The fitness industry is filled with a thousand different provocative trends, quick fix diets, and miracle workouts. With all of this (mis)information at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that most people have no idea what they should be doing to reach their fitness goals!
Do I have to cut carbs to lose weight?
Is crossfit the missing link in my fitness plan?
Should I try the shake “cleanse” my coworker keeps raving about?
The questions are endless, and I am here to tell you that you’re wasting your time even worrying about 99% of them.
One thing matters above all else: consistency.
People are always worried about whether what they are doing is “optimal”. What they fail to realize is what may be scientifically optimal and what is optimal for each individual are often two VERY different things. The best plan for you, whether talking about exercise OR nutrition is the plan that you can stick to consistently. Day after day, week after week, year after year. Until you’ve established consistency in your fitness routine, none of the other stuff is relevant.
Now that we’ve established that consistency is king, below are 4 ways to help you stay consistent with your workout routine and diet.
1) Have a plan, and plan ahead
The single biggest reason people fail to stick with their workout or nutritional routine is because they do not have a concrete game plan. In order to reach your goals it is important to plan week by week how you will go about attaining them. This includes when you will exercise, where you will exercise, and maybe even who you will exercise with. In regards to your diet, this could mean planning ahead what you will eat for specific meals, adding healthier foods to your grocery list, or planning when you will prepare your food for the coming days. You wouldn’t approach your job or retirement with a “just wing it” mentality, and you shouldn’t do so with your exercise or nutrition either.
Additionally, life will always throw challenges your way, and it is vital to be able to be flexible, and adapt to these challenges. Being able to recognize the obstacles coming your way (vacation, weddings, kids out of school for summer, holidays), and planning ahead for them is essential for long term success. Life rarely ever “calms down”, so don’t wait for it to happen as you may end up waiting a long time.
2) Establish cues for your behavior
Research shows that people that are most consistent with their exercise routine or diet long term are those who have cues for certain behaviors. Having a “cue” for a behavior sounds a bit complicated, but it ties right back into the previous point of having a plan.
You can think of a cue as an event, time of the day, situation etc. that consistently signals for a behavior (such as exercising) to occur. A cue for exercise for someone who is a morning exerciser could simply be that alarm going off, and the gym bag next to their bed ready to go. Nutritionally, having healthy foods or snacks at home or available at work is a cue for healthy eating. These are just examples, but again, this is all related to having a game plan.
3) Control your environment; don’t let your environment control you
Chances are, if you have had a hard time changing your exercise or nutritional habits in the past, your environment was not very conducive to the change. It is important to recognize when your environment is controlling your behavior, and come up with a plan to address it. This could be replacing the snack foods in the house with a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, investing in some home exercise equipment, or finding a gym that is conveniently located near your home or work.
Everyone’s life and environment poses its own distinct challenges; try to take some time to identify your own obstacles, and brainstorm solutions to them, perhaps with the help of your fitness practitioner or other fitness professional.
4) ENJOY YOURSELF!
We are most likely to stay consistent to the form of exercise that we enjoy most. Our CEO, Mike just talked about this in his weight loss blog. If you hate a certain form of exercise, don’t force yourself to do it anyways.. This is simply not sustainable long term. Instead, find a different form of exercise that you will be more consistent with, and enjoy more. For example, I hate cardiovascular exercise and I know with certainty that I will not stick to it. Instead, I incorporate some shorter rest intervals and higher rep ranges into my weight lifting sessions that I enjoy a lot more and stay consistent with. My cardiovascular fitness is therefore a lot higher than it would be if I tried to run for a couple of weeks, fell off for months at a time, then tried again, over, and over again, in the end getting nowhere.
Nutritionally, don’t be so rigid with your diet that you take all joy out of your life. Allow yourself to enjoy some of your favorite foods in moderation, and you will be much more adherent to your nutritional goals long term, not to mention much happier! This goes for social gatherings as well. Allow yourself to go out with friends and have that hamburger and a beer every now and again.If you make the healthy choice 90% of the time, that other 10% simply will not matter, and you will be more consistent and fit long term.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
People can get so caught up in the little things that they suffer from paralysis by analysis. Simplify your workout and nutritional routine by refusing to get caught up in the small details, and worry about one thing above all else: COOKIES… I mean, CONSISTENCY!!