It’s one thing to embrace fitness as a lifestyle for one’s self, but as many enthusiasts will know, encouraging those around us to follow suit and board the flight to fit can be an arduous task.
Yet it doesn’t require any Jedi mind tricks or ploys to bring those we love into the same way of life. Rather, a bit of honesty and constant motivational tactics can be some of the best methods put into practice.
The desire to see family and friends enjoy a more active lifestyle is particularly strong at this time of year, approaching the holiday season with everyone’s mind fixed on what the new year will bring and how we intend to improve ourselves, just like last year—and the year before that.
Being responsible for our own health can be difficult enough without having to feel accountable for anyone else, and there will be roadblocks along the way that can impede the path to a fitter you. Full disclosure, pushing someone close to us into change is liable to result in more than a few bumps along the way, including heated gym debates and early wake-up calls, but it’s all for the greater good.
Not everyone will respond identically to the same treatment, however, which is why we’ve dissected some methods that will work on the average person, as well as some that might only take effect on a tougher mind.
Safe Options: Be On the Same Team
This one’s a no-brainer. If you happen to be the early bird in your relationship, or that one family member with a gym membership, remember your goal is to join those around you on their own journey—not rub yours in their face.
If cardio is your thing, why not survive the apocalypse together and escape the undead legions with Zombies, Run!, or for those more experienced enthusiasts, the Nike+ Training Club is a great way to stay on track as a pair (or more), while finding more specific ideas on how to work out.
The most critical factor here is not making your loved one feel self-conscious about their current lifestyle choices, instead, help them realize the benefits of a healthier alternative and that this is something they truly want.
It also helps to have that special someone guiding you through the haze—after all, remember how hard it was to find decent, reliable information when you first took an interest in fitness? Now, you can be the guiding light who helps provide information on diet, exercise routines and the best supplements to take pre, post and intra-workout.
The 2009 Shape Up Rhode Island campaign found that those who lost at least five percent of their initial body weight during a weight-loss program were more likely to be on the same team. Tricia Leahey, PhD is an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I. commenting on the influence of teamwork and its impact on fitness, she said:
It could be quite beneficial if a bunch of friends that choose to lose weight make healthy food choices together, and hold each other accountable to those choices.
Make Exercise Fun
One particular roadblock stopping certain people from boarding the gain train is a fear—or at the very least, a distinct dislike—of the gym. Any gym. And it’s completely understandable.
This is where trial and error has to come in on your part, and it can be exhausting at times. Weights and cardio machines aren’t the be-all-end-all of fitness, meaning it’s okay to start small with a weekly pick-up basketball game or daily sessions on Nintendo Wii Fit if that’s what it takes to get the ball rolling.
Admittedly, the gym can be monotonous, and someone’s distaste for those same walls could simply come down to a thirst for a more varied approach, and finding that mix can be a big task. Luckily, sites like SpotMeBro are on hand to provide a reliable and friendly source of new inspirations for workouts and diet tips.
Finding new and innovative ways to spice up your routine isn’t always easy, however, which is why we are here to provide you with fresh methods to progress, including saunas and hiking—fitness doesn’t have to be a chore!
Steve Stonehouse is a personal training manager at Crunch gym in New York, and he told Men’s Fitness that variety is a major factor in keeping exercise interesting, meaning you need to be proactive in ensuring workouts with your friend or loved one don’t become stale:
You can take turns leading new exercises and switching up the routine. Your body adapts and becomes efficient at moves that you’ve done again and again. The more you change up your workout, the better your body is going to respond.
We’ve touched upon what it means to be part of the same team, but what about going head-to-head for mutual gain?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition—as long as we ensure it remains just that; healthy—and it’s even been found that having that certain someone to test one’s self against can have dramatic effects on our longevity when it comes to sticking with a fitness plan.
Discovering that competitive edge can often be all that’s needed to reach for new heights. Many out-of-shape people are lacking any sense of physical contest in their lives, and having someone to provide that, whether it be a friend, family member or otherwise, can be the shove that gears someone to keep stepping out the door each evening or morning—all in the name of gains.
Fitness Apps are a great way to find that much-needed rivalry from afar, as well as encouraging new relationship, where you can even stumble upon a new community of exercise buddies! FitBits are another great way of discovering these new connections that also add to the competition aspect.
According to Stonehouse, we’re more likely to work out longer AND harder if we’re competing with someone we know (or for those particularly feisty figures out there, even someone we don’t):
Whenever you’re working out with someone else, the intensity is always going to be greater than when you’re alone. If you’re on the same level, you can push each other.
Make Fitness “Us” Time
This one’s more for couples concerned about their health, but workout time can be transformed into something a little more special if it means accounting for some “you” time every week. And by “you,” we mean “you” as a couple.
In this instance, you have to train together irrespective of what it is you’re participating in, whether it be saddled up alongside one another as part of a spin class, spotting your partner during a weightlifting routine or being a simple shoulder to cry on after their ‘Workout of the Day.’
