Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Five Stages of Exercise

It's always interesting to me how people go through various mental gymnastics, justifications and rationalisations to avoid doing what they know to be necessary to maintain or improve their health and reminds me of the five stages of grief, described by Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross.

I understand that not everyone wants to exercise or eat healthy foods, I too used to be one of those people who thought the words 'fun' and 'run' had no business ever being put together.

Then when I was a teenager, my mum was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at almost the age I am now. I saw how ill she was leading up to the diagnosis, while also dealing with other health issues, namely rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

It was also around this time we started learning about genetics at high school and the confluence of events made me take stock of my own attitude to my health for the future.

Now don't get me wrong, I did not suddenly start exercising and eating right, I was a teenager after all, I was invincible, right? 

What was happening to my mum wasn't going to happen to me, it just wasn't; I decided that without even realising it WAS a decision and without necessarily having a plan in mind.

I had just hit the first stage - Denial.

In the proceeding years, as I moved from the corporate world into the field of health & wellness, as I started a family and wanted to be a good example for my child, I began choosing healthy foods and actually enjoying them. My studies into health and nutrition led me to regard junk food as not actually real food at all, making it easier not to eat it. 

When I eventually began a fitness program with a personal trainer, I realised that I did not enjoy exercise at all and discovered the second stage of Anger.

During our training sessions, I would feel quite angry towards my trainer for 'making me' do whatever set of exercises she had planned for that session and luckily she was tolerant of my sweariness (yes, it's a word) on those occasions I verbalised my feelings, without directing them towards her.

Eventually I worked out that I had a choice to train or not, I had a choice to feel better or not and the anger subsided. 

Then I moved smoothly into stage three - Bargaining. 
This was possibly harder on my trainer than my swearing because I would be constantly negotiating and re-negotiating the program. 
"Can I do this instead of that?"
"Can I just do 20?"
"Do I really have to do that again???" 

I didn't really move through stage four, Depression, but I have seen it play out for many of my own clients, particularly if they have unrealistic expectations of themselves and the amount of time it will take to feel and see a real difference.

Their enthusiasm is sky-high when they come for their fitness assessment. 

They are so keen at their first session, I actually have to hold them back from overdoing it. 
The first few weeks are "amazing!" and they feel so good but often they will give up, saying life has become too busy, one thing or another is getting in the way of training and for a little while, they stop.

During this time, they go back to feeling tired, having no energy and feeling badly about themselves that they tried and failed. 

It's at this stage that I gently remind them why they started exercising in the first place, how great they felt when they made it important to fit it in and that the only failure is giving up.

Some get it some don't, but the transformation in the people who move to Acceptance, who acknowledge how great it feels to move their body, to give their best to their family and to have more energy to live a great life, is just joyful to witness.
The single most important factor I see in whether people get to the final stage of Acceptance is that they made a decision. It's not a question of "will I exercise tomorrow?", it's a just a decision that they no longer question. 

They know why they do it and they know they are worth the effort.

If you're sick and tired of being sick and tired, contact me at MET Fitness or on Facebook and take the first step to a healthier you.

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