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  • Clem Duranseaud

9 ways to be more consistent with your fitness

Being consistent with your fitness routine has very little to do with motivation and a lot more about the habits and processes you create.


There are many tricks you can use to stay on track and in this article I'll show you nine strategies that I use personally and with my clients.


Table of content


What is consistency


Consistency is the act of doing what you can to achieve your goals on a daily basis.


The important idea to remember here is the "doing what you can" part. We cannot be perfect every day (life is too exciting to be perfect anyways), but we can make a commitment to do whatever we can on a daily basis.


Here is a visual representation of this idea.


What we think is consistency vs what is actually is
Perception of consistency vs a realistic representation

Unless we are paid athletes, it's extremely challenging being perfect with our consistency. Even as a trainer, there are days in which I just can't do everything I need to do for my goals. But, there is always something I can do, regardless how small.


Focusing on what you can do each day, instead of everything you should do, will help you be more consistent. By repeatedly doing what you can, you'll notice that you'll be able to do more and more every day.


We tend to be quick to give up when we can't do exactly what we need to do. If we miss a workout at the gym, we can do a workout at home instead. Often I see people skip that workout entirely...


Remember that consistency is whatever you can do that day.


Have a fitness plan


A plan will help you get organized and have a goal each day.


A good fitness plan starts with setting achievable outcome goals.


Outcome goals and process goals


An outcome goal is what you want to achieve: lose 20 pounds, run a faster 10k, be able to do a big hike in 3 months, put on 10 pounds of muscles.


To set realistic outcome goals they need to be specific, quantifiable, realistic and have an end date.


"I want to look fitter" is too vague.


"I want to increase my lean body mass by 10% over the next 12 weeks" is more accurate.


The more accurate your outcome goals are, the better you can set your process goals.


Process goals are the systems and habits you have to put in place in order to reach your outcome goals.


Going to the gym, grocery shopping and meal prepping, drinking enough water, are all process goals.


When your process is aligned with your outcome, your goals will be natural side effects of this process.


From your process goals, you can craft your daily plan.


Have contingencies

A good fitness plan doesn't only map out your process, it should also have back up solutions when your can't stick to it.


What is the back up plan when you can't make it to your workout? Or when you can't grocery shop for a certain week? What will you do when you travel?


Your plan should have an answer to these situation that are bound to happen from time to time.


To create you plan, answer the following:

  • What are your goals for the next 12 weeks

  • How can you break them up into smaller weekly process goals

  • When you look at the week coming up, which days will you workout? What will you do? (if you are going to the gym to lift weights, how many sets, reps and exercises will you do).

  • What will you eat that week?

  • When will you grocery shop for it?

  • When will you meal prep


Make it easy


Somedays you might just be unable to stick to your routine. This may happen because of work, social life, parenting, trips, or whatever life throws at you.


On those days, do the minimum possible to keep the fitness flywheel going.


The fitness flywheel

Imagine a large metal wheel, that is powered by a foot pedal. Every time you press on the pedal, it makes the wheel spin faster. When you step on it a little, is accelerates a little, or at least, does not lose speed, when you press on it a lot, it goes faster. When you don't step on it, it slows down


Once the wheel reaches it's maximum velocity, you only need to press it gently at regular intervals.


This is a good analogy to your fitness routine. Everyday, you have the chance to make your fitness flywheel go a little faster. On days that you cannot stick perfectly to your routine, do the minimum to keep the wheel spinning.


Imagine that one day, you find yourself unable to go to your workout class.


Determined to get your workout in, you decide to do a workout at home. This makes it easier for you because you don't have to carve out an hour for your regular workout plus however long it takes you to commute to and from there.


You find yourself less motivated to workout at home because you're not with your usual workout crew, you don't have the same equipment and it just doesn't feel the same. In that case, make your workout easier and only do a 30 minutes body weight workout.


You still find that your mind resists this idea and you start to enumerate all the reasons why you should just skip your workout today.


In that case, just do a 10 minutes workout.


Still not getting there? Do one set of as many push ups as you can. Or hold a wall sit for 2 minutes.


This will accomplish two important things:


  1. You will have contributed to that day's effort to keep your fitness flywheel going. At the very least, you prevented it from slowing down.

