If you are a fitness professional, I bet sometimes you wonder why it can be so hard to get people on board with exercise and healthy living. I mean, everyone knows now that exercise is good for you, right? The science certainly tells us that, with very little room for doubt. Research now links physical activity to a plethora of health benefits both physical and mental. So, with all the science and knowledge spreading and good intentions out there, you may sometimes wonder why the world isn’t banging down your door, or why so many of those who do start with you as clients end up quitting.
It can be hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is unmotivated to exercise. As personal trainers, gym owners and sport scientists, we tend to be the type of people who enjoy exercise and are fully on board with the benefits and lifestyle it provides for us. We usually live in a bubble of like-minded people, the type of people who build their lives around physical activity. The truth is this type of exercise-enjoying person is the minority. For most people, exercise is hard and, even worse, terrifying.
Behind each individual’s decision to become more active and adopt healthy lifestyle choices are a complicated psychological web of beliefs about themselves, mindset and motivation. If your client comes through the door with a fixed mindset, meaning they truly believe they are not able to progress past a certain point in their fitness, then you have lost the battle before you’ve begun. In the fitness industry, it is crucial to recognise the affect of psychology on a client’s ability to persevere in the face of challenges and succeed in real, lasting behaviour change.
The key ideas here are:
Mindset: Does your client believe that their effort results in progress? Or do they believe they are unable to get fit, regardless of how hard they try? These beliefs are the foundation of a Growth or Fixed Mindset. As trainers you have opportunities to influence and change this mindset in your clients.
Habit Change: 40% of our daily behaviours are habits and changing these powerful brain systems can be very challenging. By understanding habit change we can help clients realise they have more control than they believed.
Motivation: Do you know what is really driving your client? Only certain types of motivation lead to real commitment and change and it is important to understand how to move your client along the spectrum of motivation to where they are truly driven to change.
By digging into the psychology of exercise we can begin to empathize more with clients and recognise the that we have an opportunity to do so much more than teach them how to exercise. Through learning about mindset, habit change and motivation, we have the opportunity to help them change the way they think about themselves and empower them to take control of their behavior to create lasting positive change.
My name is Annika McGivern and I am a Sport and Exercise Psychology Consultant. I’ll be hosting Coach’s Corner at BLK BOX Headquarters on Feb 27th 2020 and I can’t wait to dive into the psychology of exercise with you all.