Why most people can’t stick with the gym…

Today I want to talk to you about something called self determination theory. This is a theory around behaviours that has been researched heavily over the past decade. Much of this research is very applicable to people’s relationship with exercise. Self determination looks at three things that need to be in place for most people to adopt a new habit.

The first is Autonomy; meaning the person needs to feel as if they have some degree of control and input into the plan they are about to implement. Having watched hundreds of trainers tell their clients what they have to do (I made this mistake myself when I started as a trainer as I was so keen to help people) straight away you are set up to fail. This is a flawed way to coach someone as ultimately we are still all like big kids, we do not like to be told what to do. We like to feel that we are coming up with our own solutions rather than being dictated to. The process of you formulating your plan gives you much more ownership of it and therefore means you are much more likely to stick with it.

Competency is the next part of self determination.To stick with anything you need to feel you have some degree of competency in it. But again if we look at most people’s experiences when they join a gym the opposite happens. First of all I am betting a trainer showed you dozens of exercises (many of which would have been too hard for you) and they probably bamboozled you with lots of fancy terminology (to make themselves feel good) and did all this at breakneck speed giving you no chance to digest any of it.

I am guessing then on your second visit you probably retained about 5% of what they told you, and not wanting to look stupid you choose the safe choice of something like the bike, spent an appropriate amount of time on that not wanting to look totally stupid, then got out of there as quickly as you could (probably not to be seen for a long time).

It is important that you are given exercises that you can actually do and more importantly you actually know what you are doing with them. Straight away this will make you feel better about the whole exercise thing and then you are much more likely to come back again. From there it is all about gradually and progressively changing things at a pace you are comfortable with.

A sign of a great first session for us is someone going away and thinking “I am not as bad as I thought I was and I managed to do what the trainer asked me to. Maybe I am not a lost cause after all”.

The final part of the self determination theory is a sense of community. For most people starting a fitness journey can be an intimidating and lonely process.

When you join a gym, if you are lucky, you might get a program written by a trainer but then it is all down to you. For most people this will be a recipe for failure. This is why working with a trainer works so well. Knowing you have someone who is there to hold your hand through the early stages when you are trying to get some momentum can be vital. Also having someone holding you accountable can be a great way of making sure you get stuff done each week.

Finally if you are on your journey with others like you it can be really encouraging. So this is why we have created a community of over 50’s all routing for one another and trying to create a life where they are striving towards an amazing quality of life for many many years to come. Another great way of doing this is creating your own community by encouraging your friends or family to join you on the journey.

I have also seen lots of clients create things like step challenges between their close circle, where they each motivate each other to move more. A sense of competition can work really well for a group.


PS: Over the years a huge percentage of people who enquiry about our program say to us “I am not a gym person” or “I struggle to stick with the gym”, chances are that they have most likely just not been shown how to do it properly. Exercise done properly should be something you look forward to each week. Nothing makes us happier than converted these people in confident and regular exercisers.


Below are a list of products we recommend that will assist your training.

All of the products are used by us, so you can be sure they are of good quality.

If you buy using these links we will recieve a small commission at no extra cost to you. This is an easy way for you to help support our online platform.

Get our 'Fit After 50' Blueprint

10,000 words and 50+ tutorial videos from 'Scotland's Personal Trainer Of The Year' finalists, completely free!

Check your inbox (or junk) for your blueprint!