Succeeding with fitness goals comes down to 2 basic things: consistently exercising/eating well and doing the proper exercise program correctly.
As simple as this sounds, it seems like people have been baffled about how to solve these issues. I’m proud to say that feel quite sure we’ve “cracked the commitment code” at Spectrum.
There are many people that exercise, but fail to get results because they aren’t doing the proper program, performing their program properly, or both. These people that are simply misinformed because of bogus fads and solutions spewed all over. With some knowledge and guidance, they learn a proper program best suited to their needs and how to perform it properly to get results. These people then flourish.
But there is a huge group of people that this doesn’t work for. I suspect that this applies to most people. If not you, then likely someone you know well.
Knowing vs Doing
Plenty people know what they should do. They want to get healthier. They read all of the books, purchase the products, and may even seek professional guidance.
Their problem isn’t knowledge. In fact, they are quite knowledgeable. They read blogs, magazines, books and research. They have learned to filter the B.S. from the truth, and can even recite the evidence on par with a fitness expert.
Their problem isn’t motivation. They genuinely want to be healthy and fit. They have demonstrated characteristics of high motivation in nearly all aspects of their life.
The more experience I have in working with patients and clients the more I realize that the most important and difficult aspect of achieving results is getting patients and clients to commit and comply with their care. I’ve lectured to hundreds of professionals throughout the country, and just returned from another seminar tour in LA. The professionals I speak to all point to the same problem – patient compliance.
The problem is translating the fleeting motivation to be healthy and fit to a long term habit of eating well and exercising. For any moment, most can rationally commit to a three month commitment to exercise 4 days a week. However, when the moment comes to actually go to the gym, the ability to act on that each day is much more difficult. The daily trials of our busy lives or injuries often intervene before exercising regularly becomes a habit. “Life just get’s in the way”, as many people say.
So how do you translate the desire to get healthy and fit to compliance with regular, daily action to change your diet and exercise? And please, spare me the “we’re just all lazy” line of thinking. That’s simply not true for the majority of people. Ironically, this line of thinking is, well, lazy. You have to look at it a little deeper. People who have run businesses,raised families, fought wars, and mastered a craft still struggle from the same issue of making exercise a habit. Clearly, they aren’t lazy. Something else is going on.
The Bridge From Goal to Habit
Fortunately, I’m not the first one to wonder why people don’t commit to taking action on something they know is beneficial for them. This issue has been studied extensively in the field of economics. In fact, they even have a term for people wanting to do something in the future but failing to do so when the future becomes the present called “dynamic inconsistency” (Laibson 1997). This dynamic inconsistency is observed when people fail to save or invest money, even though they set out a plan to do so seeking the clear financial long term rewards.
In reviewing the research, it is clear that people need help conquering this dynamic inconsistency. What people need is a bridge from goal to habit. They need resources to translate intent to action. And action means not just for a little bit, but for the long term until it becomes an engrained habit. One study showed that habits can take up to 254 days to form (Lally et al. (2009). Studies also say that the longer you do something, the more likely you will default to keep doing it (Goldhaber-Fiebert et al. 2010). So when life circumstances come up that throw you off your routine, you will eventually default to going right back to your routine.
This is what we want if we expect to achieve a healthy fit body for the long term. We want not only a clear goal, but the support and guidance that will move us along the path to get to the goal until the actions are so engrained that they become habit.
I see this scenario play out all to often: People have a clear goal and the commitment, and begin acting towards the goal. They see results, feel great, and then something goes wrong. Their workout partner moves away. Their job changes. A family member gets sick. They get injured. If any one of these scenarios happens during the habit formation phase, then the wheels come off and they crash and burn. They default to their old habits because their new “healthy habits” were in the fledgling phase. You know what happens next. They stop exercising, they regain the weight, and with that comes the negative connotations that they are lazy, have bad genes, or simply are fitness failures.
The Carrot or the Stick?
What is needed are strategies to build these healthy habits. Fortunately, if we look at the research of behavior change and commitment, and expand our view beyond just the fitness realm and look into the world of economics and business, we see some clear solutions.
As mentioned previously, incentives are proven tactic to help facilitate action. Financial rewards are the most common example, Disincentives can be significant motivators as well. Imagine if you had to give $300 to your most reviled political candidate’s re-election campaign if you failed to hit your goal.
However accountability is valuable as well. Studies have shown that those who are held accountable to their goals by reporting on their progress to a coach are 33% more likely to reach their goals versus simply just writing them down. In fact, reporting to a coach has found to be even more effective than financial rewards in changing healthy behaviors (Long JA et al 2012).
Of course, education is critical as well. Studies found that the more someone understands how and why to do their exercise, the more likely they will stay with their program ((Medina-Miraplex. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2009).
Coaching, the BTN workout, and a little help from your friends
And supervision is critical. Studies on exercise compliance reveal that supervised exercise is critical for proper performance and learning an exercise program (Medina-Miraplex. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2009). Furthermore, those who are supervised work out harder and achieve better results.
However, I contend that there is a hidden benefit of a coach. Remember how we identified the “life circumstances” issue that knock us off of our rhythm as we attempt to form a new habit? Well a good coach plans for this, and accordingly establishes a version of a BTN workout that allows you to hold your ground until life let’s you get back to your regular plan. We’ve used a similar approach with our maintenance diet plan which is part of our BBC program. This has been a key factor in keeping our clients fit in spite of major life obstacles, and is the reason I have never missed more than a week of workouts in over 20 years. That includes when I was laid up and unable to walk for weeks after my surgery a few years ago.
Finally, social support is critical. This seems the basis behind the success of programs such as AA.
The Spectrum C.A.R.E.S System
What if an exercise and nutrition approach focused on these tenants? Rather than being fascinated with the latest “insanity”, exercise until you puke (ie cross fit), or stretching in a sauna to release toxins (yeah – that happens) hot yoga fad, fitness professional should be focused on how to get people committed to exercise until it becomes a life long habit.
We have enough research and experience to tell us what needs to be done.
And at Spectrum we have recently figured out how to pull all of these elements together in our C.A.R.E.S program, which we released at no extra charge to all of our clients last week.
The CARES program takes accountability and support to a whole new level. CARES stands for Commitment, Accountability, Results, Education, and Social Support. Each of these concepts are vital to success, yet are not emphasized adequately by most to achieve true behavior modification and form lifelong habits.
To my knowledge, no fitness company is doing this. I believe this will be a major game changer in the fitness world. Say goodbye to failed commitments, and hello to healthy and balanced habits that are here to stay. If you want to join in on the revolution, come in for a free consult, and hop on board. It’s about time you get the results you want and deserve – for good!