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Repair Your Exercise Self-efficacy to Believe in Yourself again

Exercise self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is the cornerstone to getting and staying motivated.   It is defined as a person's belief they can complete a task or achieve a goal. Unfortunately, this self-confidence is often undermined by our most common messages about and approaches to exercising. They deteriorate how you think about your body and your ability to keep yourself motivated. I often hear from clients how they can't be trusted to stick with it. In this article, I will share how to repair your exercise self-efficacy so you can believe in yourself again.

Self-efficacy has three elements

  1. Confidence you have the skills and abilities to do it

  2. Choice or autonomy that you are free to choose to do it and how to do it 

  3. Connection to what you value and need right now

Studies show self-efficacy is strengthened or lowered by your experience with the activity. The experience doesn’t even have to be actually performing the activity—it could be seeing someone else do it or talking about it. That means how you feel in your body when you think about, hear about, or do exericse matters a lot. It can make or break your ability to get and stay motivated.  

How Exercise self-efficacy is lowered

Self-efficacy is lowered when exercise is

  • hard, painful, overwhelmingly complicated, or exhausting because it lowers competence

  • a “should” or something someone else is telling you to do because it lowers autonomy

  • done for externally measured, future results (Ie: reducing blood pressure) without immediate internal benefits (ie: having more energy now) because it disconnects you from what you value or need right now 

The four factors that impact exercise self-efficacy

Let's look at how to build self-efficacy by upgrading all of your experiences related to exercise so it is a way to strengthen your ability to listen to and trust your body.  

Mastery experience is what you have done when you exercised in the past. Your exercise history includes everything you consider exercise, from athletics to the steps on your activity monitor. What determines if this exercise experience builds or lowers self-efficacy is how you define success. 

If success is based on external measures like the scale or winning a championship, your chances of success are partially based on factors that are out of your control and can lower your self-efficacy. This is the case for many people I talk to who have tried for years to lose weight, found temporary success, but then hit a plateau because exercise “stopped working”.

When success is based on feeling and functioning better now, in a way that makes your life easier and better now, that experience strengthens self-efficacy. One foundational way to ‘master’ your exercise experience is to learn how to move well. This is the way your body is designed to move with strength and less strain. 

Vicarious experience can build self-efficacy when you have a role model, such as a parent or grandparent who has aged strong and well because of their choices about exercise. At the same time, it can also be lowered by seeing Instagram posts or TikTok videos of fitness models doing extreme or complicated exercises. Your brain knows your body and lifestyle cannot possibly live up to those expectations.

Curate your vicarious experiences so you have role models that match what you value rather than achieving a look or perfection. That means unfollowing anyone whose posts leave you feeling guilt, shame, or fear.  Ignore any messages (even from well-meaning professionals) that leave you feeling less competent, losing sight of what matters most to you, and being stuck in the “shoulds”. When you see images or hear messages that leave you feeling this way, pause and realign with what matters most to you.

Verbal persuasion can go either way too. Your doctor tells you that exercise, eating healthy, and managing stress is an important part of preventing diabetes. “Your blood sugars are running high and if you don’t start eating better and exercising you are heading into full-blown diabetes and that means even more health issues!” Fear-based persuasion uses the stress state to fuel motivation. 

Seek the advice of health professionals who use coaching psychology, the conversation that brings to the surface what you value, your strengths and skills, and the supports you can use to improve your health. Find health professionals who are also certified health coaches who have these dual skills for building self-efficacy through powerful conversations.

Affective state is the fourth experience that influences self-efficacy. It is how you feel on the inside during mastery, vicarious, and verbal persuasion experiences. If doing exercise, seeing someone do it, or hearing about the risks of not doing it puts you in a stress state, exercise will be associated with a negative affective state. When exercise is associated with positive feelings of hope, energy, calm, or other ways of feeling better now, confidence in your ability to perform exercise will rise and so will self-efficacy. 

Experiences are powerful at influencing your sense of confidence, choice, and connection, which leads to self-efficacy and in turn, to sustained motivation to exercise and trust in your body.

Repair Exercise Self-efficacy with The Be Well Now Method™

Build your exercise self-efficacy by exercising well with the Be Well Now Method™ of exercising for well-being

  1. Be: Examine how you define exercise so it becomes a choice, not a “should”. Does your definition need an update? If you are still in the mindset of ‘no pain, no gain” or ‘more is better’ or ‘I need someone to push me”, it's time for an update. How does your body feel now and what does it need? Energy? Pain reduction? Strength? Mobility? Stamina? Use mindfulness and self-kindness to stay curious and open to learning from what is here now, inside.

  2. Well: Clarify your Core Why and Well-Results so there is a strong connection to what you value. Your Core Why is where you define success in a way that strengthens and maintains self-efficacy. The five-question process is the way to ensure that what you do for exercise is related to what you value and feels like a choice not a “should”. Your Well-results are the specific life-based activities you want to be doing. Rather than measuring success on the scale or activity monitor, your success is directly connected to what you value now. This step builds internal motivation, the kind of motivation scientists have proven to be the most self-sustaining.

  3. Now: Move well to be well now so you build internal confidence in your ability to exercise well.  Exercise and movement science have evolved over the past five decades.  Learn how to move your body the way it’s designed, specifically for your Core Why and Well-results. Your confidence grows when you move with less strain and more strength. A gradual progression in a pain-free, stress-free way that gives you energy now redefines exercise as a resource for whole person self-care.  

Summary of how to repair exericse self-efficacy

The belief you can make healthy choices is strengthened when you have repaired the skills to listen to and trust your body in the present moment. When exercise is science-based and designed for what you value most in life, you improve your overall self-efficacy. Exercise self-efficacy strengthens not only your body but your ability to listen to it and trust it so you have greater confidence for habits of eating healthy and reducing stress too! 

Feel the difference with a membership to Exercising Well! Click here to learn more and join our community of people enjoying exercising to Be Well Now and eliminate the barriers of pain, stress and low motivation.


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