Exercise in the Era of Immediacy
Enjoying the process of the journey as much as the results in the destination.
Humans are a species that crave immediate results. Especially in today’s world. We want to know when our text messages get read (read receipts), we want to have goods and products we buy in two days (Amazon Prime), we want to lose unrealistic amounts of weight in a short period of time (fad diets). Among many other examples, everything we desire, we desire it immediately.
We have this notion that having immediate results will somehow satisfy us differently than if we took the time, energy and mindfulness to get to the end goal. But does it really? Or would living in the “work” and enjoying the process, not just the end, also give us that satisfaction?
Enjoying the means to the end is a line of thinking that is often applied to exercise and body composition goals, but not often practiced. Expecting immediate results during exercise is not only unrealistic, but may reflect inauthentic motives. Expecting to gain muscle or drop weight immediately can set us up for failure, rejection and disappointment. When we seek transformation, we are not just transformed by what we look like or what we can do at the end, but by learning from and conquering the steps it took to get there.
First, it is important to recognize change is going to take time. Second, it is vital to make that time for yourself. Being aware of the time it requires to reach a goal is vital to comprehend before even stepping into the gym. However, what can be immediate is the decision to dedicate more time to self-care, the decision to go to the gym, to try a new exercise or new exercise class. Those are the things that can be accomplished and decided immediately.
There are many models used to describe how humans change and adopt new behaviors. For example, the Stages of Change Model, consisting of 8 stages for change. The first stage is pre-contemplation, when an individual has not even thought about making a change. Second is contemplation, when an individual has started thinking about making a change. The third stage is preparation, when an individual may start gathering resources and information for how to make the change. The fourth step is action, and actually changing the desired behavior. Fifth, maintenance, meaning an individual sustains the behavior change over time. Sixth is relapse, when an individual reverts back to an old behavior pattern. Reconnecting and reevaluating your goal is vital during this step. The last step is adoption, when the new behavior is officially changed and accepted. What’s important to remember is that each step will take time and there is a lot to learn about each step and the transition to the next.
When embarking on a new exercise goal or change, we often learn more about our strengths and willpower from the incremental changes over time made in those last sets, miles and minutes, than the big reveal at the end.
Personal training can be a great way to create a reasonable and SMART (specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) goal. Similarly, personal training can give you the tools to reach those goals. This often begins with a fitness assessment that anyone can take at Cassell Fitness Center.
The Personal Training Coordinator at American University, Bob Beahm, gave his insights on personal training and enjoying the small steps it takes to get to the end goal.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about training goals many of your clients have?
A: “There are misconceptions about people’s expectations of what they can accomplish. Many clients come in with the goal of weight loss and they want to lose 50 pounds in a month. Realistically, the human body is only capable of losing 1-2 pounds a week. So it is important to change their perception of what is realistic and when people make realistic goals, they are more susceptible to continuously working hard and making progress. Motivation stems from people believing they are capable of accomplishing the goals they’ve set.”
Q: What is your trick to keep your clients motivated and excited about training? What about when they are not seeing results?
A: “Communication. It’s about understanding what clients enjoy doing and what they don’t like. If they like something, I try to incorporate it more. As a trainer, I need to be able to adapt to the client’s needs. For example, every goal has 100 different exercises you could do, but it’s about finding the right fit for the client.
A: When a client is not seeing the results they anticipated it’s time to revisit goals. I ask them what they are doing outside of the sessions to reach those goals. We may need to add something else to the plan or just focus on one thing at a time. Similarly, I try to keep them from losing site of the long term goal and the progress they have already made.”
Q: What is the best piece of advice you could give someone who is contemplating making a fitness goal or embarking on a change?
A: “No sustainable change is going to happen overnight. There has to be a lifestyle approach. Behavior change is like changing a habit. It’s about the big picture, but also about the small steps and incremental changes.”
Q: What is the encouragement you could give someone who is on the fence about getting a personal trainer?
A: “If someone is new, I would encourage them to take a fitness assessment. That means just talking to a personal trainer about where you currently are and where you want to go. The fitness assessment really is the first step and is about getting to know them. This is a chance to identify what improvements you would like to make.
The main hesitation someone has to starting a fitness goal is they just lack knowledge about what to do. It can be very intimidating. A fitness assessment and working with a trainer gives you that information and is a judgement-free zone.”
Abby Lore, Wellness Ambassador
 Garber, C. E., Allsworth, J. E., Marcus, B. H., Hesser, J., & Lapane, K. L. (2008). Correlates of the Stages of Change for Physical Activity in a Population Survey. American Journal of Public Health, 98(5), 897–904. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2007.123075