Stages of Change

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Have you ever hear the stages of change theory?  That there are several ‘stages’ of change?  That you kind of almost progress though these stages on your way to making a lifestyle change?  We talk about this theory a fair amount in my Kin program – it is almost always used for our purposes in the context of making lifestyles changes to include more healthy behaviors.

There is this starting stage that is called precontemplation that I really like to call denial.  Basically you don’t ‘the issue’ as an issue and have no interest in making change.  Often we talk about this in terms of diet and exercise.  ‘Other people tell me I should be exercising because it’s good for me but I just don’t think it is important.’

Next we have contemplation – basically seeing the light.  ‘Maybe I should try this exercise thing out.’  Having recently been in the midst of these early stage for far too long I can tell you that this is where I tried to figure out if it was really worth it, how would I fit it in, how much or how little could I get away with.

Next is a commitment to action.  Just like it sounds except mine came in the form of degree requirements.  I needed a heart rate monitor for a class and I decided to get basically a Mercedes of GPSs.  Extravagance with extra bells and whistles but is sure isn’t a Porsche.  It also reminded me that most of the classes I have remaining are physical activity courses with very active people – it was in fact time to lace up those running shoes.  Groupon added the final push by having a Groupon for a chocolate 5k run.  By signing up, and pairing something I love (chocolate) with something I am not so in love with (running), I made a commitment and made it a little less daunting – I mean I get chocolate at the end :).

Next is action – which I have finally made it to this weekend.  After writing about lacing my running shoes back up, I went from commitment right back to contemplation … maybe running just isn’t for me.  Yesterday for the first time in probably close to (maybe even more than) a year I went for a run 100% on my own.  It turned into more of a run/walk but hey you have to start somewhere.  I met my family at a cafe about a mile and a half from our house for breakfast.

I remembered all of the things I HATE about running.  Those little aches and pains, the heavy breathing, the tightness that can set into your muscles after sitting.  But I remembered the things I like about being a runner – pushing the limits, fighting the mental battle that is reaching a new distance or a new time, the calm and clarity that comes when you stop, and the accomplishment you feel at the end of your course.  This morning with sore and tired legs, I took my daughter with me in her jogging stroller to run up to the gas station half a mile from our home.  We spent a little time together and picked up our regular doughnuts and coffee before turning around and running back.  That mile was a lot more work (not only was I pushing extra weight but the stroller had a slightly flat tire) but already somehow seemed easier and more enjoyable.

The theory goes on to include the maintenance stage and in some models the termination stage.  When we talk about these things it is always presented in a linear progression.  This and then this and then this, with the goal of reaching maintenance or termination depending on what you are following but they all agree in the end that this isn’t linear.  You can jump from one to the other, you can skip steps and you can bounce back and forth between them.

I think I will keep living in the ‘action’ stage – maintenance is misleading and may cause me to ‘loosen up’ but choosing to take action is always in my control and relies a little more heavily on me.

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