Forming an Exercise Habit – Part 5

Forming an Exercise Habit – Part 5

The final key step Dr. Bandura identified to succeed at change through developing self-efficacy is what he called “diminishment of cues of failure.” When it comes to forming an exercise habit, these usually show up when you fail at a new exercise – maybe not be able to do it very well or not at all – or try to do too much, too soon then interpret that to mean you cannot do it ever,and it’s because you’re too uncoordinated, too old, too weak, too (fill in the blank). However you look at it, the problem is you and you cannot change or progress.

But that’s not true when you understand the tricks of self-efficacy..
obstacle a

Bandura noticed that people who developed self-efficacy didn’t see their failures as something intrinsic and permanent like the color of their eyes, but rather as a problem that, with a little more information and determination, has a solution. Bandura says it this way:

Step 4 – Diminishment of cues of failure: They heighten and sustain their efforts in the face of failure. They quickly recover their sense of efficacy after failures or setbacks. They attribute failure to insufficient effort or deficient knowledge and skills which are acquirable.

Here’s how you put his insight to work. If your feet get sore when you walk or run, you don’t conclude your feet were not made to run, rather you buy better shoes. You don’t say I’ll never be able to do a push-up because my shoulders are weak, you say I need to find some easier exercises to strengthen my shoulders to prepare for doing a push-up. You don’t say I can’t jump rope, you need to first get comfortable jumping very lightly without a rope.

Frequently older people get frustrated because they can’t do a certain exercise, maybe something they did easily when they were younger, and interpret that to mean they are destined to limited physical activity for the rest of their lives then just stop trying.

Avoid setting up cues to your own failure by trying to exercise at a frequency or intensity that are more than you are ready for. That makes exercise unpleasant, even unsafe, sure cues (and excuses) to stop.

Go slow and steady. Be persistent. Get advice. Then you succeed. It works every time.











Forming an Exercise Habit – Part 4

Forming and Exercise Habit – Part 4

If you want to form an exercise habit, it’s much easier to do it in a gym than on your own. It’s not because there’s lots of equipment to keep it from getting repetitious and boring. It’s because we are herd animals and having people around us who are exercising inspires us to do the same. Also, in the gym people, whether trainers or participants, encourage each other, helping everyone get more confident, focused, and determined.

wild horses back

Change expert Dr. Eric Bandura identified this form of social support like this:

Step 3 – Social persuasion: People who are persuaded verbally that they possess the capabilities to master given activities are likely to mobilize greater effort and sustain it than if they harbor self-doubts and dwell on personal deficiencies when problems arise.

In the video about Ben in our blog Forming an Exercise Habit – Part 2, note he didn’t go on his weight loss/run a marathon journey alone. His brother and father both ran with him, and ultimately he added a larger internet social network that spurred him on and to which he felt accountable. It was one thing to lose weight for his own benefit, but he found motivation in the realization that the aspirations of other people struggling to overcome obesity or other personal problems were counting on him to blaze a trail to success that they could follow.

Every person, even the most experienced gym rat, has times when they feel they cannot do an exercise, or another repetition or set, or don’t feel they are making progress or doubt they are strong enough or wonder if they are losing their coordination. The major challenge for people who try to form an exercise habit at home is not to succumb to these nagging, de-motivating, corrosive doubts that lead to laziness and quitting.

When those self-doubts show up is when the social network in the gym exerts a powerful, positive influence because fellow exercisers provide encouragement and inspiration when you feel you might not be able to muster it on your own.

In her book The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, observes: “When the rest of our tribe does something, we tend to think it’s a smart thing to do. This is one of those useful survival instincts hat come with having a social brain. After all, if you see your whole tribe heading east, you better follow. Trusting the judgment of others is the glue that makes social living work.”

In the Younger Games, the exercise tribe is headed towards a higher level of fitness. Everybody pulls everybody else in that direction and self-doubts vanish.



Forming an Exercise Habit – Part 3

Forming an Exercise Habit – Part 3

Another key strategy to Ben’s successful transition from an obese sedentary person to a fit marathon runner (see the video on Forming an Exercise Habit – Part 2) is that he found people who already had the characteristics and skills he wanted to develop. Dr. Bandura described this crucial Step #2 like this:

Step 2 – Peer examples: People seek proficient models who possess the competencies to which they aspire. Through their behavior and expressed ways of thinking, competent models transmit knowledge and teach observers effective skills and strategies.


