In Coaching

May 07, 2009

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Chris Cooper started with a scientific experiment about “fitness adherence.” It ended as another CrossFit success story: The secrets of sticking with it.

This is the story of how you get your clients off their butts.

Or, if you insist on more polite conversation, we can talk about a fitness adherence study I conducted to try to understand what makes people stay with an exercise program. Among the key factors identified were intensity, novelty, accountability and competition. Sound familiar?

I put an article on a local news site asking for 12 volunteers who weren’t currently Catalyst members. They were told we were studying the efficacy of a workout program, not the adherence rate. The volunteers were split into two groups.

Group 1 got a booklet with exercise descriptions and pictures. The booklet detailed a month’s worth of workouts, written day by day. Group members were told to check off the workouts they started, even if they didn’t complete them. Group 2 was given the same booklet without the workouts included. Instead, they were e-mailed the daily workout and asked to reply with times or weights they had used.

We applied for government funding through one body and were redirected to another. In the end we were given a 50 percent reimbursement allowance. That meant for every dollar we spent on the research, we’d be given 50 cents back, provided we developed a product for sale and created jobs. That started a two-year research and development process. More importantly, it changed the way we approach fitness.

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9 Comments on “The Secrets of Sticking With It”


Tom Seryak wrote …

Thanks Chris awesome article! I am totally intrigued by the psychology aspect of fitness. Do you have any further endeavors planned along these lines?


wrote …

Very interesting read, Chris! Thanks for sharing, and good luck with your CF box.


wrote …

Yeah Coop!! The article is great! :) So proud to be one of the test subjects!


wrote …


Great article. The article doesn't mention when you found crossfit and how far into your study you were? Did you know about crossfit when you started or did you discover it later? Inquiring minds want to know. (Well at least I want to know)



replied to comment from Jason Parent

Hi Jakers - thanks a lot. We KNEW about CrossFit in 2006. A kid (now Level II certified soldier for CF, Eric Ross) mentioned it to me when we were in a transition area for a local Triathlon. I remember thinking, "That sounds like bullshit. To be effective, exericse has to be progressive in a linear fashion...." and all the other rhetoric I'd picked up in University. We weren't reading the site, and really didn't even immerse ourselves until T-Nation started ripping on Coach.
We started to really sniff around when it became clear that people would be more likely to do a workout that was novel, short, and game-like. Tyler volunteered to jump in front of that bus, and reading his blog encouraged people to do the same. Whitney (above) was one of our first 'CrossFitters' in March 2008, and is now a pretty elite Coach and a hell of a girl to have around.
Go Ontario CrossFit Boxes! See you at the Challenge July 18!


wrote …

Great hit the nail on the head with this study.
I was a prime example of waning exercise adherence for many years. Join a gym, buy a video, sign up for a class etc....never really lasted for more than a few months at a time. The varied workouts and personal competion of crossfit has me hooked. Enough to wake at 530 am on my days off to get to the box and sweat............thanks

PS: I do check the WOD the night before


wrote …

Chris, this is a great article. I started doing Crossfit with Catalyst about one month ago, and I love it for the reasons given. I need someone to tell me to do the workout, I need the coaching, I love the camaraderie, I love that it is different every day. I'm 52 and started in terrible shape, and I'm happy to report that I'm able to do these workouts when they're scaled for my abilitie. I'm getting stronger, lighter, my blood pressure has improved and I'm happier. I must admit I have become addicted to the Catalyst website and Chris' twitters. And yeah, I like to get my money's worth.


wrote …

"The variable that produced the biggest result was
novelty. We’d always taken great pride in never giving
a client the same workout prescription twice. When
we applied this tenet to our study, we found that not
knowing what would come next improved adherence
nearly 15 percent alone."

Another benefit that randomness can bring. Thanks!



wrote …

A great read and a very interesting, fact finding, study. Congrats!

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