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Exercise & Motivation, Part 2: Overcoming Inertia & Getting Started

In the first article in this series (, we gave you an overview of the stages of change in Prochaska's Transtheoretical model. The first three of these stages are all about getting started. They apply to anyone who's not actually regularly exercising at the moment. If you were active in the past, but don't now (i.e. you're in the "Relapse" stage), then, motivationally speaking, you're in one of these stages. Just as a reminder, the stages are:

- Pre-Contemplation: When you're not active, not thinking about it, and really don't see why you should be;

- Contemplation: When you're thinking about getting active, but not quite ready to get around to it yet; and

- Preparation: You've thought, you've decided, and you're making arrangements as you read this - you're just about to start, honestly!


If you're at the Pre-Contemplation stage, you don't really want to change. Others might have said you should, or you may have read something about why activity's supposed to be good for you, but deep down, you're not convinced. As far as you're concerned, there's nothing wrong with your life exactly as is.

If this sounds like you, I invite you to take a candid look at your life. Are you truly happy with how things are? Look back over where you are now compared to where you were ten years ago. If the same trend continued for another ten years, would you honestly be happy with where you'd end up?

If so, congratulations! You're the only person who knows what's right for you, and no-one, including me, can tell you how you should feel about it. If there's nothing you'd like to change about your exercise habits, you probably don't need to be reading this article. If you find, however, that there are things about your life that could be better, let yourself think about them. What's not exactly the way you want it?

What would your life look like if it *was* the way you wanted it? What would you feel like? You don't have to do anything right now to change - just let yourself think about what could be better.


If you're at this stage, you know you want to make a change, and you're thinking about what your life might be like if you make it. You're not quite ready yet though, and that's OK. Instead of beating yourself up for not having started yet, take a deep breath and give yourself a chance to really explore why you want to get more active.

What exactly do you want? To become healthier? Stronger? To slim down or tone up? Why do you want it? What difference will it make in your life? These are questions that will help to make it easier to stay motivated in future.

Think about how you could turn what you want into a specific, measurable goal. Ensure sure that goal is big enough to inspire you, but realistic enough that you don't believe it's doomed to failure from the beginning. If you have a *really* big goal (for example, to lose a large amount of weight, or to compete in a sporting event), think about breaking it down into a series of smaller goals.

Consider starting a fitness journal to answer these questions (if you already keep a journal, just write them in there). Once you're sure you're crystal clear on why you want to exercise, you'll find yourself moving naturally into the next stage - your 'why' will drive you to thinking about the 'how'


At this stage, you've decided that the need for change is stronger than the need to stay the same, and you've started thinking about how to make it happen. You might contact a gym, call a personal trainer, or just decide to go for a regular walk.

If you're here now, it's time to start exploring how you're going to make your goal happen. There are many ways to be active, and it's important to find what's right for you. The quickest way to kill your motivation is to just throw yourself into the first exercise programme you come across and expect willpower to keep you going. Willpower may be a factor, but your programme also needs to be enjoyable, convenient, and work for your budget. Some possibilities you may want to consider include:

- Gym classes
- Dance
- Martial arts
- Mind/body activities like yoga or t'ai ch'i
- Walking/hiking/running
- Cycling
- Swimming
- Weights training

Record your research and thoughts in your fitness journal. If you can't find anything that sounds like it will be convenient, enjoyable and affordable, think about consulting a fitness professional. Chances are, if you understand where you want to be and why, as you start investigating how you can create routines that will get you there *and* let you enjoy yourself when you do, you'll find yourself itching to get started.

Which is when you move into the next stage - Action.

Copyright 2005 Tanja Gardner

Optimum Life's Tanja Gardner is a Personal Trainer and Stress Management Coach whose articles on holistic health and relaxation have appeared in various media since 1999.

To read more articles like this one, please subscribe to Optimum Fitness News at To find out more about how you could benefit from online personal training, please visit

To find out more about holistic fitness and stress management please contact Tanja on



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