Jeff Galloway

Change A Life - Help Someone Start Exercising

You know how good you feel when you finish a long run, and how you glow as you walk after the finish with your runDisney medal around your neck?  Research shows that running, even in short segments, turns on brain circuits for a better attitude, more vitality, and personal empowerment—better than any other activity studied.  When you help a friend or family member get "hooked” on exercise, you help him or her to improve their physical health.  The mental benefits are also life-changing for you and the person you mentor.

  • Your motivation to exercise increases when you serve as a role model. You'll also inspire yourself to learn more about fitness. Adults who serve as an exercise mentor find that they study and learn the principles of training better as they explain them to others.
  • Get them a good textbook. My books on getting started offer training schedules with support information. You can read more about these at
  • Start with a little exercise, and gradually increase. Children will often do a lot more than they should at first then get sore and discouraged. Hold them back and they can be successful in every workout!
  • Make each session enjoyable - especially during the first month. If your “coachee” is huffing and puffing, slow the pace, walk more slowly, and make other adjustments from the beginning of every exercise session. If there is any sign of struggle, stop for that day. Never push through pain.

Low Blood Sugar

Before a workout, if you suspect that your friend or child is experiencing low blood sugar, eat pieces of an energy bar with water, diet drink, or coffee about 30-45 minutes before the start. Provide a reward after each session - especially a snack to reload the energy stores. The best nutritional formula for a booster snack is 80% carbohydrate and 20% protein. On some special occasions, however, it's OK to have a reward snack that may be a little more decadent than usual.

Find interesting areas where you can exercise - scenic areas, interesting exercise club, etc.

Convenient walking routes near office or home, or a nearby gym can lead to more exercise sessions a year. But once a week or so, an excursion to an interesting area or fun health club venue can be very rewarding. It's great to have variety, and you should give your coachee some choice. 

On each exercise session, have a joke, a juicy story or a controversial issue.

This will break the ice, inject some humor, and result in a positive bonding experience. With beginners (adults or kids) who are struggling with motivation, the humorous moments provide a series of positive reinforcements. 

Structure each session so that there is success.

Don't let the new exerciser do too much—especially during the first few sessions. If walking or running, take liberal rest breaks before you hear the huffing and puffing. If in a gym, move to another exercise before there is fatigue, or heavy breathing.

Don't push too hard, but encourage and reinforce a good attitude.

One of the most difficult decisions in coaching is whether to push or back off—whether to use a pat on the back or a kick in the butt. In general, it is important that the person exercises regularly. When motivation is down, reduce the intensity to reduce discomfort and produce success. The ultimate victory is realized when the new exerciser wants to do it. 

Rewards work!

After a certain number of weeks, or after reaching a certain level of fitness, surprise the coachee with a reward. It doesn't have to be something expensive or exotic. The reward allows the new exerciser to focus on his or her progress, and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from steady exercise.

Tell him or her about your mistakes.

Most people learn more from a personal story that has a lesson, than a lecture on the same topic. 

Don't over-sell exercise.

The benefits are so powerful that almost everyone who stays with it for six months will continue. Walking or running with the new athlete on the tough days and congratulating him or her for the dedication are powerful reinforcers. But if your coachee is falling asleep during your one hour speech on the benefits, you know that you've stepped over the line.

Your greatest reward will be an independent fit person.

Take it as a real compliment that your coachee will need less and less of your guidance. This means that you were an excellent coach, and that he or she can find another person to coach. Another life can be enriched.

Join me this year at the @runDisney #WDWMarathon!

Jeff Galloway