It's 6 a.m. Monday morning. It's been a long weekend. The alarm goes off. You know you should get up, but it's just so much more comfortable not to move, not to deal with getting out of bed. So, today you decide to stay in bed. No harm done, right?
All day and through the night you stay in bed and then comes Tuesday morning and you again decide you're not moving. Then Wednesday, Thursday and Friday — in bed all week. Now it's Saturday and you want to get up, but all that staying in bed and not moving is making it really hard to move. You feel depressed, your muscles have atrophied, your body aches from staying still and you're even more tired from poor circulation. On Monday it seemed like such a good idea to stay right where you were, and now you are frustrated at having to deal with the demanding price you have to pay.
The above scenario describes the experience of most Americans. No, most Americans don't stay in bed for a week. However, most people have gone into a dormant state of inactivity. They are doing less and less — always taking the elevator, walking less, not even bending over whenever possible because it feels better and is less painful in that moment — just like staying in bed. But all of the inactivity that seemed like an easier choice sooner or later starts to come back and trouble us. Our energy wanes, our weight gains and our body pains.
One thing that the health club industry would significantly benefit from is getting out the message that “easy hurts more.” Inactivity hurts more. Eventually, it hurts a lot more. A little discomfort from exercise now is far better than a lot more pain and discomfort down the road.
As famous motivation coach Tony Robbins indicates in all of his books and courses, avoidance of pain is a stronger motivator than seeking out pleasure. That is why people let the pain and discomfort of exercise rule their choices. However, they have trapped themselves by rationalizing that not going to the gym makes them feel better at that moment. Yet the very discomfort they want to avoid is going to be multiplied before they know it. Easy hurts more.
We need to help people understand and then acknowledge the connection of inactivity with its many negative consequences. For example, when someone thinks about staying in bed and missing work, they quickly connect the consequences of that choice. If they don't show up at work, then their boss will call. If they still don't go into work, they will eventually lose their job, the money will stop coming in, they won't be able to pay rent and then there will be no more fun. The result of this connection? They get up and moving.
What if that same kind of connection, that same kind of thought process occurred when choosing to exercise or choosing to not exercise? That connection surely happens with regular exercisers. Just ask them how they feel when they don't exercise. Watch the faces they make and listen to them emotionally describe how lousy they feel.
An inescapable fact is that most people will not be regular with exercise until they “learn” to feel lousy when they don't exercise.
However, for most, when they choose inactivity, this connection to the negative consequences is not readily made — and most often is denied. Years of being predominately inactive have been a key contributing factor to less confidence, poorer health and growing waistlines. Yet, to face up to this truth means accepting something that most people dread accepting — responsibility.
It's so much easier when you feel out of shape and stressed out to blame it on life — and not the choices you make in life. So be prepared. Don't make others wrong. Just keep smiling and help them see what's truly holding them back — not their schedule or a lack of money, just themselves. Deep down they truly want to change, and if most people can just get over the initial mild discomfort of exercise (one of the key roles of a club and trainer), then the wonderful benefits take hold and they won't accept anything less in their life.
So never miss an opportunity to get this truth out when talking to a member or potential member, friend or relative. Yes, have positive messages in your club about what exercise does for people, but follow up with what happens when they don't exercise. That is the other side of the coin — the missing part of the formula that is absolutely necessary for someone to regularly act in achieving fitness success.
Accepting this truth is powerful and as many a wise sage has said, “There is no such thing as the easy way out.”
Bruce Carter is a 40-year veteran in the fitness industry and author of The Fitness Mindset - You Can't Get Fit Without It. He also is president of Optimal Design Systems International, a national health club design firm.