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Exercise & Motivation, Part 4: Maintenance & Relapse

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WHAT ARE THE MAINTENANCE AND RELAPSE STAGES?

In the maintenance stage, you've been exercising regularly for long enough that it's become a habit. You've created a routine that works for you, and (if you're doing it right), you've started seeing the benefits you originally wanted in your life.  There are still a few traps that can derail you, though. When this happens, and you find yourself no longer exercising, you're in Prochaska's 'Relapse' stage. Most 'traps' will either involve a change in your life circumstances, a change in your goals, or a combination of both – so if you've been exercising regularly for a while and suddenly find motivating yourself difficult, ask yourself what's changed. 

CHANGES IN CIRCUMSTANCE

If your circumstances have altered, you'll usually be well aware of what's happened and how it's affected your motivation. For example – you might enjoy exercising in a gym, then take a sudden drop in income that doesn't allow you to keep your gym membership. Your working hours might change, making your original workout timeslot unavailable. Someone you exercise with might decide to stop, or you might injure yourself somehow.  All these things will disrupt what was an effective routine, and if you don't actively plan to work around the disruption, it can sap your motivation to keep exercising. 

If this applies to you, imagine you were back in the Contemplation stage, and look at the motivation suggestions for this stage. Revisit your main goal for exercising. Is it still valid? If so, move through the suggestions for the Preparation stage. Your initial 'how' no longer works – so what needs to change? If you can no longer keep the routine that used to work, what can you still do that's convenient, enjoyable and affordable?  If you've kept a fitness journal, go back through the entries you made when you were setting up your routine. What did you think of to try then (and didn't end up using) that you could experiment with now? 

CHANGES IN GOALS

If your circumstances haven't changed, it's likely your goals have. Perhaps your initial goals aren't relevant any longer? If this is the case, don't beat yourself up about it – instead, ask yourself what you *do* want now. Perhaps you started off enthusiastic about training for a triathlon, but quickly found the required time and effort unbalanced your life. Perhaps you began wanting to lose 20kg, then realised as you had to replace your entire wardrobe that you actually preferred being curvy – now you just want to feel healthy and energetic.  Remember, it's your life and no-one can tell you what your goals should be.  It's OK for goals to change – what's not OK is to keep grimly putting time and effort into something you don't actually want any more.

Remember there's a difference between wanting to take a day off, and losing long term motivation.  Part of any successful plan is allowing yourself occasional rest days. Taking one or two every week doesn't mean you've moved into Relapse – in fact it's necessary to avoid overtraining. It's also OK to vary your workout intensity from week to week – alternating weeks of pushing yourself with weeks of coasting. This strategy (called 'periodisation' when it's done to a specific plan) is actually far more effective for reaching fitness goals than pushing yourself as hard as you can every single workout.  If you're starting consistently skip workouts though, you need to figure out why and do something about it. 

GETTING HELP WITH MOTIVATION

Finally, as we suggested for those in the Action stage, if it's getting harder to stay motivated despite all of the above suggestions, think about working with a personal trainer.  In fact, a trainer can help you manage your motivational difficulties whatever stage of Prochaska's model you're at (or even if you're not quite sure where you are right now!)  If you've thought about hiring a trainer in the past, but the time has never been right, Optimum Life Ltd has an offer that might convince you to finally make the investment in yourself, your health, and your happiness.

As you can see from this article series, the question of how to motivate yourself to exercise isn't an easy one to answer (if it was, we'd all be exercising regularly, and there'd be no need for this article!). The best way to motivate yourself depends very much on where in the stages of change you are at the moment with respect to exercise. Figure out where you are in the model, then try the relevant suggestions for getting yourself moving. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please don't hesitate to contact us – we'd  love to hear from you. Otherwise, may every day bring you closer to your Optimum Life.


By Tanja Gardner
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.

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Biography: Optimum Life Ltd provides balanced fitness and stress management services to clients worldwide.

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