  2. Our brains often hate starting something new (a home workout vs a regular workout class), but once we actually start, our brain gets more willing to keep going. So you may just start with one set of push ups, but once you finish it, you may actually be more inclined to keep going.


Remember that you won't always be able to do exactly what you need to everyday (Graph in the first point). However, you will almost always be able to do something, regardless how small, that contributes to your goals.


Don't wait for the perfect conditions


When we start something new, it's easy to fall in the trap of waiting for the perfect conditions. We want to go to the gym when we feel good, when we know our friends will also be there, and when we feel motivated.


That odds of that happening on a regular basis over a long period of time are quite low.


There will be days you don't sleep well, some days you'll forget your headphones (the worst!), some days you don't eat before you go to the gym, some days your usual gym crew won't be there, some days you might be extra sore...the list goes on.


What matters is that you show up for yourself no matter what.


This point is similar to the one above, it's about keeping your flywheel going.


Here's an example that happened to me recently.


I was attempting to improve my snowboarding skills. I was eager to do it, but I found myself not going on the slopes for 4 days straight.


There was a heavy blizzard, and even though fresh snow was falling daily, the visibility was horrendous.


I didn't want to go up and ride because doing black runs in a blizzard isn't fun, you can't see the next moggle and choosing your lines is virtually impossible.


Arrogantly, I didn't want to be confined to green and blue runs, those are too easy!


All these excuses didn't change the fact that sitting on my couch was not conducive to increase my snowboarding skills.


And then after a few days, after seeing that the blizzard was not going anywhere, I realized something. I could just go on the greens, where you don't need much visibility to have a good time and practice riding switch (having your less dominant food forward when riding your snowboard).


This is a valuable skill to have and will improve my overall riding.


I also started seeing all the other things I could be doing in lower visibility conditions like watching videos on how to improve your technique. These gave me many exercises I then went on practicing on the bunny hill.


Once the blizzard lifted, I went back on the harder runs and found that my technique had improved.


The point here is that conditions will rarely be exactly what you want them to be. Being able to do what you have to do is an important skill in your consistency toolbox.


Organize your environment


Your environment gives you (or not) very subtle cues as to what you should (or shouldn't) be doing.


Think about the places you spend most of your time. It will most likely be divided into two areas:

  • Your home

  • Your workplace


How do these two places help you stay consistent with your goals?


I understand the workplace might be tough so let's take a look at what we can do.


Visual cues

You want to be reminded of your goals as often as possible. Our minds get very busy and sometimes lose sight of what we set out to achieve.


Having a calendar with your weekly workouts on your desk can help help you remember to carve out time for you fitness routine that day.


Having a water bottle you keep on your desk is a very good way to remember to stay well hydrated.


At home, this could be keeping your running/gym shoes out in plain site close to the door, ready to go. To go a step further you can put your workout attire on your gym shoes so that when the time comes all your gear is ready to go by the door.


One trick that really helps me to eat better is to put all my veggies and salad on the top shelf in my fridge so that when I open the fridge door, these ingredients are at eye level. Those are the first foods I see every time I open my fridge, which makes it easier for me to actually use them.


Those bottom drawers that you pull out in your fridge is where lettuce goes to die. Don't put it there.


Setting up your environment properly can really remind you to be more consistent with your routine.


Track your fitness progress


To be honest, I've rarely seen anyone start a new fitness goal indifferently. Everyone is enthusiastic at the beginning, you have a strong determination, fresh motivation and the path to your goal seems easy enough.


One thing people often over look is the sheer length of said road and the mundanity that will settle in. Motivation will only get you so far and determination needs to be nurtured.


Acknowledging small wins is a good way to foster your drive to keep going. But the thing about small wins...is that they're small! If you don't pay attention to them you may miss them and declare that "nothing is working, this is going nowhere".


How to track you progress in the gym

You need to know if you are getting stronger and fitter. When you do a weightlifting workout, write down what weights you use for each sets you do. You can use an app, a google spreadsheet, a classic notebook, or whatever else allows you to store that information and go back to it in the future.


What I've noticed as a trainer is that most people will dismiss small wins in the gym.


