By Olympian Jeff Galloway
Now is a better time than ever to help someone get into a fitness habit. Both you, the mentor, and recipient, will benefit. Not only will you help him or her manage attitude, improve vitality, release stress and think more clearly, but studies show that helping others bestows a boost to the immune system. Even if the exerciser doesn’t lose an ounce, there is an enhancement to the spirit that improves the quality of life for both of you.
When tense, stressed or un-motivated family members or co-workers exercise, they tend to be more positive and more humane afterward. Do you want your kids to do their best in school? Studies show that kids who exercise regularly do better in school and in life. Here are a few tips to help improve motivation and success.
- Serve as a role model to motivate good exercise habits: As the coach, by doing so, you’ll also inspire yourself to learn more about fitness. Adults who serve as an exercise mentor find that they study and learn the principles of training better as they explain them to others.
- Get them a good textbook: My books WALKING, GETTING STARTED, & GALLOWAY’S BOOK ON RUNNING offer training schedules with support information. You can read more about these at www.JeffGalloway.com
- Start with a little exercise, and gradually increase: Children will often do a lot more than they should at first, then get sore and discouraged. Help them keep an even pace and they can be successful in every workout!
- Make each session enjoyable – especially during the first month: If your trainee is huffing and puffing, slow the pace, walk more slowly, and make other adjustments from the beginning of every exercise session. If there is any sign of struggle then stop for that day. Never push through pain.
- Make a massage in a Human Touch massage chair a reward for doing the exercise: Try warming up with a 5-10 minute “motivator massage” and cool down with an after-workout massage.
- Avoid low blood sugar: Before a workout, if you suspect that your trainee is experiencing low blood sugar, have pieces of an energy bar with water, diet drink, or coffee about 30-45 minutes before starting. Provide a reward after each session – especially a snack to reload the energy stores. The best nutritional formula for a booster snack is 80% carbohydrate and 20% protein.
- Find interesting areas where you can exercise – scenic areas, interesting exercise club, etc.: Convenient walking/running routes near office or home, or a nearby gym can lead to more exercise sessions a year. But once a week or so, take an excursion to an interesting area or fun health club. This can be very rewarding. It’s great to have variety, and you should give your trainee some choice.
- On each exercise session, tell a joke, a story or discuss a controversial issue: This will break the ice, inject some humor, and result in a positive bonding experience. With beginners (adults or kids) who are struggling with motivation, the humorous moments provide a series of positive reinforcement.
- Structure each session so that there is success: Don’t let the new exerciser overdo his or her workouts - especially during the first few sessions. If walking or running, take liberal rest breaks before you hear the huffing and puffing. If in a gym, move to another exercise before there is fatigue, or heavy breathing.
- Don’t push too hard, but encourage, and reinforce a good attitude: One of the most difficult decisions in coaching is whether to push or back off – whether to use a pat on the back or a kick in the butt. In general, it is important that the person stays consistent with the exercise routine. When motivation is down, reduce the intensity to reduce discomfort, and you’ll bolster success. The ultimate victory is realized when the new exerciser wants to do it.
- Reward good work: After a certain number of weeks, or after reaching a certain level of fitness, surprise the exerciser with a reward. It doesn’t have to be something expensive or exotic. The reward allows the new exerciser to focus on his or her progress, and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from steady exercise. A Human Touch massage is a wonderful reward in every way–enhancing the experience and the recovery.
- Share your own challenges or mistakes: Most people learn more from a personal story that has a lesson, than a lecture on the same topic.
- Don’t over-sell exercise: The benefits of regular exercise are so powerful that almost everyone who stays with it for six months will continue. Walking or running with the new athlete on the tough days, and congratulating him or her for the dedication–are powerful reinforcers. But if your trainee is falling asleep during your one hour speech on the benefits, you know that you’ve stepped over the line.
- Your greatest reward will be an independent fit person: Take it as a real compliment that your trainee will need less and less of your guidance. This means that you were an excellent coach, and that he or she can find another person to coach. Another life can then be enriched.
Note: Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached over a million runners and walkers through his beach retreats, running schools, training programs (several in Atlanta) books and e-coaching.