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Cognitive Restructuring

By on March 1, 2019
Siphew-Baleka-Cognitive

By: Siphiwe Baleka, Founder, Fitness Trucking

It’s spring! The weather is changing, and signs of new life and new growth are abundant. What about you? Did you start 2019 with a commitment to improved nutrition and new fitness goals? Are you on your way to a new and improved you?

If your answer is “probably not,” this article may provide just the catalyst you need to take action.

On June 18, 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued its National Health Statistics Report Number 112, which stated that from 2010 to 2015, “22.9 percent of U.S. adults aged 18-64 met the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.” That means almost 80 percent of adults in America are not getting at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.

Report Number 122, issued on December 20, 2018 showed that mean weight, waist circumference, and adult BMI (body mass index) have increased over the past 18 years. Mean weight increased by a whopping 24 pounds!

Why, Why, Why?

To personal trainers across the country, this is maddening; we throw our hands up in the air and ask, why? Why is this— when so much information is available—and so many gyms, fitness centers, parks, exercise and weight-loss programs exist; and we’re exposed to so much exercise equipment, exercise apps and tons of exercise commercial advertising? Why with such an abundance of information and resources are nearly 80 percent of adult Americans failing to exercise?

We all know we’re responsible for our own health. We all know we need to eat right and exercise regularly. My grandmother’s generation used to say, “When you know better, you do better!” So why aren’t we doing better?

According to the Athletics and Fitness Association of America: “One of the most important determinants affecting exercise adherence is the environmental factor of perceived time availability. We live in a time-crunched world. Everyone is on the clock. Yet, exercise professionals can assist clients by emphasizing the idea that exercise is a priority, not an afterthought. Behavioral psychologists have termed the redesigning of beliefs and values as “cognitive restructuring.” The idea is to replace one line of thinking with another. Instead of, “I have too many miles to drive today, I’ll exercise later,” start thinking, “If I exercise now, I’ll accomplish more during the next 14 hours because I’ll have more energy and think more clearly.” The idea is simply that exercise comes before most aspects of daily living and enhancing other aspects of life can lead to a change in thinking, thereby prioritizing fitness.”

More Self-Help is Available

I recently discussed this in my articles, “Understanding the Link Between Values and Behavior” and “The Connection Between Health and Happiness” for the TA and Petro Back On The Road blog. The problem is not knowing what to do and how to do it; rather the problem is the massive apathy and denial, particularly within the trucking industry. As a community, we just don’t value health. We say we value health, but saying and behaving are two entirely different mindsets.

Your values determine what information you allow into your mental programming, giving it a high priority and therefore activating it. By giving it a low priority, you’ll be putting it on the shelf and not activating it. Your values determine what information you reject and don’t allow into your mental programming. Thus, if you want to change behavior, you have to change your mental programming but to change your mental programming, you need to adjust your values. Understanding this mental dynamic is critical when trying to help an individual, a company, an industry or an entire country change behavior.

Are You Missing Out on Life?

Most drivers become uncomfortable when I say they do not properly value their health. I have clients who can’t enjoy going to the zoo with their families because they can’t walk more than 20 minutes before their ankles, knees and/or hips start to hurt. I work with drivers who can’t go on walking tours because they are out of breath after walking 400 yards. They’re missing out on life because they’re unfit.

Frequently, I have to show them examples of their poor behavior before they get the point. An eye-opening question I ask is, “Which is more important, your health, your job or your money?” Everyone knows they should say “health.” If you take away the money, you still have your health. If you take away the job, you also lose the money, too. If you take away the health, and you may be sick in the hospital, you also may lose the job and the money, leaving you with nothing. Of course, having a job and money is important, but if you can’t pass the DOT physical, you won’t have either.

Preventable, Reversible, Winnable

In the March 2017 issue of RoadKing, exactly two years ago, I stated that the driver health-and-fitness epidemic was a preventable problem, a reversible crisis, and a winnable war. I issued a call to action with instructions on how to turn your metabolism on before you start your shift, and how to keep it on while driving. I published the book 4 Minute Fit, and launched a campaign among truck drivers to “Make America Fit Again.” Two years later, though thousands of drivers have been doing their “4 Minutes” each day, the industry as a whole—like the rest of America—is failing to log the recommended amount of exercise. Maybe we need an ELD program for our minds and bodies. 

To build an effective, industry-wide health movement, drivers themselves must value and prioritize their health. All the solutions in the world like StayFIT exercise rooms and StayFIT menu items will not work if you don’t utilize them. Back to the central point of this article, what’s needed now is, “cognitive restructuring.” Drivers must replace old mental programming with new mental programming that prioritizes health above doing one’s job. 

What does that mean in practical terms? Before you start driving, you invest four minutes of your time to turn your metabolism on, so you can burn fat while sitting behind the wheel. Now imagine if every day 1.5 million OTR drivers were seen doing their “4 Minutes” at truck stops across America. That would be an exercise movement of gigantic proportions!

Yours for the Taking

Who says this could never happen? Why can’t there be a mass health movement among truck drivers? Someone needs to take the lead. Why shouldn’t the “cognitive restructuring” start with you? You’ve read this far. You know if you’re in the 80 percent. Why not make 2019 the breakout year needed to take control of your own health and take some giant steps towards adding several years to your lifespan? In the process, others will take notice, and you’ll likely attract them to share your vision. Taking initiative is needed to take your health seriously, to make it your top priority, and to begin the transformation to a new and improved you. 

About Warren Eulgen

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