By Percy Reynolds

With each New Year, more and more Americans plan to adopt a healthier lifestyle. They are willing to put forth the efforts to make a change and it sounds like a great start to the new year.  However, many people fall away from their resolutions. What happens? Why are so many people lost and fallen out of their pursuits after the first four to six weeks?

Seasonal Explanations

Many theories have been promoted as to maybe why New Years isn’t the best time for readiness to change.  Maybe, post-holiday guilt from overspending, overconsumption creating emotional triggers; Separation from family and loved ones weighing heavy on the psyche. Possible anxiousness and stress heading into collection and preparation for income tax filing?   Certainly, all of the listed factors are attached to the season in which they happen.  In actuality is there ever a “best time” for change?


As Coaches, our reputation is based on helping individual clients achieve their health and fitness goals. Above all, the responsibility transcends far beyond creating physical changes to the human body. It’s important to set our clients up for a lifetime of success. This means getting to know the human being and the role you will hold in their success.  Change is not easy. Adopting a new way of living your life can cause emotional stress and discomfort to some. 

Aiding Clients in Holding Success

Meeting your clients where they need to be met means understanding where they are in the Transtheoretical Model “TTM” of behavioral changes. Sometimes referred to as the Stages of Change.  The TTM is defined by six stages in which an individual is attempting a behavioral change. 

  • Precontemplation (not ready for a change) Greater than six months out
  • Contemplation (getting ready for a change) Less than six months out
  • Preparation (ready for a change) In the next month
  • Action (taking steps for a change) Now
  • Maintenance (monitoring) Six months after taking the first steps
  • Relapse (recycling) For those how have made a change then revert to old behaviors.

More info on the Transtheoretical model described in PTA Global Behavior Change in Exercise (BCE) course

Building a Client Narrative 

First of all, let’s take a quick second to build a narrative to that model for our New Year’s resolution. 

  • Precontemplation- 4th July Barbeque, enjoying the summer sun, weather, friends, and food
  • Contemplation-  (Triggering Event)15th September Fall/Winter clothes don’t fit like they used to. Don’t like the photos from the summer
  • Preparation- Thanksgiving Dinner, “I’m going to start as soon as this holiday season and its temptations are over.
  • Action- 1st January, Find a new gym or coach to enroll with start activities to better health and happiness
  • Relapse- 15th March, Spring Break, less frequent at the gym, eating based on wants vs. needs and goals.

So where did it all go wrong that the client has become disengaged and no longer pursuing that happier/healthier self?   These are the pieces that make the best fitness professionals priceless. They know how to not just help someone make a physical change like losing weight. They support and coach a client into a long-term lifestyle change.

He who has a why to live can bear almost anyhow.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Navigating a Client Fall-back

Probably, the missing step in this individual’s journey was having an empathetic fitness coach to help highlight and define why they wanted to make the change in the first place.  Using proven motivational interviewing techniques like the O.A.R.s approach found in the PTAGlobal Behaviour Change in Exercise course can help anchor the driving reason someone wants to make a change. 

Quality Time

The benefit of spending time defining the “why” is that as a coach you now have a focus to determine the best “what” and “how” to achieve the client’s “why.” These steps and tools you as a coach link the client to the ownership of their actions as the consequences at stake of failing to take action or adhere to their program. 

Sustaining a program maybe even more difficult than the first steps of starting a program.  The newness and excitement may fade. The results may not come fast enough. Or, disruption & distraction take root.

Self Determination Theory

Providing what a client needs as well as what they want goes far beyond any postural corrective exercises, or accountability to a healthy eating regimen. Importantly, it means giving them all the support to set them up for lifetime success.  In recent years, there has been a great deal of study around The Self Determination Theory  “SDT” and sustaining a lifetime of healthy habits. 

SDT says three areas must be satisfied in order to embrace and sustain change. Those three areas are; Competency, Autonomy, and Social Relatedness.

Competency & Autonomy

Involving the client in their program design and supporting these three key areas will help secure them in a long-term health and wellness lifestyle. Using motivational interviewing techniques can help move the client’s motivations from primarily extrinsic motivation to a deeper self-development and intrinsic motivation.  Here is where your help and guidance to support the SDT will lead the client to a much more committed journey.

Most noteworthy, competency in their program supports and assures their success. This drives self-efficacy and confidence.  Involving the client in program design and formatting builds autonomy away from a controlled or forced structure.  No one likes to be told what to do, or what they are doing wrong, but their great pride is solving and find solutions that work for themselves. 

Social Relatedness

Social relatedness helps an individual feel safe, and not alone or an outsider.  Connecting with a like-minded community working on their ambitions and goals.  Sharing their struggles and triumphs.

Connect with your PTA Global Community here

As coaches and fitness professionals we owe it to our clients to provide everything they need to make the behavioural changes necessary to live a long healthy thriving life. It’s so important to prepare the emotional and psychological support as well as the safe and effective movement program.

General SDT process model for exercise behaviour. 

Adapted from the general health process model (Ref Ryan et al., Europe Health Psych, 2009), this graph includes the 5 groups of variables analysed in this review as exercise predictors and their expected relationships (in a simplified version). Although this review only covers direct relationships between each class of variables (e.g., need satisfaction in exercise) and exercise behaviours, since few articles have simultaneously tested various steps of this model, the SDT model for exercise assumes that a sizable share of variance of exercise associated with SDT variables may be explained via indirect or mediating mechanisms, as depicted.


About the Author: Percy Reynolds

Percy Reynolds Percy Reynolds a twenty-six year veteran of the health/fitness industry. Earned Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Oregon in Exercise and Movement Science. He’s a Lifetime athlete in throwing and contact sports including Baseball, Softball, and American-rules Football. He has a passion for health and human performance that drove him to acquire his CSCS and several other strength/condition and athletic performance credentials. He enjoys helping individuals unlock their individual potential and take control of their fitness journey by coaching the human being, not just the human body. Most people he knows describe him as champion for health, fitness and outdoor life. He also enjoys architecture, and just enough to be dangerous about working on old cars, and motors.