Getting Better at the Fitness Process
Fitness is a motivational mind game. The psychology department at the University of Michigan has found that it takes six to eight weeks to develop the habit of exercise. If you can get a participant to remain consistent for that period of time, their chances of staying with a program will be good. Setting appropriate goals provides the ongoing psychological reinforcement necessary to develop and maintain the fitness habit. The type of goal you choose can make a big difference in your chances of success.
Most fitness clients set outcome goals—they want to lose twenty pounds, drop two dress sizes, run a 10 kilometer race, perform ten pull ups, etc… Outcome goals revolve around training activities. Outcome goals take many months of proper consistent training to achieve. You are unlikely to achieve a process goal in less than eight weeks.
I try to steer fitness clients toward process goals—eat more protein, sleep better, daily mobility sessions, etc… Process goals are the building blocks of fitness success and take place outside of the gym. Process goals can be achieved in as little as four weeks. Setting and achieving process goals creates the motivational reinforcement you need during those crucial weeks of exercise habit reinforcement. Setting and achieving short term process goals leads to success in those longer term outcome goals.
I like to have two or three process goals in place for each and every fitness client. Process goals that have worked well for fitness clients are listed below.
-Perform a daily five minute foam roll / mobility session for the next twenty one days.
-Weigh every serving of food you consume for the next two weeks.
-Take a thirty-minute walk for thirty consecutive days.
-Get an extra hour of sleep every night for the next six weeks.
-Drop all sweetened drinks (soda, sports drinks) for four weeks.
-Learn how to prepare a new healthy meal every week for the next two months.
Every expert on habit development recommends we use pen and paper. Everything that is truly important in life we commit to paper. Nothing is more important than your health and functional independence. A written set of process goals is part of the commitment to developing the habit of fitness.
The older you are and the more deconditioned you have become, the more you need to work with a coach to set appropriate process goals. Build on the habits created by achieving ever more challenging process goals and you will reach all of your outcome goals.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS