a 20 min. segment of the 2010 Boston Marathon (still saved on my DVR!).
This succeeded in getting me excited about the race in April, but still didn’t have me too jazzed about heading out to the cold, windy lakefront, and the car fumes I would inhale en-route.
Then, in an attempt to gain perspective, I set about planning mile splits, casually, for the run so that I would have something small to focus on. My thoughts, of course, soon left the present and went to mile splits for the marathon itself. Predictably, I started freaking out about the hills again. So, to entice myself to get off my behind and out the door, I ordered custom pacing bands for Boston and also for the St. Louis Half (which I hope to run the week before). After laying down $15, I was suddenly ready to go on my training run.
Weird, but this technique works, without fail, for me. That is, present me with a contrived reinforcer, and viola! My mood changes. 80% of the time I fall into the “exercise as reinforcement” category, but that other 20% I need some other motivator. Usually, flooding my mind with running related or just athletic-performance related stuff will get me excited to train. Sometimes, going to the gym with my boyfriend does it, knowing someone else is working hard will get me to work hard too, other times, the promise of a really yummy treat (like brownies, or lasagna) will work, and yet other times I want to shop!
No matter what the end-goal for working out is, I strongly believe that there is a lesson within every single session. Yesterday’s lesson was a reminder that sometimes you need to go through a little bit of trial and error to put the flame back into your training, and that motivation may ebb and flow, but the low points are not a reflection of how much you desire to achieve your goals.