The Secret to Quitting Smoking

When it comes to changing behavior while meeting with a personal trainer in Chicago, nothing seems to be tougher than quitting smoking.  John, one of my long-time personal training clients in Chicago and greatest friends-loved smoking.  For him, it was relief in an industry of drinking and constant movement.  Welcome to the life of a bartender and bar owner.  

Early in his career, John was surrounded by cigarettes every night.   The smell and sight were a satisfying sensory cloud to cool the angst spirit (sounds like a love story). 

Let’s break down the reality of cigarette smoking though: it yellows your teeth and fingers, makes your hair smell like an ashtray, and annoys non-smokers who hate smoke or who are simply sick of waiting for their friends to finish a cigarette.  You would think that this is enough to deter people from smoking and make them stop.  It doesn’t.

I can see why.  James Dean still looks pretty cool smoking in the 3 movies he starred in.  And we may have a secret affinity towards fire and smoke (I did stare at fire for over three hours while meditating in Guatemala after all).

What’s interesting is that many people in personal training programs are still locked in the habit despite ambitious health goals.  Nearly 20% of my personal training clients in Chicago smoke, many of whom don’t realize I know (I heard that you were smoking in the parking lot before our session…shame on you...I kid...shame on you...I kid…).  Meanwhile many confess like I’m the priest of health. 

Curiously, though, even with the renewed focus on health, they never kick the habit.  They’ll do everything in their power to give up everything else except for the one thing they need to.  I’ve seen one month, six month, and two year attempts and the eventual return to the one thing they want the most.

Ironically, though, cigarettes increase your blood pressure, decrease your lung capacity, and make you feel more stressed (especially as you seek another smoke).  Nothing satisfying there.  It’s a constant unfulfillment and an oxymoron.

John wanted to quit for his health, which is a common reason (not the ridiculously rising costs).  When we began training eight years ago, he tried to quit but to no avail.  Four scores and 700 cigarette packs later, he changed his mind (literally).  This time he believed that change was feasible.

It took confidence and constant reminders (self-talk) to overcome the want (the perceived need).  With medication and a concentration on being mindful, John revealed the key to change: “I wanted to quit.”

And he believed he could do it.  Even though it was tough, he kept telling himself that same message.

Have no doubt: Belief is the seed for change.  What you say to yourself repeatedly will be one of the keys while your personal train in Chicago.