This segment may be geared more toward encouraging the ladies out there to join their more active boyfriends at the gym, but as any regular SpotMeGirl readers will know, women can be just as badass as any of their male counterparts in the House of Iron.
The biggest advantage of having that special someone to bring with you to the gym is collaboration in exercises, workouts that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to perform, such as partner pull-ups, sword fights—we’re talking fingers here, nothing else—and partner leg throws.
The Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University, found married couples who attended the gym together had a dropout rate of just 6.3 percent in the first year after joining said gym.
That figure may not sound all that impressive were it not for the results that showed those couples who trained separately had a dropout rate of 43 percent, meaning you’re more than six times as likely to give up the gym if you don’t stick together.
Riskier Routes: Negative Reinforcement
It’s worth noting only a certain kind of person will have skin thick enough—figuratively, not literally—to benefit from the method we refer to as “negative reinforcement.”
Individuals more likely to benefit from these kind of directions may have had a history in sport as a youth, where they will have dealt with coaches or team-mates at a younger age and thus are more resistant to comments other people might consider little more than criticism.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1938) was a psychologist who discovered the benefits of negative reinforcement by subjecting rats to an electric shock after being placed in a box, which would only be stopped when they pushed a lever.
After practice, the rats learned to trigger the lever more quickly, thus stopping the unpleasant electric current, a principle that translates to the pointing out of negative features about one’s body or mindset, perhaps.
Allistair McCaw is a sports performance specialist with more than 20,000 Facebook followers, who posted in 2015 about a children’s need for “tough love” in youth sports, as these can be the foundations upon which a firm exterior and a desire to succeed are built.
We’re not aiming to berate our family or friends here, but many will respond positively to being reminded of the fact they are overweight, unfit, unhealthy, or a combination of the three.
Restriction and Reward
Many of us will have seen or heard someone snacking on a particular food or drink before remarking: “You’ll need to take these/this away from.” Restriction is the practical method of removing someone’s access to those foods enabling their habits and preventing their progress.
While strict, this method also employs reward schemes in which said person is reimbursed at an appropriate time—in the case of fitness, we’re most likely talking about a cheat day.
This route will only work with someone you tend to spend most of your day at home around e.g. a girlfriend/boyfriend or family member, and a rocksteady relationship with said person wouldn’t hurt.
Most people will only eat certain foods if they’re readily available; meaning if the groceries are bought for them or they can’t gain entry to the pantry, their scope for verging off diet is limited.
One issue here is adults have cars and disposable income, meaning if they want something badly enough, they’ll most likely get it.
Another chief concern is creating an even more unstable relationship with those kinds of foods if the subject isn’t the kind to respond well to such treatment. A 1999 study but the American Society for Clinical Nutrition discovered the following:
Restricting access focuses children’s attention on restricted foods, while increasing their desire to obtain and consume those foods. Restricting children’s access to palatable foods is not an effective means of promoting moderate intake of palatable foods and may encourage the intake of foods that should be limited in the diet.
Keeping track of one’s macronutrient requirements is an essential aspect in this pursuit, which is where free apps like My Fitness Pal come into play. After all, we’re aiming to hit our numbers here and not starve ourselves of nutrients altogether.
The hope is that should an adult seeking change be open to such a severe treatment, restriction and reward could be the kind of militant program they’re crying out for, and thus the only way they’re likely to achieve the goals they’re aiming for.
DISCLAIMER: In no way is it recommended to restrict or enforce the diet or training regimen of another person without consent, be it a child or adult.
Don’t Lead By Example
In its simplest form, leading by example may sound like the safest rule one could live by to get a spouse or family member working out, but what about the opposite? We’ve discussed what can happen when we stick together as a team, but we can also urge those around us to get fitter by refusing to be the leader in the collective and insisting our significant other takes on that role instead.
Refusing to exercise is a negative state of mind in most cases, and a 2016 research paper in Human Movement Science found a negative mood is related to tense movements in fitness, while a positive mood is linked to more impulsive movements—probably the more desirable of the two.
What we mean by this, rather simply, is “If you don’t exercise correctly, neither will I. If this is a sinking ship, I’ll go down with you.”
Adonis Hill is a personal trainer who intentionally adopted an 8,000-calorie-per-day diet to put on 70lbs, just so that his client could see it was doable to shed the weight, and shed the weight client Alissa Kane did.
It can’t be stressed enough this approach is not for the unmotivated, as instead of having just one person falling victim to bad habits, you leave yourself at risk of falling into the sinkhole yourself and joining the overweight ranks. It’s targeted at uniting the separate parties and almost forces that person who might otherwise not show leadership qualities to adopt the necessary lifestyle.
Take some initiative with your own health and download a sleep tracker like Sleepbot to try and improve you rest time, and if you need expert help with your diet, HAPIcoach is an app that lets you speak to qualified nutritionists who will cast their eye over your regimen and let you know where you’re going wrong!
Fingers crossed, your health and fitness is valuable enough that it won’t take long for the person(s) involved to rescue you, resulting in a tighter bond and higher morale than before.