Theory to Practice

Last week we talked about the five stages of behavior change Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance.  This week I’m offering suggestions about how to move from Contemplation into Action.

Pre-Contemplators and Contemplators can move into action by having “instant opportunities” to get started.  For example, if your goal is to increase physical activity consider posting a simple, specific exercise reminder such as, do 20 curl-ups, somewhere you will see it regularly.  If that doesn’t move you then add more specifics such as, do 20 curl-ups while waiting for lunch to heat, so it pins you down to a specific time frame. Also have available short “bites” of information from a magazine or web-site that reinforces the importance of being physically active on a regular basis.  The key is making the commitment of time and/or energy very small in order to ease from just thinking about it to doing it.

Use the same strategies as above in the Preparation stage and also think about what exercise opportunities are available to you in your community.  Can you walk at lunch, are there classes available that are easy to attend – both where and when they are held?  Does a class you’re interested in offer any “sample” classes or even an opportunity to observe.  Also find an exercise buddy to help motivate you to move forward and consider that they can be long distance.  My friend Chris and I figured out the number of miles between where we each live (about 600) and agreed to “walk” towards each other.  We check in regularly to report how far we’ve made it on our maps and plan to reward ourselves with a road trip to actually meet half-way. The key is creating easy opportunities and trying a variety of things to gain the confidence to consistently move forward from preparation into action.

Action and Maintenance require the steps above plus as they say just doing it.  Don’t allow skipping your planned activity session to end the commitment.  Instead, determine to at least do a “set” of movement NO MATTER WHAT i.e.50 curl-ups, or 50 stair steps, or dancing to 3 songs, etc. Pick something you like to do as your first set and often once you get started doing one set you’ll continue until you’ve knocked out 20-30 minutes of activity. Even if you only do one set you have still succeeded in your committment to do some activity each day and will be more likely to get back to your program.

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