How to Trick Yourself into Greater Fitness

How to Trick Yourself into Greater Fitness
Written by: Coach Slater

I’m a terrible person. I hate reading books. Terrible, right? I used to read a ton of books. My place is littered with them. But, technology has taken over much of my life, so my reading has shifted to the iPhone. Nightly, you can catch me reading stories on the Apple News or Digg app, or re-reading our own articles on the DCCF WOD Page.

I’m here to tell you that Nudge is a fantastic book that you should pick up (for your eReader probably because honestly who buys books anymore?). The book looks at psychology and behavioral economics to understand the engineering of people’s choices and decision-making.

Let’s say you’ve made a commitment to exercise. You’ve made a goal of attending 5x/week because we’ve frequently stressed how important *consistency* is for reaching your fitness goals. But, you find yourself working late or being tired after driving home from work, so you only attend 2x or 3x/week.

Here’s a Nudge trick that you can use.

Specific Goal

Don’t make a generic goal, like saying that you want to get fitter. Instead, make a specific goal that you can measure. We recommend committing to “attending class 1x more days each week than I have been”. This is super easy to measure and we, Derby City, can vouch for the improvement that you’ll see from greater consistency in your attendance.

Public Commitment

Next, make a “public commitment” that will up the stakes for yourself. Post a big sign at your desk, office, break room, or anywhere you work that your colleagues can see and says “I will workout 5x/week!” Don’t just state this in your head. Make it public. A public commitment increases the stakes for failing by risking public ridicule. You don’t want your co-workers to see you fail, right? And you certainly don’t want them making fun of you. Not Danny. That dude is out of shape anyway. I’m not letting that dude talk shit to me.

Commitment Referee

Next, get a “commitment referee”, someone willing to keep you on task. But, don’t pick your significant other. When you don’t want to follow-thru, they’re notorious for letting you off the hook. Instead, pick someone at the gym, or someone at work who can help that risk of public ridicule. This person now helps keep you accountable.

Temptation Bundling / Punishment Bundling

Now, you could use a small reward for yourself that’s paired with your attendance. This is known as “temptation bundling”. There’s a positive reward attached to a behavior that’s hard to commit to. Like, maybe tell yourself you can have one of those delicious FitAid drinks from the fridge whenever you attend a class. But, research suggests that attaching a punishment is more effective. Rewards can backfire, but punishments seem to stick better. For example, if you don’t follow-thru on your commitment to attend 5x/week for an entire month, you’re forced to wear a rival school’s uniform to an upcoming game. Can you picture EA Duncan being forced to wear a UofL jersey at a UK game because she didn’t attend enough classes?!? Oh my god, THAT is a punishment bundle.

So, those four steps are all you need. Makes behavior change seem easy, doesn’t it? It can be. These small tricks can create lasting behavior change. You just need to be resilient and use deliberate effort to get the ball rolling. Then, we can celebrate your success next month.

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