The road to hell is paved with good intentions. People often intend to partake in physical activity. Yet, just as often, they find themselves frustrated at their failure to act on these intentions. Why is it that people remain inactive despite forming intentions to be active? A study by Conroy et al. 2011 attempted to understand the intention-behavior gap problem by examining the effects of “intention stability”, or the fluctuation in a person’s intention to be physically active, on physical activity.

If you’re a coach, you may want to pay attention to the results of this study.

Most past psychology research has examined this problem by dividing people into groups; “strong intenders” versus “weak intenders”. This past research suggests that those with strong intentions are more like to be physically active than those with weak intentions.

What makes the Conroy et al. study unique is that it shows even “strong intenders” will act like “weak intenders” on certain days of the week. Specifically, participants that were strong intenders engaged in physical activity, but only during weekdays. During weekends, even strong intenders decreased their physical activity (weak intenders were less likely to engage in physical activity, regardless of weekday or weekend). Why strong intenders decreased physical activity on weekends was outside the scope of this study. But, it’s probably due to being exhausted from spending self-regulatory resources (i.e., “willpower”) during the week.

What does this mean for you as a coach? It means your clients are likely going to need “time off” on the weekends. Instead of getting frustrated about this, you might want to consider building this recuperation time into your training and nutrition programs. Because ultimately, your perfect training or nutrition program won’t matter if your clients don’t stick to it for the long haul.

Conroy, D.E., Elevsky, S., Hyde, A. L., Doerksen, S.E. (2011). The Dynamic Nature of Physical Activity Intentions: A Within-Person Perspective on Intention-Behavior Coupling. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 33, 807-827.