5 Things That Prevent You From Being a Consistent Exerciser – And How to Fix Them

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Have you ever heard the phrase “consistency is key”?

It’s true. Especially when it comes to improving your body composition, your performance, and your health. It may seem like no big deal to blow off your workouts, but over time, those who reliably put in the time do far better than those who are, well, all over the place. I’d even go so far as to say that WHAT you do matters less than how well you stick to it. Let’s take two workout programs: one really excellent, and one mediocre;  the mediocre one done on a regular basis will likely bring better benefits than the perfect plan that only gets done sometimes.

OK – so you know that it’s important, but you still keep struggling to get ‘er done? I feel you. The hardest part when you’re doing something new is sticking with it long enough to see some benefits that would actually make you feel excited to keep going. It’s those early hurdles that are the biggest. I tripped over them about a million times, by the way. But just like I did, you’ll get over them too.

What I first want you to do is read through these scenarios: you may see your own situation in one or more of them:

  1. Accept that you must practice. You’ll also have to reshuffle and rebuild the life you now lead. Knowing this with your eyes open helps. Makes sense, right? You’ve been going about your life. Now you’re asking yourself to squeeze in a new thing. You’re not accustomed to having to accommodate things like meal prep, calorie logging, or weight lifting sessions several times a week. So first of all, be kind to yourself. But then start building that ritual.

The fix: take a cue from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Let’s take building the workout ritual as an example. You can tie the things you need to do to things you already do.

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  • Every morning after you drink your coffee, you put on your gym shoes. That’s one step toward getting out the door.
  • Every evening after you brush your teeth you set out your workout clothes and put together your gym bag. This takes away barriers that may make it feel harder to get to your gym session.
  • You can also try making an appointment for it that holds as much weight as any other commitment. If someone wants to meet, it had better be *really* important to bump the gym meeting you set for yourself.
  • Other tricks include tracking your gym workouts in a log or an app – it feels great to see your progress right in front of you, which in turn helps you keep going.

2. Stop hitting the reset button. We often say “I’ll start next week.” Or Monday. Or even tomorrow. Instead, do something sooner. Maybe it’s improving your next meal. Missed your gym workout? We all have 2 minutes to do a set of pushups at home. When you do something positive for yourself, you reinforce the fact that it’s what we do repeatedly, over time, that makes the biggest impact.

photo credit: Sujan Patel

photo credit: Sujan Patel

The fix: ditch the guilt. Instead, learn from this – ask yourself what got in your way, and what might make that not happen next time. But today is not a loss. Action begets more action.

3. Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good. When we set very high standards for ourselves, excellence can happen. But there’s a difference between striving to be our best and crashing and burning because we fall short of unrealistic expectations.

If you’re skipping workouts because you don’t have time to get in a full session, it wipes out your movement for the day. If you’re setting goals that overwhelm instead of inspire, you may be shortchanging yourself of the opportunity to improve your body, your mind, and your health.

You can train to be awesome without nearly ending yourself.

You can train to be awesome without nearly ending yourself.

The fix: Sometimes when you ease a little pressure off of yourself it can feel way more fun to do those things that will bring you success. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll be more consistent. And when you become consistent… well, we talked about how awesome that’ll make you. Scale back with some challenging yet realistic goals that enable you to take pleasure in achievement yet don’t set you up for near certain failure.

4. Ask yourself if you feel confident about what you’re doing. In a study of employee motivation, researchers Nohria, Grohnsberg, and Lee found that people are driven by four central needs. 1 One of them is the desire to comprehend. I’ve found that my clients who skip gym sessions regularly are often not too busy to get them done: instead, they either lack confidence or enthusiasm. Often, the enthusiasm comes once they feel like they know what they’re doing.

Log enough time with your new skills and you too will walk like swagger cat.

Log enough time with your new skills and you too will walk like Swagger Cat.

The fix: scale back to tackle what you can absorb right now. Master one workout. Or one new skill, like meal planning, finding new protein sources, or even getting in regular walks or eating an extra veggie per day. Those small successes give you a boost of success and make you physically and mentally feel the benefit of doing good things for your body.

5. Enlist support. At the Strong Fit Pro Summit in Toronto recently, Mark Fisher of Mark Fisher Fitness said “change happens within the context of community”.

Another basic drive we have is one of bonding with others. We want to connect; to be able to get ideas, support, affirmation, and a feeling like people get what we’re trying to do. Besides the bonding of a fitness community, you’ll find accountability. Knowing that people will wonder where you’ve been may make you more likely to get to your regular class or meeting.

Most importantly, when we go to a gym or participate in a program where we feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, we take pride in that. We cherish it. And it helps form our new identity that includes our new actions.

my gym family <3

my gym family <3

The fix: find your people. They may be at a physical gym that embraces newcomers. You may find them in a running club or on a powerlifting team. Or you might even find them in a Facebook group filled with people who are into what you hope to get into more. For me, I find my support, caring, and accountability from my team gym as well as from my coach. My communities have made a gigantic improvement in my commitment to my workouts.

