Most people want to be healthy and know incorporating a way to include physical exercise in life is essential.

However, many of us start out strong with good intentions which never translate into a sustained regular exercise program.

One key in making exercise a sustained habit is to get ready mentally before you start exercising. Actually, there are five stages that are necessary for any behavioral change to take place. By knowing these stages it’s easier to foresee obstacles, stay focused and develop motivational techniques

» Pre-contemplation stage: This is the stage of “do nothing.” In order to get to the next stage you will need motivation. Motivation can come from internal or external sources. Until there is an awareness of the possibility of change no change will occur.

» Contemplation stage: This is the stage of awareness. Some people may begin to notice they lose their breath more easily or their clothes no longer fit. Others may get advice from their health care provider or an expressed concern from a family member. This stage may include statements of “I should,” like “I should begin exercising” or “I should lose weight.” Setting specific goals and identifying change benefits you by motivating you to fulfill your goals.

» Preparation stage: Preparation is the planning stage, like “I could join a gym,” or “I could begin running, walking or biking on the river trail.” At this stage it is often best to rely on experts for guidance or motivation to keep your plans realistic and attainable. As you progress from this stage you may feel a sense of mental readiness to enact your physical goals.

» Action stage: Action is often the hardest stage for many people. Generally, regular physical activity that produces desired results needs to be at least 30 minutes of activity per day for five days each week. This activity can be broken up into different intervals depending on your circumstances. This stage is often when relapse back to a prior stage occurs. Staying motivated with friends, trainers and scheduled weigh-ins and measurements can help here.

» Maintenance stage: This is the stage of accomplishment. You might notice that your clothes fit differently, your resting heart rate is lower or that you can perform more quickly or for longer periods of time without resting.

Optimistic thinking also can have a direct impact on how you perform. Thinking positively can increase your feelings of well-being, readiness and resilience. Optimistic thinkers tend to perform better overall: in work, athletics and in their relationships. It is important to realize where you have control and focus your energy there. Equally important is knowing which situations are out of your control, accepting them and moving on.

Optimistic thinkers know the value of beginning today rather than waiting for tomorrow. Once you separate the things you can control or influence from those you need to accept, you can list the ways you can take action. Start with what you can do in the next 24-48 hours and then list the things you can act on later.

A routine of regular physical exercise benefits everyone. Just make sure you are mentally ready before you begin to avoid overdoing or relapses.

The McConaheys are relationship coaches who live and work in Pelham, North Carolina. They can be reached at or (336) 388-9964.

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