Some New Recruits

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Some New Recruits

Written by Richard Ferguson, Ph.D. on 27 May 2015.

            Humans are built to be active, but technology and over-scheduled days, among other things, have resulted in sedentary lifestyles for many Americans.    Today more Americans are obese than at any point in history with some estimates saying over 30% of Americans suffer from obesity. Heart disease and obesity related Type II diabetes continue to be major health problems in the United States, even though we have more knowledge than ever before concerning the effects of exercise and diet on these conditions.  Schools are cutting Physical Education programs at an alarming rate, while at the same time our children are more obese and more sedentary than ever. It appears the United States is becoming more and more inactive as each year passes. It’s as if everything is in atrophy except our texting, videogame, remote control fingers!

            Inactivity in America is a complex issue and it would take literally volumes of work to begin to even scratch the surface concerning its causes and ramifications on the population. However, I would like to suggest a way that each and every one of us can do something about the problem. If you read Running Journal, then you’re probably a runner and value exercise and health. So what I’m asking you to consider is your ability to have a positive impact on the health of Americans. Try to get someone else involved in running to help improve his or her health and fitness. Go out and get a few new running recruits for our great sport.

            It’s easier said than done when trying to get someone to stick with an exercise program, running or any other form of exercise. Most people don’t just one day say, “I’m going to start running”, and then go out and run and then stick with it. More and more research would say that people progress through stages and as they begin and maintain an exercise program. This is what psychologists James and Janice Prochaska at the University of Rhode Island have called the Transtheoretical Model of Change. It would also appear that if you want to get someone involved in running you need to know what stage of change they’re in psychologically to match your motivational methods to the person.


Allow me to explain further. The first stage of change is called the Precontemplation stage. Being running specific, someone in this stage is not running and is not even thinking about running. So what can you do at this point to get another person into running? If someone is in the pre-contemplation stage you will probably need to educate them on the benefits of running and to also dispel any running “myths”, like running will ruin your knees. There is nothing like a little education on how running raises self-esteem, lowers cholesterol and body fat, reduces the risks of many health problems etc., to get someone just to think about running  a little more. Also try and explain to the prospective runner that running really isn’t pain and torture and if done properly, can actually be an experience which is truly enjoyable. Now how could running be so bad if so many of us are running? Keep trying if you can’t seem to get through. Change takes time!

     The next stage is Contemplation where the individual may be thinking about starting a running program. They may be thinking that it really might be good to start an exercise program like running. This is where your encouragement and positive reinforcement can be very important. Keep encouraging the prospective runner to give running a try and also keep stressing the benefits. Always remind them not to do too much too soon.  Again, keep up the encouragement because change does take time!

            The third stage is known as Preparation. At this point the prospective runner has made the decision to give running a try and is preparing to start a running program. How can you help? Speed their preparation by taking them to buy a good pair of running shoes and some running clothing. You may even want to get them a subscription to Running Journal! Take the neophyte runner on a long walk or maybe a short run around the block. Try not to make the exercise stressful, either physically or mentally. Continue to encourage them to run, but don’t try and push them to run everyday or make them feel guilty if they don’t run.   The key is to get the new runner to ease into running very gradually so there won’t be undue soreness and fatigue that will sap motivation. Caution: just because you get someone to start running doesn’t mean they’ll stick with it.

            The fourth stage of change is known as the Action stage. This stage is from the beginning of a new activity up to around six months. It’s during the action stage when you may be the key to getting someone to stick with his or her running. Try to give the new runner lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement. Maybe have some incentives for them to look forward to, like a new pair of shoes, a trip to a running event or even some type of extrinsic reward, like a certificate etc. Goal setting also works well when someone is in the action stage. By setting specific goals, both short and long term, the new runner can measure their progress and see improvement. The goal-setting program can also help prevent overdoing it in the early stages. By sticking to the goal program the new runner won’t overtrain, which can lead to undue fatigue, soreness, loss of motivation and possible running dropout. The Action stage is a very critical time period because the Transtheoretical Model also says people can move backward through the stages.  So if a new runner doesn’t adhere to running in the Action stage they may move all the way back to the Contemplation stage and then running really is nothing more than a thought.

            The fifth and final stage of the Transtheoretical Model is the Maintenance stage. When in this stage the new runner has been running on a regular basis for more than 6 months. It’s been demonstrated that if someone sticks to an activity for 6 months, they will tend to stay with it long term. Hopefully, by this time running has become very intrinsically motivating for the new runner. Still you need to continue to offer encouragement and provide valuable advice as an experienced runner. The new runner will have lots of questions as they progress in their running. The new runner may even like running so much that they will try to get others involved in running also!

            So in the future do what you can to get others involved in running. Always remember that making a decision to run is usually not a spur of the moment thing and humans may actually progress through stages as they make behavioral changes. Try to find out what stage the potential runner is in psychologically and you will better be able to help them become a runner with no “new” or “potential” attached as a prefix!

Richard Ferguson is Chair of the Physical Education, Wellness, and Sport Science Department at Averett University and is an AASP Certified Sport Psychology Consultant. He may be reached via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   and twitter at [email protected]

Read more of Dr. Ferguson articles on -

Are You a RUNNER? -

A Different View -

The Components of Peak Performance -

Running and Sleep -

Don’t Panic! -

The Mental Maximization of Training -

With the Help of a Friend -

Beating the Winter Blues-

Go For It -

Beating Burnout -

A New Outlook -

Expect the Unexpected -

Pain or Discomfort ? -

Keep Your Eye on the Prize -

 Running Free -

Running and Role Models -

- See more at:

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