How can I psych myself up to reach my fitness goals?
BY: Daryn Eller
Consider “mental contrasting” and “implementation intentions,” two psychological techniques that were found in a recent study to help 256 women get closer to their fitness goals:
1. Contrast fantasy with reality First, envision your goal, such as: “I will exercise at least three days a week.” Then, think about the reality that gets in the way of your goal: “When the alarm goes off, I’m too tired to get out of bed and go to the gym.” This technique alone is helpful because it grounds fantasy in reality, helping you face up to what’s standing in your way, which in turn helps you develop ways to overcome the obstacle.
2. Implement your intentions Call this the “If…then” strategy: Anticipate whatever situation is hindering your exercise efforts and plan accordingly. For example, “If I don’t get up when the alarm goes off...then I will skip the morning news program and go for a walk.” Or “if I’m too tired to wake up early...then I will stop by the gym on my way home from work.”
In the study, which was conducted jointly by researchers in New York at Columbia University and New York University, and in Germany at the University of Hamburg and University of Konstanz, the two-pronged strategy worked: Sixteen weeks after learning the techniques, the women increased their physical activity by about an hour a week -- and you can, too!
Daryn Eller is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well and has written for O, Prevention, Health and Natural Health magazines. She lives in Venice, Calif.