As a certified personal trainer, I am required to renew my certification every two years. In order to do that, I must do a certain number of hours of course work in continuing education on related topics in my field. In the past I have done work in weight training, nutrition, wellness coaching and some years, assorted topics based on different informative articles.
Everything is always useful in one way or another–but this time, I decided to take a specialty course which gives an additional certification. This entails more work and more time than the basic renewal requirements, but I felt that I wanted to do something that will ultimately help me help my clients succeed in attaining their goals in health and fitness.
So I chose a course in Behavioral Change Coaching.
For many years health professionals have been telling their patients and clients what to do in order to be healthy. But it just hasn’t helped.
We are still overweight and obese.
Type 2 diabetes is still increasing in our society.
Less people are dying of heart disease but the number of people getting heart disease hasn’t changed very much.
Most of us know what to do, or at least know that if we make a few changes, it will have a better outcome than not making them. Yet, with all of the knowledge imparted to the public about health, how many of us are making any meaningful changes? Not many at all.
When I originally studied to become a trainer many years ago, the training manual started with anatomy, exercise physiology kinesiology, and nutrition. Toward the end of the manual, there was some discussion about motivational techniques but not that much. Today, the very first chapter deals with how to motivate you clients and get them to comply. Information is nice and certainly valuable, but how do we get people to act on that information?
This course drew on different techniques used in Positive Psychology, Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Understanding Emotional Intelligence; including breaking down habits and behaviors to their smallest forms in order to be able to get the client to change bad habits into a good one in a way that the change becomes permanent, anchored and internalized.
Positive psychology emphasizes drawing on a person’s strengths in order to enact change. It is very easy to point out the negatives, but that usually results in more negative behaviors.
Finding an inner strength and using it to go forward and building on it can bring fantastic results.
The use of cognitive behavioral coaching is based on the fact that any action is followed by a thought. That thought results in an emotion or reaction or feeling. The saying goes, “What you think, is the link.”
In other words, whatever we end up choosing to do, is a result of what we think. So, if you want to lose weight, and someone offers you a large ice cream cone, you know that isn’t good for reaching your goal. But your thought can be distorted and you somehow can end up eating that ice cream even though you know you have a weigh-in the next morning. If you slow down your thinking and question your decision to take the ice cream before you actually take it and eat it, you will most likely not take it, and that would be a great change of behavior over what you have done in the past. I might rationalize not exercising today, but upon questioning that decision, I realize that it is very beneficial to do so and I will take my 40 minute walk and do my push-ups.
In this course, we learned how to create new positive habits by attaching them to an existing behavior. I have already used this technique successfully with several clients. For example, one of my clients who is trying to lose weight and avoid bariatric surgery, is losing weight and doing well, but he is having a hard time being consistent with his daily walks. I asked him to identify some things he absolutely must do every day. He said that, of course, he davens three times a day and two of those times, Shacharit and Maariv are almost always at the shul near his home. It is only about a four minute walk, but he told me he can walk the long way around and it would be an 11 minute walk. So now, instead of waking up every morning and wondering when and where he is going to walk, it is attached to his anchored behavior—davening. He walks the long way around back and forth to Shaachrit and the same for Maariv.
The great thing about good and properly used coaching is that the client himself usually comes up with the solution to whatever his problem may be. We coaches try to ask the right questions in order to prompt the client to think about a solution for their problem, but ultimately, it comes from them-what we call in motivational interviewing “evoking.”
This is very different than someone telling you what to do. That just doesn’t work.
Changing habits is tough stuff. It’s so difficult that Rav Yisrael Salanter is known to have said that learning the entire Shas is easier than changing one Middah (character trait).
But this is what is comes down to. There is no shortage of information on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We can see a trainer to learn how to exercise and a registered dietician can teach us how to eat. But then we have to actually do it, and make it part of our lives so that it isn’t just a passing fad.
That’s what diets are–passing fads.
We do them until we don’t and 97 percent of people will gain that weight back. But if we can slowly, one habit at a time, better our eating and exercise, we won’t go back to the old habits because this is now part of our life, and it’s our choice.
So that is why I chose this course. Without changing our behaviors, none of the information on good healthy living will stick. We will lose out on the great quality of life we could have as we get older and suffer the consequences of poor habits. My toolbox is now better equipped than ever to help those who are ready to make the transition to good habits. Gaining good habits in place of bad behaviors will “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out the his web site –www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.