Here's a classic example:


Someone does 10 reps of an exercise with 100 pounds one week. Two weeks later they do the same exercise with 100 pounds and manage 12 reps.


When I point that out, most of the time people will just shrug, or dispassionately nod. What's two extra reps you might think? Well those two reps represent a 20% increase in performance over a two weeks timespan.


Now here's the thing: those two reps alone won't make a dent in your fitness progress. The continuous drive to get one more rep, or lift just a little bit heavier is what makes a dent in your progress over time.


In order to know if you are doing one or two extra reps, you need to track you gym progress somewhere.


Track your diet

You also want to look for small wins to keep your discipline with your diet. I know first hand that sticking to a certain way of eating can get frustrating, so being aware of any progress, regardless how minor, will go a long way.


Tracking your diet is a little trickier because the results of a good diet are so much more than just weight fluctuation.


A good diet can make you:

  • Feel better

  • Sleep better

  • Feel more energized

  • Fit differently in clothes

  • Act differently around food

  • Have better skin

  • Feel less pain

  • Improved mood

  • Better at cooking


All these are what we can non-scale progress or victories. It is, nonetheless, progress that should be taken into account.


The weight variation you want is usually is usually slow to manifest. These non scale victories are usually quicker to happen, but like those 2 extra reps in the gym, are often overlooked.


be consistent in the gym: Gymprovise


A critical thing to understand when it comes to the gym: the equipment you need for your workout may not always be available to you. That is a universal truth about working out.


The gym might be very crowded, you might be traveling and having to go to a hotel gym (if it even has one) or do body weight workouts.


Being able to do your workout, no matter what, is an important skill with any fitness regime. Like any skill, it has to be practiced.


Remember that your muscles don't know whether you are doing a squat or a leg press. All the know is they have to push weights in order to extend your hips and knees.


Doing a barbell bench press or push ups will work the same muscles.


And yes, I understand that the law of specificity dictates that you get better at the things your practice. So will doing push ups instead of bench press increase your performance in the bench press? It's hard to quantify how much it will contribute to it, but it certainly won't hurt it as much as skipping that exercise entirely will.


Remember your flywheel, keep spinning it no matter what. Gymprovising is a fantastic way to do so.


Find a good workout community


A workout community is everyone that frequents the gym/studio you go to. In addition to the trainers and staff members, it also includes the other gym goers, whether you talk to them or not.


A good community can make or break your workout consistency.


When it comes to fitness studios offering group classes like HIIT, yoga, strength and everything in between, take the time to shop around. Finding somewhere that is close to you is convenient, but if there's something a little further that has a better community, I think it's worth the extra commute going there.


At first, community won't play a big role. When you start out a new fitness goal, you'll be happy to join any gym if you see that can help you achieve your plan.


It's after the initial motivation wears off that community gets amplified. If you can create connections with people that share similar goals, or trainers/instructors within the first few months, you are more likely going to go there even when your motivation slows down.


When I worked in a personal training gym, I always made sure that my clients knew the front desk staff and other trainers. I knew they were coming to see me, but the feeling of being part of wider community, even if it's a subconscious feeling, is so important in my opinion.


In group fitness classes, going to the same workouts over and over will make you meet the other people that also go there all the time. Knowing other people that share goals will help you be consistent by creating a accountability system.


Create an accountability system


Keeping yourself accountable is very helpful to be more consistent.


There are few different ways to create such systems but before we go over the four main ones, let's take a look at what they need to have.


  • Trust Whether you are doing a personal or group system, you need to be able to trust yourself or the group. Trust that your best intentions are kept in mind and trust honest feedback will be given. If you are not doing the right things, you need the people in your accountability system to be able to tell you so and not just be cheerleaders regardless of the results

  • Compassion/empathy This one is tricky but you want to create a system that draws the right balance between honest feedback and compassion. We are not professional athletes and so it's normal that our day to day life get's in the way. Your accountability system should know you well enough to take into account everything that goes into your life and help you sort out how strict to be with yourself. That balance, of how strict to be, will be something that changes according to your fitness level, the difficulty of of your goals and your lifestyle.


Now let's take a look at the four different ways you can create an accountability system.


