Open any health and fitness magazine and you'll see countless advice on how to 'transform' your body from the one you have to the one you want (probably something like the models in the magazine). Even though each article promises to help you lose weight and become fitter by giving you expert diet and exercise advice, rarely do people keep the weight off permanently.
To help people's fitness goals, a growing number of gyms are offering competitions or 'transformation challenges' to members. Usually 12 weeks long, each participant is given advice on how to change their shape. Often these contests are modelled on the best-seller weight-loss and exercise programme in Bill Philips' book Body for Life. Before and after measurements, weight and photographs are taken. A panel of 'fitness experts' passes judgment at the end.
Unlike the magazine route, most people succeed in these contests because of the motivational style. Motivation is usually the main obstacle for people in diet and exercise.
Simply deciding to reshape your body isn't going to be enough for most people. Since motivation ebbs and flows, people need to keep it in the forefront of their mind. One of the best ways to achieve this is by having a strategy to focus on and a plan you can stick to.
Researchers say the four steps of successful goal-setting are: recognising the need for change; setting a specific target; monitoring progress towards this goal; and then the reward when it's realised.
It's also important to have a big picture and short-term goals. Focusing on the smaller benchmarks will help you stick to the plan and increase your chances of success.
First, these contests offer the 12-week deadline, forcing people to ignore distractions and focus on their goals. Even though for many, setting goals is a given at work, they haven't been able to apply this to exercise.
Secondly, there's the commitment. Not only do you promise yourself that in 12 weeks you'll go from point A to point B, but you've told the event organisers, all the other contestants and probably many friends and family, as well. Thus, it becomes more likely that you'll strengthen and deepen your commitment.
Thirdly, as with any contest, there's an entry fee, which can be seen as an extra incentive to keep with the programme. And for those judged to be a winner, there's usually cash or other big prizes such as trips.
The main idea is to educate and motivate people enough so that, by the end of the contest, they won't revert to their old ways. But without all the motivation the contest provides, some people could find themselves lacking the desire to keep up with the workouts.
However, it's a great way for the gym to introduce exercise to new members and encourage existing members who've fallen into an exercise rut.