Resuming an exercise program can be psychologically daunting. Individuals understand the sacrifices they need to make to move forward, so there is an element of anticipation that can accompany such an endeavor. This week I’m going to share some psychological tools that will help overcome that feeling, and I will also share an exercise that is ideal for restarting the program.
Fear creeps into the small cracks of self-doubt like a caustic substance. When people stop exercising, their self-doubts get deeper and wider every year. They feel less capable, more intimidated, and better able to convince themselves that they cannot be successful.
Incidentally, this phenomenon is not isolated to physical activity. It can occur with any type of behavior change, be it quitting smoking or changing diet. As humans, we experience self-doubts that prevent us from achieving our goals. It’s normal, and it’s okay to admit it.
There are many strategies for overcoming clinical anxiety that include psychotherapy, medication, and so on. These are beyond my area of responsibility, and I will not pretend to understand the modalities of treating chronic clinical anxiety. But I can conveniently discuss strategies for overcoming anxiety related to behavior change because I have not only studied the science behind it, but have put it into practice with thousands of clients.
The planned behavior theory holds that people are most likely to change their behavior when they intend to. This may sound obvious, but many people have no intention of embarking on an exercise program anytime soon. It is almost impossible to recruit this group into a program simply because they haven’t made up their mind to get involved in the behavior. To take a real-world example, a woman buying her husband (who has no intention of exercising) a gym membership is unlikely to create the ideal conditions for behavior change.
So the first step is to decide it’s time for a change. Once this piece is done, the task is to create the social and physical conditions that support healthy behavior. Find a training partner, buy new tennis shoes and allow yourself some time. These are all preparatory behaviors that will help create an environment in which change can grow and flourish.
One of the most helpful psychological tools is understanding that a 1,000 mile journey begins with a single step. I prescribed programs with only five minutes of walking on the first day. That’s it – they left for five minutes, stretched, and went home. The idea is to start at a level where the individual can feel a sense of achievement and then build on that a little more each day.
This week’s exercise is a great example of this. Wrist rolls are a simple warm-up activity suitable for new exercisers or fitness veterans, so exercise is inherently incredibly inclusive.
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1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Interlace the fingers of your right hand with the fingers of your left hand.
3rd From here, roll your wrists in 8 patterns by twisting and twisting them left to right, then right over left.
4th Continue with 15 repetitions, 2 sets.
Wrist rolls are a great way to start or end a workout session. This exercise stretches the forearm extensors and flexors with a very small movement. It’s a great opportunity to calm the mind, straighten your forearms, and visualize success. Enjoy!
Matt Parrott looks forward to hearing from his readers. Send him questions or share a story about your pandemic workouts below firstname.lastname@example.org