1. With yourself

You can be your own accountability system by setting up a weekly check in with yourself.


Have a day in the week where you assess how you did in the previous seven days. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I move closer to my goals?

  • Did I keep my flywheel going?

  • Am I happy with how I did these?

  • What went well?

  • Where can I improve?


These are just examples. You can ask yourself any question that helps you stay more accountable. Take the time to find which questions are more pertinent and helpful to you.


By doing these every week you'll be able to slowly develop your healthy habits, track your progress, stay consistent and make adjustments to your fitness routine when the time is right.


2. With close peers

Find one or more people that you trust and know you well. Close friends and family is usually best for this.


They should know your goals and have a good understanding of what goes on in your life.


Together, you can set periodic meetings or check up in which they ask you similar questions than above.


Doing this with other people does a couple things:


  1. It exposes you to different view points. Your accountability system might see things that you don't and offer unseen information to you.

  2. It creates a stronger sense of responsibility in you. It's easier to change things up or give up when it's just you. But when you get other people involved it can make you more determined because you want to show these poeple you can do this. And if you feel like you just can't, then you have a support system to help you figure out what you can change.


3. With your fitness community

This type of system is less intense than the other two in the sense that it's the fact of belonging to that community that keeps you accountable.


Belonging to a community makes working out easier because now it's not just a workout, it's time spent with your workout crew. You don't have to be the most extroverted person out there for this to work. I've seen time and time again in my HIIT classes this process happen.


The energy you create with your community during the workouts goes beyond the gym. People check in with each other in a casual way. A simple question from a workout friend such as "Hey how was your weekend?" can help you start a conversation about things that could go better with your routine. And this usually happens seamlessly.


Example of conversation I've heard over and over again:

Person 1: "How was your weekend?"

Person 2 "It was good, I just felt a bit too busy to do everything I needed"

Person 1 "That happens to me to! Sometimes I do *insert solution* and that seems to help"

Person 2 "I never thought of that, I'll give it a try next weekend"


On top of being exposed to more view points than your own, there's also a subconscious sense of commitment to that community that forms over time that can really help your consistency.


4. With a trainer

A personal trainer is the ultimate accountability system. That's literally their job. A good trainer should coach you on what to do outside the gym and make sure it works for you and that you are actually doing it.


You don't have to see a trainer two or three times a week to work. Going once a week or even once every other week is enough to create this type of accountability system.


You can also work with a trainer online, which is usually more affordable and can offer way more flexibility than in person training.


I've summarized in the table bellow the pros and cons of each system.



Accountability System

Pros

Cons

With yourself

Know all the relevant information

Hard to see other view points Limited to our own knowledge We can be our own worse critics

With close peers

Knows most of the relevant information Exposed to other view points and knowledge

Whoever is involved needs to be with you on the long term. They may have other things to do so might not last very long

With fitness community

May feel more natural, subconscious Exposed to other view points and knowledge

Costs a little bit of money They don't know all the relevant information Takes time to develop

With a trainer

Knows all of the relevant information Exposed to expert view points and knowledge Helps you as often as you need

Costs money




Know when to switch things up


Once you become consistent, your fitness habits will take care of themselves and your flywheel will spin easily.


After months (not days or weeks) of repeatedly doing the right things, you might become bored of them. How long this takes varies from person to person, but it should not be shorter than three months. Your accountability system should also help you understand when this is happening.


When you notice getting bored, it's time to shake things things up.


Try a new gym program, try a new type of fitness class, learn new recipes, put some fresh spice in your routine.


Fresh routines will keep you excited and develop your consistency on the long term.


The important thing to remember here is that in order for routines to be effective, they need to be done for a long time (minimum three months). This gives you time to get effective which will yields results.


If you are constantly swinging from one routine to the next, changing things every months or every week, you will not have time to develop the necessary habits for those routines and you won't create lasting results.


Again, having a good accountability system will help you make informed decisions when it comes to switching things ups.


Conclusion

Being consistent with your fitness is a skill. Like every other skill, practicing will lead to mastery. This will also evolve with your goals and fitness level.


This list is only a short collection of various strategies to help you practice that skill. Take the time to learn what works for you and add the right tools to your consistency toolbox.


You got this,


Clem






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