Working out is something I really enjoy doing, but I almost always find some excuse as to why I cannot exercise more than going to Zumba twice a week. It’s not that I don’t care about losing weight or staying in shape; it’s just that the outcome of working out is too small to control my behavior. The contingency for working out is ineffective. Ineffective contingencies fail to control our behavior because the outcomes are either too small (though of cumulative significance) or too improbable.
I have a given level of health, I work out twice a week for 60 minutes, and then I have an infinitesimally greater level of health. Although my level of health increasing is small and cumulative, I know neither my body image nor my weight will change by working out one time. I know getting my butt to the gym several times per week will reduce my body fat, but there are several competing contingencies that prevent me from doing so. For example, E. R. is one of my favorite T. V. shows that I love to watch if I have some spare time in my day, I would much rather watch Dr.
Carter put in a chest tube to save a little girl’s life than sweat through two tank tops at the gym. If I go to the gym I will lose the opportunity to watch E. R. My performance objective is to workout at least five days a week for at least 40 minutes. The type of exercise does not matter; it can include cardio, aerobics classes, toning exercises, or any combination. I did not specify exact days I had to work out, just that I have to work out five of seven days a week. For my intervention I implemented an avoidance of loss contingency.
An avoidance of loss contingency is the response contingent prevention of the removal of a reinforcer resulting in an increased frequency of the response. Each time that I missed any of the five days or working out for 40 minutes I have to pay my classmate and workout buddy Michelle $3. By working out for 40 minutes I would avoid the loss of a reinforcer (money). By setting up a performance contract I know exactly what is expected of me. I am completely aware of the behavioral contingency: the occasion for the response, the response, and the outcome for that response.
Since Michelle and I go to the same gym, she holds me accountable and checks with me daily if she does not see me at the gym. I report to Michelle each day before boot camp at 3:00pm. My weeks run Monday-Sunday, and I pay out for each instance of a missed workout Monday before class. Having to give Michelle money that I would have otherwise spent at the vending machine during the class break is very aversive. I keep track of my performance of working out on a week at a glance graph, which I present to my boot camp classmates every Friday.
The graph has different shapers of data points indicating the type of exercise I did. For example, I use circles for cardio, stars for weight training, and hearts if I did both cardio and toning. My benefits measure is my body fat percentage. I did not choose to use weight loss as a benefit measure because as I do more toning exercises, muscle is gained so my weight may not fluctuate a whole lot. Body fat is what I really want to focus on because I could care less how much I weigh if my body looks tight and toned!
So far the performance management intervention has been overall pretty successful. I am making time to workout many more times per week than I have in a long time. My performance manager Michelle really motivates me to stay on top of my game, and since we go the same gym, our workout buddy system works really well. I began the intervention on June 11, 2008 and I am currently still implementing. My body fat percentage decrease quite a bit at first, then increased slightly (due to poor eating habits).
So far I have only paid out $6, which is much less than I ever thought I would have paid out at this point. I made a goal with my performance manager to hit my goal for the rest of boot camp. If I hit my goal for the remaining 3 weeks at 100% Michelle and I are treating ourselves to pedicures! I have hit my goal of five days a week several times, and only had a few weeks when I did not reach five workouts per week. The first week of the intervention I started on Wednesday, so I missed a couple days to workout. Also, in week 5 I had a migraine so I excused myself from working out.
I am currently in the middle of week 9 and so far have worked out three times. The only thing I would revise about this intervention is the diet aspect. I did increase my exercising; however, my results were not phenomenal. I think I need to put some performance management contingencies on healthy eating as well as exercise. I feel great working out more, but I am still eating Twinkies and Taco Bell! This really prevents me form losing optimum body fat! Through behavior analysis (the study of the principles of behavior)
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