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A question from a fitness professional 

I didn't write up a piece this week so I thought I would share a email conversation I had another fitness professional.

Here's his question: 


After reading your blog posts about motivation and change I thought you may be a good person to ask for advice on a particular issue - not for me, but my other half - and I'm not really sure the best way to be supportive and helpful to help him out.

He's a little larger than he should be (taller than me, broader than me, and carrying extra weight), and he knows this too - but is having trouble getting over the first hurdle of getting moving. 

I've offered him assistance personally, but wasn't interested... also suggested ideas to get him moving, but didn't bite at that either. It's a self esteem thing - he's feeling really low about himself and doesn't want people to see him working out - I suggested an RPM class perhaps as he has control of his bike, and (at least at the local gym) is in the dark, so do one would really see him, but again it's the first steps. That catch 22... feels so low that he can't get started, but it won't get any better without him getting started.

I'm trying to get him more active by suggesting things that I know he a) enjoys and b) can achieve... such as a walk. With daylight saving now with us, it's light til late, so we can go for a walk in the evening - and given we're in a new area, there's lots of new houses going up, and he loves looking at houses under construction. With summer coming, I also want to get us riding more - keeping him active, and having me there for support and company.

He recently went to see a hypnotherapist to quit smoking, but has been smoking a few a day still - he went a few days without, but now hides when he smokes - around the side of the house, "putting the bins out", things like that - like he's ashamed of what he's doing.

I understand that these are things that he needs to drive, but am struggling to think of what I can do to help motivate him and encourage him, without being a nag or getting pushy.

Diet-wise we do pretty good - after all, I live there too, so food is healthy - and I'm taking a more active effort now in managing portion sizes (so that if we're still hungry after a meal, there's fruit or nuts or something around, rather than overeating during the meal).

It's just the motivation and support for the weight loss and quitting smoking.

In all of your infinite wisdom and growth, and the people who you see, help and change every day, I was just wondering if you had any advice on what I could do to be supportive, encouraging and there for him, yet also keep him in the drivers seat without me getting annoying or in the way.

Here's my response: 


This is a really hard situation to address with your partner. I know you want to support him towards a healthier lifestyle but if not approached and communicated in the right way, it may have come across that you are unsatisfied with him. 

Sometimes those of us in the fitness industry forget how hard is it for those who don't exercise to get out there and do it. For us we 'just do it'. We understand the benefits and it is just a part of our life, so while it can be tough at times we generally find it pretty easy.

Here's my advice, you can take it or leave it. Your partner has probably felt like a failure with fitness for a long time. Every time he has started something it hasn't worked so in his mind, he's learnt that he's really bad at it. This is a huge barrier to overcome. For the next three to six months he needs to focus on just one thing: being successful with fitness. For now it's not about him getting through an Attack class in or running for thirty minutes, it's about him feeling like he can be successful. He needs to set targets that seem easy for him in his current state. For example, he can probably go out for a 15 min walk every night. I know that seems stupidly easy but it needs to be like that over the next period. By setting targets that he knows he can achieve right now there's a higher chance, especially with your support, that he will get out there and do it. Over time he will start to feel that he is being successful with fitness and he'll be learning the habits that it takes to incorporate this in his day to day life. 

I wouldn't recommend that you give any advice on what he should be doing during this early stage. It's all about him setting workouts that he knows he can do, your job is to support him with these. 

You'll find that after a period of time, this could be 3-6 months, he will start to feel that he can be successful with fitness and he will see the possibilities it provides. He will then want to add intensity and do different activities but this will only come when he feels he can be successful. 

So if I was in your shoes I would talk to him about this, be supportive in helping him and help him feel he can be successful in such a tough area. 

I hope that helps.  

Kia Kaha


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Reader Comments (3)

OMG that email reminds me of own situation in soo many ways. I feel like I have turned into the nag queen and don't know how to get out of it. Doesn't help that he has diabetes and I am really worried about his health.
I'm training up to 15hrs a week for Ironman, and I am worried that he feels intimated by that. I tried getting him to sign up for a 5K walk or something so he had a goal to work towards, but didn't go down well. I might try the above, get him to create his own goal for each week or something.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

Hi Bevan - that's a great response.
I was in a similar situation 5-6 years ago, type 2 diabetic, 100+ kgs.
I hated exercise - 1, because I was no good at any exercise and 2, because any exercise I did would generally leave me breathless.

My wife Maria then went to the womans expo and the people at LM ferrymead were there. she signed up for a free tour / gift pack and a week later we went to Ferrymead and she won a months free membership. LM decided to give me a months free too and we started out at the gym.

I was nervous and embarrassed because of my size and assumed the gym would be full of 'muscly fit people getting fitter and bigger muscles'.

I remember the first GF class we did - Heidi's Step class on a Saturday morning.... I thought I was going to die half way through the class - I couldn't keep up, but Heidi was great, she spoke to us before and after the class, gave us tips and told us not to be embarrased as 'everyone has to start somewhere'.... and if it wasn't for her we wouldn't have joined LM - as she said it is an investment for your health...

It took a few weeks and we tried some of the other classes, and 5+ years later we are hooked... I can not imagine my life without Les Mills GF classes.... I've lost over 10 kgs (still got a few more to go) my clothes fit better, I am more confident and I love to stand up the front in Body Combat and give it everything!.

All it takes is that first step to get in the gym, and people like Heidi to talk to you and offer advise,encouragement...etc... once you start seeing and feeling the results you will feel better about yourself like I did...

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Thank you for sharing the information with us. I am also confused on this question for a while so that i could find some helpful information from the post.

December 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermelbourne Pilates

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