Exercise Adherance

Initiating and maintaining an exercise program can be a daunting, but it is ultimately rewarding. Change is generally a difficult process and the act of starting an exercise program is no different. Many people struggle with taking the first steps towards change, because of the stigma attached to gym facilities and exercise in general.

As an instructor, it is important to create a safe and welcoming environment for people that are new to your training environment and/or exercise in general. Most people who begin an exercise program will drop out within six months for a number of reasons. There are various techniques to improve your clients’ adherence to their lifestyle changes.

In this module, we will address approaches to behaviour modification that have been proven to be incredibly effective. Initial workouts should be brief and well within your clients’ abilities. It is important to not scare your clients away from exercise by pushing them to their limits from day one. For beginner clients simply getting exercise techniques correct can be difficult. As an instructor, you will need to balance training intensity with technique correction to ensure that the client is challenged, but is ultimately safe during exercise. Studies show that people are less likely to continue in their exercise program if they exercise at high intensities too soon. Similarly, excessively long workouts early on can also contribute to trainers losing clients. There are varying beliefs regarding the establishment of a routine for physical activity with regards to how to best stimulate physical adaptations and development. However, when initiating a lifestyle change training routine is widely regarded as a key factor in sustained exercise adherence.

Motivation Techniques

Exercise program maintenance is often difficult for clients who struggle to reach their goals or they reach plateau points in their development. Often clients start an exercise program with a great deal of enthusiasm, but over time their interest in the program waivers. As an instructor, you are required to motivate continued engagement with the program.

Here are a few strategies that you can use to do this.

  • After a good workout people often feel exhilarated and as if they are on a high. Remind clients of this feeling and structure their programs around they type of workouts that stimulate this response from them.
  • Reinforce the client’s reason for training. For example, if a client uses exercise as a form of me time them allow them to escape their everyday life through exercise. If the client is engaging in exercise for health reasons then keep them motivated by reminding them of why they started exercising and what improvements they have made.
  • Use data to motivate your clients. It is important to use more than just the scale to gage development. Use as much data as you can including, weight, circumference measurements, body fat%, calorie expenditure, etc. Keep records and exercise logs to show client developments.
  • Make the actual workouts fun for the client. Every client has their own individual definition of fun while exercise. Get to know your clients well enough to know what workouts you can use in your programming to ensure that the client enjoys what they are doing while still being challenged and feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of the workout.
  • Use fitness trends and information to motivate your clients. This is not to say that you should follow every training fad that comes along. Rather, engage your clients in developing an understanding of fitness and be open to their desire to discuss fitness trends that they may be exposed to in the gym, through magazines, on the internet, etc.
  • Use the success stories of others to motivate your clients. Remind your clients that everybody that engages in an exercise program is working towards a goal. For beginner clients, it is important to remind them that everybody has to start somewhere.
  • Rewards are an important part of exercise. Gruelling exercise without a break or without reward for one’s effort can lead burnout and ultimately to clients dropping out of a program.
  • Exercise is a major stress reliever for many people. Allow your clients to have their time to relieve stress, don’t let exercise become and added stress to their lives.
  • Inspirational posters, video clips and quotes can be used to boost clients. A good idea is to stay connected to your clients even when you are not with them. Social media is great tool for staying connected to your clients. A simple text message can motivate your clients to stay on track with their exercise program. Simply being supportive and a part of the client’s journey towards their goals can go a long way towards motivating them to exercise and make important lifestyle changes.

The above examples are only a few of the ways that you as an instructor can motivate your client

Behaviour Modification

Behaviour modification is difficult, because we underestimate the parameters of change. There are several factors that influence our behaviours. It is important to understand that behaviour modification is NOT a way for you to manipulate your clients into reaching their goals. As an instructor, your role is to influence change, not manipulate your clients. It is unethical to force anyone to change their lifestyle. Rather understand your role in this process as that of a facilitator. Assist your clients in the processes of Goal setting, Crucial moment identification and Replacement behaviour engagement. Too often we rely on what we call will power when we endeavour to modify behaviour. When a client fails to make lifestyle changes instructors too often assume that this is due to a lack of will power. They assume that their clients are simply not personally motivated enough to make the necessary changes. Even with the best personal motivation in the world the client is still likely to fail in their endeavour to modify their behaviour. Once your client has set their goals they are required to modify their current behaviours to reach these goals. To modify behaviour to achieve positive and permanent change you need to help your client figure out what behaviours need to be modified.

There are two stages to this process, Identifying crucial moments and Engaging replacement behaviours.

Identifying crucial moments.

