In this article we will consider the benefits of establishing an exercise regime and methods of how you can begin developing your own.
Perhaps the single most predominant indicator of whether a person will consistently participate in physical exercise is if they have established a regime. That is to say, those who follow a training regime and follow it closely tend to engage more frequently in exercise than those who do not. Thus the individual who aspires to be more active must first strive to implement a regime. The focus of this article, then, will be constricted to the following criteria:
a) What is a regime
b) What are the associative benefits of establishing a regime
c) How to establish a regime
What is a regime?
At its essence regime is the word we use to express a behavioural pattern orientated around performing certain activities with predictable consistency. If a person after climbing out of bed at 5:30am goes for a 5 mile run, we might say that is their morning regime. But we would only qualify it as such if they performed the activity with high frequency. Getting out of bed to go for a jog once in a blue moon – or when the fancy takes – is not an established regime and we wouldn’t award it that coveted title.
So, we now know that for behaviour to constitute as regime it must exhibit at least two characteristics. They are: predictable consistency and frequency.
Though these characteristics seem to express the same concept they are quite different. For example, an activity or action performed once a year, even if performed with perfect predictability, could hardly be classified as a regime. However, if we increased the frequency whereby the activity or action was performed once every two days, we would now see a regime emerge.
Though implementing a regime can bring about a plethora of positives, the one that stands out prominent amongst the crowd is improved participation. People who approach exercise on an ad hoc basis are likely to engage in fewer training sessions through the year and, on account to their lacklustre engagement, the associative benefits of regular exercise will not be conferred.
You’ll never reach that fitness goal or achieve that desired weight with one sweat session every other week.
This is not the case for the committed regime follower.
By instituting an exercise regime into the organisation of our daily activities we stand a significantly greater chance of maintaining high levels of participation thus increasing our susceptibility to reaping desirable rewards. Put colloquially: you’ve got to be in it to win it.
Other benefits of establishing and maintaining a regime include:
Greater participatory enjoyment as the activity is seen as a fundamental aspect of our existence and not a ‘chore’ or a negative to overcome in order to obtain the positives on the other side.
The increased likelihood of developing relationships. Exercise is very much a social activity and very many people participate in it precisely for that reason. Have you noticed that most exercise activities take place in social forums: gyms, classes, groups, clubs? In health psychology the psychological and emotional benefits of social interaction through sport and exercise have long been recognised. However, a person who attends sporadically or arbitrarily is unlikely to form social relations as their inconsistent approach impedes the regular peer-to-peer bonding that is a requirement of relationship formation.
Establishing a regime
To establish a theoretical regime is relatively easy. All one would merely have to do is plot onto a weekly planner where and when exercise will take place. But putting into practice the theory is notoriously difficult. Of all the New Year’s resolutions made less than 98% survive into February.
Paradoxically, regimes in their adolescence are as easy to default on as they are difficult to break once implemented. So the challenge, when reifying a regime from the theoretical domain to the physical, is sticking to it long enough that it becomes a habituated, automated function that to give up is as inconceivable as it would be to cease eating or breathing.
Below you will discover a step-by-step guide of how to establish a regime. These steps can be followed when formulating a regime, plotting it into the organisation of the week and, perhaps the most important bit, actively participating in the regime once it is established.
Step 1: Identify your preferential modality of exercise: gym, running, circuit classes. It’s important to start off with a form of exercise that you find enjoyable, or dislike the least.
Step 2: Once you’ve identified your preferred mode of exercising you need now to consider for how long you are willing to engage in the exercise: 30/45/60 minutes. In the beginning short exposures are best.
Step 3: After deciding on the type of exercise and the duration of engagement you must determine the weekly frequency: 2/3/4/5/6/7 x per week. Again, if this is the first fitness regime that you have implemented, it is advisable to start off with 2 weekly sessions and incrementally increase the frequency as the regime becomes more firmly embedded.
Step 4: Next plot into your weekly schedule (if you have such a thing) where you plan to participate in each exercise session. When you have inputted the sessions you must decree that, come hell or high water, they are immutable; set in stone! To make life easier for yourself consider utilising the Hungry4Fitness Exercise Programmes.
Step 5: Now we have reached the point where we must dispense with the theory and get practical. But how do we motivate ourselves to follow a regime faithfully and consistently? Well this is the million dollar question which has yet to be adequately answered. Is high motivation fortuitous genetic endowment or are the motivated merely adept at designing psychological and environmental strategies that promote the desired behaviour? Perhaps it’s the former, perhaps the latter, or maybe a mixture. Who knows? However, until some smartarse resolves the enigma of motivation, you can make use of a number of motivational techniques that might help you stick with your regime long enough for it to become an ingrained lifestyle habit.
Below I have listed four motivational techniques for your consideration:
If you find that it is becoming ever increasingly difficult to maintain your regime remind yourself of the numerous health benefits associated with exercise – such as reduced risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and many types of cancer; to name the most desirable outcomes. (For more on this see our other blog The Benefits of Exercise.)
Motivational technique 2
Reward yourself on reaching certain milestones. For example, prior to embarking on your exercise regime, you could set rewards for successfully reaching the following milestones: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year. By this point you’ll no longer need to reward yourself to promote the desired behaviour for the pleasure of taking part in exercise will be reward enough in and of itself.
Motivational technique 3
Consider enlisting a friend to participate in the regime. Sometimes it can be motivational to work with somebody else in a shared endeavour. During those inevitable motivational slumps you can turn to each other for support and encouragement.
Motivational technique 4
Implement your regime on behalf of a noble cause. Maybe you could seek sponsorship from friends and family members. The conditions of the sponsorship could be as follows: if you succeed at sticking to your regime for, let’s say, 1 year, the net total in donations is to be transferred to the coffers of a charity of your choosing. But, if you fail, if you default on your regime, you, out of your own pocket, will have to pay the same sum to the charity. Before implementing this technique it is best, once you know how much in sponsorship is on the table, to hand over your money to an impartial intermediary – so as to prevent the possibility of defaulting on the default.
For a deeper insight into methods of motivation follow the links below:
What, you might be asking yourself, what if after all this I fail, what if after a couple of weeks I break from my regime? Well, the answer is really quite straightforward. Recognise the failure, accept that such behaviour is eminently human, and get back into it with renewed determination. Follow this pattern until your exercise regime becomes a necessary part of your life.
Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.