Implementing training at home – the mind is (un)willing…

10. June 2021

Closed climbing gyms. Closed yoga studios. Closed gyms. No mountain tours. No sports meetings. Welcome to spring 2020.

On all channels we are provided with home workouts, online fitness classes and yoga sessions. The idea of simply continuing to do your sport (in an adapted way) within your own four walls is of course great at first.

But you might well be aware that this is not that easy to implement. It’s different whether I roll out my yoga mat a metre from my bed or in a yoga studio surrounded by familiar faces who share my passion. I can shimmy along climbing holds in the hallway, but even that is somehow different from being in the gym or on the rock with friends. In other words, it is not about continuing with what you are used to, but about starting something new (for a certain period of time).

If, after the introduction, you are now thinking of the notorious but rarely implemented New Year’s resolutions, you are not so wrong. Because here, too, we are faced with the same problem: How do I implement something new and manage to integrate it so that it forms a regular part of my everyday life? To achieve this, we reach into the psychologist’s box and use behavioural therapy techniques.

What am I going to do?

First of all, let’s take a look at our own values. Behaviour that is aligned with one’s own values is easier to implement. What do you want to train for at home? What should the training mainly be about? And what is important to you? What actually is my goal? The next step is to think about what your goal is. Is it about mastering a certain move at the end? Are you concerned about your general fitness? Do you want to work on a specific muscle group or achieve an endurance goal?

What actually is my goal?

Maybe you have an ultra-marathon in the Alps, a difficult climbing route or the forearm stand in mind, but in reality your current training condition is still far away from that. That’s not bad, dreams motivate us. However, there is nothing to gain from planning big and then failing. It’s easy to slip into an all-or-nothing attitude: if I don’t manage to do a two-hour workout right away in front of the laptop, then I don’t do anything. As with every mountain climb, the same applies to training at home: we plan “rest breaks” and set ourselves intermediate goals. We start small and increase.

When setting goals, we use the SMART rule, which comes from the business world.

  • Accordingly, a target must be specific, i.e. be formulated as concretely as possible.
  • It must be measurable. So you have to have something to prove that the goal has been reached. If I have as a goal to be fit, I can’t really objectively determine whether I have achieved that. But if I define being fit in such a way that I can do 20 push-ups, then I can say exactly whether I have done that or not.
  • A goal should also be attractive. So it should be something you actually want.If you don’t want to run a marathon, don’t set that as a goal.
  • A goal should also be realistic. Can you actually achieve the goal in the real world? If it’s outside your given conditions, consider setting a smaller peak as your goal.
  • A goal should also be scheduled. So you need a fixed time by when you want to reach the goal.

The SMART rule applies to your big goal and also to all the intermediate goals you set yourself along the way.

Planning

Before you start full of energy, you should think about a concrete plan: What tools, mats, holds, weights, etc. do you need? What preparations should you make?When I do yoga, I have to vacuum the floor beforehand, otherwise I just focus on the dirt to the right and left of my mat the whole time.

If you’re going to hang around at home, at least do it properly!

When do you have time for your workout? When are you undisturbed? What difficulties or obstacles might arise? Think in advance about possible stumbling blocks and how you can overcome them. Example: After a long day at the home office, you are hungry. But sport with a full belly is not your thing at all and after dinner you don’t get up any more anyway. So one solution would be to snack on something healthy during the afternoon coffee break to prevent cravings at the end of the day.

Or do you need support from others? This also works in times of Corona! Coordinate with friends so that you all train at the same time and exchange information on the phone afterwards. You can also tell your friends when you want to do which sport. This increases social commitment. So you feel socially obliged to go through with the training – you announced it.

Make as concrete a weekly plan as possible, on which day and at what time you would like to do which training session. In the activities you did before in the social space, you also had fixed training times.

Implementation

Follow the plan you made and not your mood! We are all masters at making excuses as to why we cannot implement the training session at the planned time. After a long day in the home office with never-ending video meetings, relaxing and resting on the sofa seems very tempting. When doing this, be guided by your goals and values that you thought about earlier. You do it because you set out to do it and because it’s important to you.

It is very helpful if you build up routines, i.e. integrate the training sessions into your daily routine. You get up and you know it’s Thursday, so it’s core training. When you brush your teeth, you don’t think about whether you really want to do it every morning.

Reward

Even though we think we are very complex beings, and we certainly are, our behaviour is predominantly controlled by reward and punishment. If a behaviour is followed by a positive reward, it increases the likelihood that you will do the behaviour again. (By the way, it also works great if you want to influence your partner’s behaviour, but that’s another topic).

So you need to create a positive reward for behaviour that you want to do regularly. Sport often has a natural reward: we feel stronger after a training session, have a positive body feeling and our mood is improved. But there are also units that don’t have any direct positive consequences in the short term because they simply don’t go the way you want them to, you are dissatisfied or simply have a physically bad day and struggle. Then it is important that you set yourself another reward. Afterwards, treat yourself to a delicious tea, as far as I’m concerned a beer, something good to eat or a warm shower.

Through training, you experience self-efficacy, that is, the experience of doing something you set out to do. That alone can also work as a reward.

Failures

Now we don’t live in an ideal world and there will be days when you don’t do your training the way you planned it. If this should ever be the case, the following will help:

We certainly don’t make it onto the mat every day. Failures are part of the game!

Do a little situation analysis. This includes looking at the triggering situation (i.e. when you would have wanted to do sport), your reaction on a mental and emotional level (your excuses), your concrete behaviour (i.e. not doing sport), the short-term consequences of your behaviour and the long-term consequences.

Here you will most likely discover that the short-term consequences were positive. You could relax, continue watching your favourite show on Netflix or indulge in gluttony. In the long-term consequences, you may find that dissatisfaction sets in because you did not stick to your training plan and did not get closer to your goal.

Think about what your goal is and what solutions you can come up with so that you don’t fall into the same trap next time. Reward yourself from time to time for sticking to your plan: if you have completed your training plan on four days in a row and fail on the fifth, be happy about the four successful days and focus on them. Have you perhaps already developed a strategy for exercising at home? Or do you have no problems with motivation? Feel free to let us know and leave a comment!

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