The first step in this process would be to deconstruct your client’s day. This is the process of separating client’s average day into its components. For example, you client may identify that their day can be broken down into Home, Work and Gym. Often people have a segment of their life that is their weak point. Some people work hard in the gym and eat well throughout their work day, but when they get home the wheels fall of the bus and they slump in front of the television and indulge high calorie meals with little nutritional value. Some people eat well at home, but their job requires them to have little routine and they eat on the road, this is a common problem for sales reps, etc. Having a clear understanding of the segmented areas of your client’s lifestyle can greatly assist in the process of identifying behaviours that require change. Once your client has deconstructed their day assist them with identifying crucial moments in each segment of their lifestyle when they engage in behaviours that are preventing them from reaching their goals. It is important to facilitate this process without dominating it. Let the client see for themselves where they can make improvements. This allows them to take ownership of these areas in their lifestyle and they are far more likely to change negative behaviours that they have identify as negative. Telling a client what their negative behaviours are creates room for them to disagree with you on a conscious or a subconscious level, either way this reduces the likelihood of change taking place. It is not necessary to list a lot of behaviours to change. Try to limit this process to one or two behaviours in each lifestyle segment. There may be more, but those behaviours can be addressed later. If your client tries to change too many behaviours they decrease their chances of implementing positive and permanent change.

Engaging replacement behaviours

Once your client has identified the crucial moments and negative behaviours that are preventing them from reaching their goals you can assist them with finding replacement behaviours. These are positive behaviours that they can engage in the crucial moments that they have already identified. It is important to make these replacement behaviours easy to do. Complex behaviours are difficult to implement so look for the simplest behaviours that will lead to change. For example, if a client is constantly on they move in their work day and they eat a lot of take-away meals, don’t expect them to wake up an hour earlier than usual every day to prepare the ideal meal for lunch. This would be an incredibly beneficial behaviour if your client can do it, but it is difficult to do. Rather look for a positive behaviour that does not require drastic lifestyle changes. Prepacking healthy snacks and/or having a list of healthy on the go food options don’t require drastic lifestyle changes, which increases the chances of making this positive change permanent.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is an important aspect of any behaviour modification endeavour, especially in health and fitness. It is the process of deciding what your client wants to achieve as a desired result. Setting Individual Program Goals Before the start of the program or during the very first class, take the time to have your clients write down 3 to 4 goals that they would like to accomplish as an outcome of being in your balance and mobility program.

These goals should meet four requirements: They should be measurable, specific, realistic, and behavioural. For a goal to be measurable, the client should be able to ascertain whether it was or was not achieved at some point during the program. A specific goal specifies when the behaviour will take place (e.g., on specified days of the week or times during any given day), while a realistic goal is one that can be achieved. Many clients will be quite unrealistic in their expectations when they first begin your program, so it will be your job to make sure that the goals they establish are small enough that you can be certain that they will be successful. You are going to do little to enhance their self-efficacy if they do not experience success in the program. Finally, your clients should set goals that are more behavioural than outcome oriented because they have more control over their behaviour than they have over an outcome. For example, a goal of climbing a set of 10 stairs without holding onto the handrail is an outcome-oriented goal. Conversely, a behavioural goal of attending your balance and mobility class two times a week and performing a home exercise program (that includes strength, balance, and flexibility exercises) at least three times a week for the next month is one that is likely to be achieved much more quickly and will lead to less frustration caused by progress that appears to be slow. Of course, a goal of climbing the stairs without holding onto a handrail is probably not a good idea in the first place because it encourages a potentially unsafe behaviour. Your clients should set both short- and long-term goals, with the short-term goals constituting the stepping stones to achieving the long-term ones. Just as the short-term goals should be behavioural, so too should the long-term goals that you ask your clients to set. For example, the short-term goal of attending class two times a week and performing a home exercise program at least three times a week might, in the long-term, increase to attending your balance class two times a week and performing the home exercise program five times a week.

Although it is important to set goals with your clients, it is equally important to review their progress toward those goals on a regular basis (every week or two during the early stages of a program and monthly or bimonthly as success with achieving goals occurs). In some cases, you may have to adjust some goals based on your participants’ progress, health status, and long-term objectives. Always be prepared to discuss participants’ successes as well as struggles toward achieving a certain goal. In that way, you can identify what factors help your participants meet their goals and then point out these factors during the times your clients are struggling. Finally, help your clients develop their self-monitoring skills by having them keep logs in which they record their activities that are related to the goals they set. Making your clients responsible for their own behaviour is crucial if you want them to continue engaging in the behaviour’s and activities that will lower their risk for falls.

Generally, when you ask a client what their goal is they will give you their ultimate long-term desire. It is important to ensure that this goal is addressed in your planning, but one should break goals down into long and short-term goals. Sometimes goals are not tangible if they are set for the too distant future. Setting short-term goals will positively influence motivation and create a sense of control in what your client is seeking to achieve.

Goals need to be reviewed throughout the year, as you may need to make changes based on whether the progress of the client. Readdressing goals is a great way of creating space for positive motivation for your client.

Achievement of goals must be rewarded, even with short term goals. The type of reward is specific to the individual and should be agreed upon by the client and instructor to ensure sufficient motivational benefit without negatively affecting future goals.

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