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Cognitive Restructuring

All individuals maintain an ongoing internal dialogue with themselves. Regarding exercise, this self-talk may emphasize positives such as, “I’m looking forward to meeting Bill and Joe today and having a great workoutbefore we all go out to dinner.” Given the challenges that exercise maintenance presents for most, however, self-talk more often gravitates toward statements that challenge persistence such as, “I can’t believe that I’m supposed to work out today, I’mso tired and rushed. Maybe I’ll miss today and try to do more next week – on a daythat’s less busy.”

Enough internal talk such as this and a member will convincehim/herself to miss scheduled sessions at your facility. Even worse, the cycle may continue until permanent dropout soon occurs.

To counter negative self-talk, exercise psychology has borrowed from counseling psychology to suggest the use of a technique called cognitive restructuring. Research has been minimal, but positive, regarding this method in which an exerciser is taught how torecognize, revise, and “restructure” negative self-statements (Atkins, Kaplan, Timms, Reinsch, & Lofbach, 1984). Three main elements are typical

in effective cognitive restructuring. First, a client is trained in how to notice negative self-talk as it occurs. Second, the individual is trained to put a rapid end to the potentially damaging rumination. Usually, the word “stop” is yelled out internally at the first notice of the negative statement. Finally, the negative is “reframed” and given a more positive, but still realistic, tone. Usually, statements along the following lines work well: “Exercise is one of the best things I can do for myself today” or Once I get going, I know that I will feel energized.” (Annesi, 1999d).

Obviously, this training method seeks to counter self-induced punishers, and replace them with self-reinforcement, whenever needed.

You are what you think you are!

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