Monday, October 18, 2010

Chapter 9: What Motivates You?

Ben and Jack have begun working out together; both have progressed well and have good commitment. But over time Jack has become unhappy with his workout regime and working out in general. He believes that he has hit a wall and is unable to progress any further. Rudy, their personal trainer has asked for my advice on changing Jack’s negative feelings towards working out and his inability to improve, and what I believe is behind his behavioral and motivational change.
My Advice:
As an outsider to the situation I believe that it’s obvious that Jack is bored with the same routine day after day. He has inquired about changing to group aerobic workouts, but to no avail. The first thing I would do would be to change Ben’s mind about aerobic workouts and enroll them both into a group workout class. This would provide Jack with a much needed change in workout regime. Group settings are also very good places to receive positive feedback from your peers. According to Vallerad and Reid; people’s intrinsic motivation increases with positive feedback and decreases with negative feedback. (Vallerand & Reid, 1984). Lack of positive feedback could be one of the main reasons behind Jack’s low motivation levels and his behavioral and attitudinal change. By joining the group aerobic class, he will be surrounded by positive people and positive feedback, thus improving his intrinsic motivation to continue working out and strive to improve.
Another technique that I would advise Rudy to employ would be attributional training. A study by Orbach, Singer and Price has been proven that people/athletes respond better to using adaptive attributions for turning around poor performance than using maladaptive techniques. (Orbach, Singer & Price, 1999) As Jack’s personal trainer, Rudy should tell Jack that his mental block and struggles with working out are controllable and unstable. What this basically means is that Jack does in fact have the ability to improve his overall performance. This idea is backed up by the results from their study as well. The results showed that those who learned to use more adaptive attributions had higher expectations for success and experienced more positive emotions than those who made more maladaptive attributions. (Orbach, Singer & Price, 1999)
The third aspect we must look at is self-determination. The self-determination theory looks at people’s need for relatedness, or social connectedness or belonging. (Deci & Ryan, 1985) This could also be what Jack is missing when he only works out with Ben and Rudy. In addition, perceptions (perceived competence, autonomy and relatedness), mediates the relationship between the social context and motivation. (Deci & Ryan, 1985) This again has to do with intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. By using group exercise classes we can improve Jack’s intrinsic motivation by utilizing the positive affect of a group atmosphere and extrinsic motivation.
In conclusion I believe there is a lot of things we can use to improve Jack’s motivation but I found that using positive feedback, attributional training and the self-determination theory would be the easiest solution for Jack to succeed.


Deci, E.L. & Ryan, R.M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.

Orbach, I., Singer, R.N., & Price, S. (1999). An attribution training program and achievment in sport. The Sport Psychologist, 13, 69-82.

Vallerand, R.J. & Reid, G. (1984). On the casual effects of perceived competence on intrinsic motivation: A test of cognitive evaluation theory. Journal of Sport Psychology, 6 94-102.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chapter 7: Body Transformation

Following the seven steps for implementing a behavior plan from Spiegler and Guevrement; I first need to clarify the problem. (Spiegler & Guevrement, 2003)  The problem I would like to address would be my lack of working out on a consistent basis. There are weeks where I workout six days a week and follow that up with only one workout a week. When talking about getting in shape and seeing results, consistency is king. Muscle confusion and extreme cardio are the techniques I like to use but, I need to become more discipline and structured in my workout regimen.

Considering this is just a one week trial, I will set my goal to working out six days a week, leaving only one day of rest. Another goal will be to make each workout at least 60 minutes of constant physical activity. My third and final goal will be to alternate from strength training to cardio throughout the week. Now that my goals are set, I must design target behaviors. My target behaviors are completing a total of eight different lifts; while completing three sets of fifteen in each. Also I will run three miles at a 6 ½ minute pace on each cardio day. At this point I need to use the ABC model to identify maintaining conditions of each target behavior. (Gill & Williams, 2008)  I will use self monitoring to better understand my feelings and emotions while exercising. I will record the points in time where I feel like quitting or when I feel like I can’t do any more. I will also note the events or situations where external factors affect my motivation to start or finish a workout. Using the self-monitoring technique I should gain a better understanding of my mind, body and soul. It will allow me to understand my limits and help me to set realistic goals in the future. It should also help me to focus on thoughts that motivate me to work out or keep working out; and avoid the thoughts or actions that lower or diminish my motivation. Another issue that I run into is the fact that when I don’t see immediate results, I get frustrated and lose faith. By using self-monitoring techniques I should be able to track my progress on a weekly basis and this may help me to see minor changes, and eventually my total transformation.

This is the point where I need to use reinforces to keep me on track and give me a sense of accomplishment and reward. I have chosen to use positive reinforcements as a motivational tool in terms of an additional motivator to aid my intrinsic motivation. For every three days in which I workout in a row, I will treat myself by going to a movie or out to eat (healthy meal of course). I will do this because it will give me the feeling of getting something back, other than better physical shape.

With the general outline of my plan set up, it’s time to begin following my established guidelines. It should be interesting to see if designing a plan with positive reinforces keeps me more motivated or if it will have little effect and I begin skipping workouts like in the past.

In conclusion I hope self monitoring techniques will help me better understand my feelings pre-workout, during the workout and post-workout. And hopefully help me stay mentally tough and stick with the program beyond the initial trail week.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics
Spiegler, M.D. & Guevrement, D.C. (2003). Contemporary behavior therapy. (4th ED.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chapter 12: Emotional Control

When dealing with young athletes it's important to remember that they are just children.  Adults can cope with stressful situations much better than kids, therefore as their coaches and mentors we need to understand techniques to help control their emotions in a positive and a not too overbearing way.

"Competitive anxiety, psychological arousal typically is accompanied by cognitive worry, and increased cognitive worry is associated with lower self-confidence and poorer performance. (Gill & Williams, 2008)  Youth that struggle with competitive anxiety may also suffer from stress overload, therefore suffering from early fatigue and lower levels of endurance.

Another major worry when dealing with young prodigies is burnout.  Burnout is a form of stress that when prolonged can result in emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced sense of meaning or personal accomplishment. Stress and stressful situations go hand in hand with competitive sports, but I believe there are techniques out there that can minimize the negative impacts of stress on athletes, young athletes in particular.

A few of those techniques that i would incorporate for my tennis prodigy would be to use imagery and Larry Lauer's 3 R's: React, relax and refocus.  Imagery can be used to shift our young tennis stars focus away from negative thoughts like a poor call by the line judge, unforced errors and what his opponent is doing. And focus him on the task at hand and things that he can control, such as hitting his backhand down the line with more velocity or increasing his net play by keeping his feet active.  By redirecting his focus towards positive thoughts and things that he has control over, we may be able to control his anxiety and aggressive tendencies.  I would use audiotapes and videotapes to help him to see and hear those techniques work first hand.

A second option would be Lauer's program for emotional control for anger and aggression.  He has players work on emotional toughness with first to REACT by recognizing the negative emotion, realizing it's there and RELAX by using deep-breathing, self-talk or imagery to visualize yourself responding in a positive way. (Lauer, 2005)  Lauer then talks about using a phrase to accomplish REFOCUS; since tennis is our sport, say "Focus on tennis"or "Keep my feet moving."  Either of these should help them to redirect their focus back to the match in a positive way.

By using these two techniques together I believe we would be effective in helping our tennis prodigy to better understand how to cope with his emotions and actually turn his passion and intensity for the game into a major strength of his.  After all, playing sports should be fun for kids, not stress them out to the point of emotional exhaustion or burnout.


Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Lauer, L.L. (2005). Playing tough and clean hockey: Developing emotional management skills to reduce individual player aggression.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.