There are many different reasons people get involved in an exercise program. It may be because of an injury and they need to do rehabilitation exercises. Or the individual may be unhealthy and need to start an exercise program to prevent obesity or other health problems. Many individuals get started in an exercise program simply to get into better shape, possibly lose a few extra pounds, and ultimately to feel better about themselves. In order to keep up with whatever exercise regimen we choose, it is very helpful to implement a behavior plan. If we can design an effective plan, we will have a higher likelihood of success.
If I were to design an exercise plan for myself, I would focus on getting into better shape and have a goal of running a 10K by the spring. Including a behavioral plan with my training will help keep me focused on my specific goals and stay motivated to challenge myself and be successful. I will use some of Spiegler & Guevremont’s (2003) steps to implementing a behavioral plan to assist me in designing an effective exercise program. The first step is to clarify the specific problem, which is staying motivated to train even though I’m so busy. So organizing a specific program that can be done with high intensity and a short amount of time would be most effective for me.
The second step is to formulate goals for my program. “Participants should personally set their own performance goals because this increases their commitment to achieve the goals” (Gill and Williams, p. 102). I agree that taking some ownership for the program will help me stay motivated. One specific goal is to never go more than two days without doing a workout. This way I won’t have to set specific days to workout, I can just make sure I don’t take too many days off. With my busy schedule this time of year with travel and school, I feel this will allow me to have some flexibility, but still stay within the specific goals of my workout. Taking days off when training for a run is actually encouraged. Having at least two days free from a running schedule per week allows time for non-running activities (Kuscsik, 1989). Also, you need to give your body a break.
The third step is to design target behaviors. Training for a 10K is more than just going out for a run every other day. There are many programs I can choose from to help me train and prepare for my run. Choosing a specific program and sticking to it will be key for success. I also need to make sure I can measure my success throughout the program. For example I can keep track of my ‘minutes per mile’ pace and work on challenging my intensity with some of my runs. This will help me continue to stay motivated and at the same time benefit my training. Training runs will be different each day, with some being farther and others being shorter with more intensity. Many people think you have to train constantly at a fast pace or you won't be able to run a fast race. Kuscsik (1989) believes that a combination of paces during your training--both easy and harder--will give you the energy, efficiency, and stamina to run a great race.
The fourth step in incorporating my behavior plan is maintaining my target behavior. The main way to do this is to use the ABC model Gill and Williams (2008) introduce us to. Getting myself in the right frame of mind before, during, and after my workouts will benefit my training. I think the most important aspect of the ABC model is the (C) consequences. How I feel after I am finished with my workout really helps me stay motivated in the long run. Running is not my favorite type of exercise, but I enjoy it enough and feel great after I have had a good run. Therefore, maintaining my training goals and intensity levels I set for myself will help me stay on track.
The final three steps in Spiegler & Guevremont’s (2003) behavioral plan are designing a treatment plan, implementing the plan, and evaluating the plan. I think these three steps are very important, and can also be incorporated together. Gill and Williams (2008) talk about reinforcement as “any stimulus, event, or condition whose presentation immediately follows a response and increases the frequency of that response.” For me, positive reinforcement works best. Getting acknowledgement for my training by my training partners and the feeling of accomplishment are both examples of positive reinforcement for me.
The final part of my behavioral plan will be mental training. Since running is not my favorite type of exercise, allowing myself to use imagery will also benefit my training. Keeping myself in a positive, relaxed frame of mind will help me before and during my runs. Porter and Foster (2003) explain that each time you 'see' yourself performing exactly the way you want with perfect form, you physically create neural patterns in your brain. These patterns fire the signal to the muscle to move. It tells each muscle how to move, when to move, and with how much power. Incorporating the use of mental training and this behavioral plan with my exercise program will help me have more success as well as help me enjoy my training.
Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.).
: Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL
Kuscsik, N. (1989). How to improve your 5k and 10k times. Women's Sports and Fitness, 11(4), 30.
Porter, K., & Foster, J. (2003). The Mental Athlete. Champaign,
IL: Human Kinetics.
Spiegler, M.D., & Guevremont, D.C. (2003). Contemporary behavior therapy (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.