Ben started to show up at races, enjoying the camaraderie and ambience. Anybody who’s ever gone to a running race knows runners talk training, shoes, diet, fueling, bonking – they freely share and compare information before, during, and after races. With their enthusiasm and runner’s high, they just can’t help but talk about it.

Just like Ben, if you want to make exercise a habit you will find it useful to attend classes to meet and mimic experienced exercisers.  Not just trainers, but also the participants in the class demonstrate  how to exercise, as well as other useful stuff like how to keep hydrated or what to wear. Find one or two people who exemplify what you are trying to become. Just working out alongside of them and talking during breaks will provide the mentorship you need to succeed.

Choose models to imitate who similar to you in age and limitations, but a little more experienced and capable – have developed more strength, balance, agility, or endurance. Notice the words “a little.” You want to imitate someone like you, not a young, elite athlete. It’s when you attempt to turn back the physical clock too far that you risk injury or become frustrated with exercise and quit.

A major advantage of exercising at Cascade Boomer Fitness isn’t just the equipment and facility. It’s the people you workout with. They love to exercise and it shows. They’ve made it a habit. You will, too.

Forming an Exercise Habit – Part 2

Forming and Exercise Habit – Part 2

What does Ben Davis, a 25-year-old man who lost 120 pounds and ran a marathon have to do with me? If you have trouble exercising on a regular basis, although you’d like to, more than you know. The biggest obstacle standing between many of our clients’ goals – like losing fat, getting stronger and more flexible, or feeling more energetic -  is making exercise a habit.

Adopting new lifestyle habits can be challenging, but it’s not rocket science. Ben is a textbook recipe for how to make changes in your life, although he probably didn’t know it at the time.

You can gain even more insight into how Ben succeeded by reading this article from Runner’s World.

Dr. Albert Bandura, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, is of the world’s foremost experts on personal change. Bandura identified the keys to change and observed successful change usually follows a pattern dependent on developing what he called “self-efficacy,” which, in his words, is:

…people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave.

When it comes to people who find it difficult to form an exercise habit, their beliefs might fall into one of these categories:

Fatalism – “We’re going to die anyway” or “I’m too old”
Bad Genes - “My family isn’t very athletic”
Heroic Self-Sacrifice – “I’m too busy working” or “volunteering” or “taking care my aging father”
Embarrassment- “My high school PE teacher used to laugh at me in gym class” or “I look bad in shorts”
Fear – “I’ll re-injure my bad hip” or ”I might have a heart attack”

These beliefs, and others like them, self-sabotage our ability to change because they pre-determine what we believe we are capable of doing. Ben Davis, a frustrated yo-yo dieter, had his mix of these, but overcame them by intuitively following Bandura’s four-steps, which we’ll explore over the next few blogs.

According to Bandura, Step 1 is this simple:

Small steps of mastery: The most effective way of creating a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences. Successes build a robust belief in one’s personal efficacy.

Ben started his journey with what Bandura calls a “self-appraisal.” He and his brother went for a walk-run that lasted only eight minutes because Ben was in such poor physical condition. But more importantly, even though physically he felt bad, he had taken action, and that – just that – made him feel better. In fact, he felt right then, with his legs and lungs burning, he became a different person, although reaching his ultimate goal of significant fat loss was months away. That’s self-efficacy.

Slowly and steadily, Ben’s accomplishments (mastery experiences) mounted. First he ran a 5K, then a 10K, then a marathon. This methodic, step by step chain of accomplishments gave him the discipline and confidence not only to form an exercise habit and run further, but also the desire and will to change his eating habits.

So what’s the takeaway lesson? Learn your physical limits, then slowly train to exceed them. If you cannot do a full push up lifting your body from the floor, try standing upright and leaning to push off a wall. When wall push-ups are too easy, drop to the floor and do push-ups off your knees.  If you cannot jog twenty minutes, try five. When five becomes easy, try seven. If you are doing strengh exercises at home with a resistance band, if you cannot do the recommended two sets of ten repetitions, do one set and build up to ten, then add a set.

It’s not the number, its’s the doing that builds your self-efficacy and makes exercise a habit.