Some might say “you just have to suck it up stop making excuses. But I’ve never much liked that advice. Because as you can see, usually when we make excuses there are underlying needs we have that just aren’t being met. If you’re struggling with building consistency in your fitness routines, take a moment to find your underlying reason – and then start working toward change from a more informed, positive place.

I hope these help you. My fixes are by no means the only useful ones, but they’re some of the “biggies” that I’ve found really make a difference in helping people over those hurdles. The hurdles, which, by the way, you’ll be sailing over in time if you give yourself the opportunity to learn.

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Notes:

  1. Nohria, Nitin, Boris Groysberg, and Linda-Eling Lee. “Employee motivation.”Harvard Business Review 86.7/8 (2008): 78-84.

Can you booze without busting your fitness goals?

photo credit: TowerGirl, flickr

photo credit: TowerGirl, flickr

My girlfriends and I have been not-so-patiently waiting for summer pool and patio weather. Now it’s here. Sweet! A patio night usually includes a few snacks and drinks for us. But if you’re also trying to take care of your gym performance, your body composition, and your overall health, you may be wondering how many, if any adult beverages you can get away with without negative effects.

 
I’m talking more than hangovers – I’m thinking about how our bodies function, how it impacts our metabolism, and more. But before you start wondering if I’m a fun hater, let me assure you: I love having a few drinks as much as the next person. My bro friends have even converted me into a scotch sipper. I blame my pal Robbie Farlow’s “whiskey drinking for newbies guide for that. 
 
But you want to know what alcohol does to your body, if you need to worry about it, and most importantly, how much and how often you can drink and still be full of healthy awesomeness. Read on:
 
Firstly, understand what alcohol is.
In terms of nutrition, the alcohol in your drink has around 7 calories per gram. But it’s coupled with other ingredients too in whatever drink you’re imbibing. Alcohol may provide energy (biologically speaking) but it doesn’t come with any micronutrients that help our bodies do their jobs. It’s the quintessential “empty calorie” item.
 
What happens when you drink the drank.
When you ingest alcohol, your body prioritizes digesting it before anything else you eat or drink. That’s because it can’t be stored within our bodies. That matters because our bodies aren’t processing those other big deal nutrients: fats, carbs, and proteins. So in effect, that’s temporarily slowing down your metabolism.

You’ll also experience swings in your blood sugar, possibly disrupted sleep, temporarily elevated levels of stress hormones, and dehydration.If you’re lifting the weights and putting them down to build muscle, alcohol gets in the way of that too –it temporarily diminishes the ability to repair and build muscle.

The more we drink, the more likely we are to say “eff it” and eat things that pile on extra calories for the day. 2 a.m. pizza, I’m looking at you. 

And finally, of course, and if you drink way too much, you’ll wake up to a hell of a hangover the next day.

hungover

 
So yeah – I think we can agree on those all being pretty terrible for our bodies. But the good news is that an occasional drink won’t derail your overall health. Just like one giant slice of cake won’t either – it’s what we do repeatedly, consistently, over time that creates our body composition, our performance, and our health.
 
How much, how often, and how to?
There is no single “right” answer, but my own advice is this:
 
  1. If having a drink is a nightly habit, consider cutting back to one day per week. If you’re serious about achieving a fitness goal, making alcohol a very minimal part of your life may make a very positive impact on your progress. 
  2. Limit your drinks to just a few when you go out. You’ll still enjoy your friends, make less of an impact on your fitness goals, and be way less likely to make an ass out of yourself.
  3. Once or twice a year, let loose a bit more. Please be safe if you get “turnt”. Call an Uber. But for the vast majority of your days, scale back and be more like a grandma and less like a college kid. Your body will thank you.
  4. Eat a little food with your boozing. You’ll be less likely to unintentionally end up in the #3 scenario.
  5. Regardless of how much you decide to enjoy, drink 1 glass of water between each alcoholic beverage. You’ll feel better the next day.
When I do drink, what should I choose?
If you’re trying to scale back on calories, clear alcohol with seltzer and a twist of fresh fruit is never a bad idea. A glass of wine isn’t that big of a calorie bomb. I also sometimes sip on plain bourbon or scotch because it doesn’t go down quite so quickly. To cut down on calories, avoid drinks with combinations of several alcohols or lots of added sugar. For your next patio party or other summertime fest, try the plum prosecco smash or strawberry spritzer that my friend Cathy Bormann of Fit Des Moines made with me. Watch our video, where we goof off and make summer drinks and snacks (with recipes)!

What’s the lightened up summer treat you like best? Leave a comment and share!

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