Regular physical activity has become a part of who you are. You have kept the commitment to include activity in your everyday life and are a source of encouragement to others. The benefits of good health are important to you. The steps you've taken have been major and now you are physically active on 5 or more days of the week. Congratulations!
Look back to when you first started to become physically active. Do you remember some of your early struggles? You made the decision to overcome the barriers and succeeded in finding ways to increase your energy level and physical skills. One of the most important steps in maintaining your current success is anticipating minor slips.
Threats to success
It may be difficult for you to imagine a time when you will not want to continue regular physical activity. Repeat this next sentence three times (out loud and with feeling). "Minor slips will happen."
The greatest threat for relapse is overconfidence or believing it won't happen to you. It will happen and you have to plan for it. List two situations where you may be tempted to stop your regular activity, if only for a few days (e.g., vacation, a bout of flu, demands of work and family).
It's important to plan how you will handle these interruptions in your daily routine. If you know they will happen, you can plan around them. What can you do to reschedule physical activity during one of the situations you listed?
You have special friends and co-workers who have been encouraging you. Often as your activity level increases and becomes routine, this support stops. Because you're doing so well and exercise now is part of who you are, your friends may not believe you need the extra encouragement. Re-examine what you need from them and ask them to help you again. They can be the first ones to see old behaviors coming back. Ask them for continued feedback.
Tell-tale signs of danger
Have you heard yourself say any of the above sentences? These are signs that you may be in danger of overconfidence. Old habits die hard. Watch for times when temporary lapses lead to disappointment or giving up. That old couch will be calling you and reminding you of its comfort and support for your weary bones. What will you say back? Remember how hard it was in the beginning. Keeping up your commitment to physical activity today is as important as it was when you started.
Keep your balance
Just as you planned how to remove your barriers to physical activity months or years ago, it's time for you to do so again. Review the benefits and barriers from when you assessed the "pros and cons" earlier. How have your barriers changed from when you started becoming physically active? What are some of the things you can put around your home or office to reinforce your efforts? What are some of the things you can remove that contribute any threat to your activity? List two plans of action you can take to support your continued goals.
You have a sense of confidence that regular physical activity brings into your life. You have more energy and are also adding health benefits such as reducing the risk of developing or dying from some of the leading causes of illness and death. Maintaining this sense of well-being is important. When you are confident that you will continue to remain physically active, your success rate goes up.
How confident are you of participating in regular physical activity under the following conditions:
Look back at how others helped you adopt new behaviors. Their support and encouragement may have made a difference in your efforts. Did someone offer to show you the ropes or share a new technique that worked for you? It's time you become part of the buddy system but on the other end. You have made progress through the transition of adding regular physical activity into your life. It's been both hard and rewarding, even fun on most days. Share your skills with someone else. Having others depend on you will increase your likelihood of continued success. Being a role model will bring good feelings from helping others and will reinforce your motivation to stay with your active lifestyle.
Information in the "Getting Started" section was adapted from:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention & Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research. Personal energy plan-physical activity: steps for adding PEP to your life. Dallas: Cooper Institute; 1999.