Monday, October 11, 2010

Behavioral Management Skills – Developing Personal Self-Regulation

Motivation to maintain an exercise program is sometimes very easy, but also can be one of the more stressing parts of daily decision making. Motivation is a type of behavior that affects our mind and body. Behavior consists of muscular and electrical activity, learned and maintained through conditioning processes (Gill & Williams, 2008). Often, behaviors are shaped by desired outcomes, or goals in life. Goals play an important role in regulating our daily lives and behaviors, especially emotional and well-being aspects (Shah & Kruglanski, 2003). We set goals which in turn shape our behaviors. The problem with goals and behaviors, are that they can be ever changing, depending on commitments to other areas of life. If motivation is low, or more “important” commitments arise, we often fail to meet our goals. Exercise is a great example of something that is often first on a priority list, but then gradually falls down the list.

Exercise is a behavior that many people set out to partake in, but, often neglect after motivation falls. It is seen as a luxury, but also can drastically change the life of a person if health problems arise. A steady exercise program can decrease the chance of health problems and enhance the quality of life. Behavior is modified based on classical and operant conditioning processes. Classical conditioning involves learning by associating with existing response, where operant involves the acquisition of new skills followed by reinforcement (Gill & Williams, 2008). Positive and negative reinforcement can be used in order to change behavior. Standard research has shown there are certain ways of “lighting the fire” to motivate exercise. Reward by reinforcement is one of if not the greatest influencing factor to initiate or maintain exercise programs (Resnick, 2000). Often times, rewards come in monetary or material ways, but also can occur via verbal communication. Self-efficacy and outcome expectations play a large role with the adaptation and maintenance of exercise behavior (Resnick, 2000). In order to maintain an exercise regime, a behavior plan should be implemented that will keep the subject destined to adhere to program.

In order to develop a strong behavior plan for maintaining an exercise program, it is important develop a set of steps to follow. Clarify the problem, formulate goals, target behaviors, conditions for maintaining, treatment plans, how I will implement the plan and evaluation (Gill & Williams, 2008). The problem I have with my training program is motivation to train hard when solo on the bike. It is too easy to skip a training session if tired and no one is there to push you. Both short term and long term goals should be used to maintain motivation. Short term goals for training regardless of partners would be an increase in fitness and increased self-esteem. Being able to train hard by yourself will increase mental capacity for winning a race, as you won’t have to rely on others. Long term goals for training include: working hard to be in peak shape for the most important races of the season. “Do the work now, get the results later.”

Target behaviors will allow goals to be met, are clearly defined, and easily measured (Gill & Williams, 2008). Coming up with target behaviors for interval training on the bike can be difficult. During different training periods of the season, intensity will change. On steady-state days, I need to be able to ride two hours at a specific duration. Lactic threshold days need to have between 40 and 60 minutes at this intensity. Maximal oxygen capacity days need to be 15 minutes or so in duration. Early in the season, the physiological aspects of the body don’t necessarily allow for these durations to be successfully completed, so starting out with shorter time intervals is enough to start. The given durations need to be achieved after a couple months of training. Consistent training will allow these intensities to be achieved. Completing these workouts will increase my chances of developing as a cyclist and getting the results I need to be recognized by professional squads.

Using the ABC model of maintaining behavior conditions will help assess goals and success. Antecedents occur before performing a behavior. Behavior is the behavior itself, and consequences or events occur as a result of the behavior (Gill & Williams, 2008). I will be able to maintain target behaviors by using self-assessment and recording my behaviors. Self-monitoring and goal setting are successful in rewarding exercise behavior (Resnick, 2000). In order to monitor behaviors, I will write down emotions and cognitive strategies used to help commence exercise or keep exercise intensity up during the interval. It will be important to decipher which behaviors help best with motivation.

Target behaviors can be easy to state, but actually doing the task can be hard work for some. Using reinforcement helps motivate behavior. Reinforcement is a stimulus presented follows a response and increases likelihood of the response (Gill & Williams, 2008). Completing a hard workout on the bike, and accomplishing all interval durations and intensities can be rewarded with an additional desert at dinner for instance. Social reinforcement may occur at races, when spectators or other racers see an increase in fitness and ability. Mental reinforcement may be the most beneficial, as I will believe in myself more and more after completing hard workouts, and will increase the likelihood of completing further intervals down the road. Rewarding one’s actions using reinforcement helps to establish effective behavior management. Finally, when the goals are established, a plan designed, and implemented, it is time to evaluate the effectiveness.

It was very interesting designing a program to track cognitive approaches to my own personal workout plan over the course of a week. It really did help to set small goals for what I wanted to achieve. Even though the weather was absolutely amazing, there were a couple days where I just wanted to hang out and relax. The goals I set for myself kept me on my bike, and motivated! Starting with a “bottom up” approach to goal setting offers better insight as to what is needed for long term goal satisfaction (Shah & Kruglanski, 2003). Reinforcement is also a large factor in accomplishing desired tasks. Working hard on the bike for two hours resulted in a caloric burn of 1500kcals, and so I was able to go and have The OP pizza without feeling bad about myself! Over the course of this winter, when the weather is worse, and the daylight shorter, I know just how I will motivate myself to train. I would highly recommend a behavior plan for anyone wishing to achieve both short and long term goals and achieve better mental and physical health.

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Resnick, B. (2000). A seven step approach to starting an exercise program for older adults. Patient Education and Counseling, 39, 243-252.

Shay, J. Y., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2003). When opportunity knocks: Bottom up priming of goals by means and its effects on self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(6), 1109-1122.

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