As our industry evolves, we are learning that knowledge in the sophisticated arena of the mind-body connection is critical if we want to engage more people in physical activity and bring about long term compliance. As fitness professionals, we certainly have our work cut out for us. Today's media and fast-paced culture support an ever-growing disconnect between our minds and our bodies. What's more, the increasing trend toward fast-paced lifestyles, over scheduling and information overload further encourage excessive delegation of responsibility--not only for personal well-being but for everyday life as well.
Is our own industry responsible on some level? According to an IDEA survey on job satisfaction among personal fitness trainers, one of the most common complaints is clients' lack of responsibility for training and their low Levels of commitment (Gavin 1998). This is a frustrating problem, but could we unknowingly be facilitating this lack of commitment? Could our industry's current paradigm for fitness instruction actually encourage the mind-body disconnect?
Before clients come to us, they have already been significantly affected by societal and cultural influences. But we can't deny that we, too, may be culturally influenced to believe that if our clients are to succeed at exercise, we must be there to micromanage them, ensuring that they do it right, do it safely and do it at all.
What some trainers may not know is that our constant physical presence could be compromising clients' mind-body intelligence and negatively affecting their abilities to comply with their exercise programs. Our clients may have learned trainer-efficacy, not self-efficacy.
Shifting From Trainer-Efficacy to Self-Efficacy
Trainer-efficacy vs. self-efficacy describes an efficacy continuum and is related to locus of control. An emphasis on self-efficacy encourages the development of an internal locus of control by facilitating and reinforcing self-management and personal responsibility. Perceived self-efficacy can influence whether a client attempts an exercise program, whether he perseveres when dealing with obstacles, and how well he succeeds (Godin 1994).
Trainer-efficacy emphasizes an external locus of control and fosters varying levels of client dependency on the trainer. Trainer-efficacy is manifested when the physical presence of an instructor is the primary and perpetual source of motivation to begin and end exercise; to know if exercise is executed safely and effectively; and to know which exercises to execute and in which order.
It makes sense that our clients have an initial increase in compliance with an emphasis on trainer-efficacy at the beginning of the client-trainer relationship. However, a continued emphasis on trainer-efficacy does little to support the mind-body intelligence. Rather, it reinforces the mind-body disconnect that our clients are preconditioned to accept. Most clients become so dependent on the trainer's physical presence for motivation and feelings of competence that they eventually do not exercise at all--or do not exercise frequently enough--on the 4-5 nontrainer days each week. The decline is then exacerbated: Clients lose their commitment because of lack of results; cancellations, illnesses and personal crises mysteriously become increasingly familiar; and trainers get frustrated, bored and burned out.
Compliance Programming (CP)...