“Your biggest competition is the one in the mirror.”
How true is that statement! There are so many times when I hear “I meant to exercise when I got home from work, but then sat on the couch and that was the end” or “I was going to exercise but I forget to pack my (fill in the blank here).” Your biggest competition is literally yourself. Why did you decide to sit on the couch and end up not exercising? Why did you forget to pack your sneakers, shorts, etc.? Here are some thoughts and questions to ask yourself.
“A person who wants something will find a way; a person who doesn’t will find an excuse.”
Before any workout a person will develop preconceived perceptions about their capabilities. This is called self-efficacy. This simply means an individual focuses on the extent to which they feel they will be successful performing a desired behavior, given their abilities and unique situation. (1) Here are some examples:
- I’ve heard clients say that they got less sleep then usual and perceive that their workout will be difficult and end up having one of their greatest workouts. Their confidence to workout exists but not for slightly sleep deprived.
- A runner usually runs on flat surfaces but signs up for a race on a hilly course suddenly believes they cannot perform as well. Her confidence as a runner exists but not for the hilly course. (1)
What drives self-efficacy?
“It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”
– Jacqueline Gareau
Where do these perceptions come from and why do you have them? There are four major reasons. (1)
- Past performance – Your previous exercise experiences and history help mold your perceptions; what you have accomplished in the past and what you haven’t accomplished in the past.
- Modeling – This involves modeling your behavior after another. Most commonly seen when a celebrity outwardly speaks about their new exercise program but can also be in other settings such as cardiac rehab. A successful patient serves as a model that exercise will be good for their rehabilitation.
- Social persuasion – This is verbal and non-verbal tactics. Company’s like Nike use the slogan “Just Do It!” in attempt to get people moving. The Gatorade commercial feating the “One More” campaign is another example.
- Physiological & Affective states – Physiological states refer to the feelings of pain and fatigue associated with exercise. This is typically why someone stops a plank, squats, running, etc. before they are really fatigued. Affective states refer to the emotional side where positive (happy, pride) and negative feelings (sad, disappointment) directly affect self-efficacy.
“If you are trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles do not have to stop you.”
– Michael Jordan
What is exercise’s effect on a person?
Regular exercise resulted in improved cardiopulmonary fitness, weight loss, and reductions in waist circumference and percent body fat directly influencing positive changes in self-efficacy.(2)
If you want to continue to do your hobbies in retirement, golf on the weekend, play with your kids, travel or even your daily activities around the house regular exercise can and will help you improve your perceptions. You do not want to wait until your retired to find out that you can’t enjoy your favorite activities or that your inactivity will end up raising your medical bills.
Regular exercise will improve your self-efficacy and allow you to develop positive perceptions and allow you know that you are capable.
- Lox, C.L. et al. The Psychology of Exercise: Integrating Theory and Practice 2nd Ed. Holcomb Hathaway Publishers: Scottsdale. 2006: 46-47.
- Ikuyo, I., et al. (2013). Exercise Adherence, Cardiopulmonary Fitness, and Anthropometric Changes Improve Exercise Self-Efficacy and Health-Related Quality of Life. Journal Of Physical Activity & Health,10(5), 676-689.