Tag Archives: consistency

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

chickstrength

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.

Want to get the skills to pay the bills (and make this year your fittest ever?) Sign up below for my newletter to get workouts, recipes, and insider fitness info to help you rock your fit goals. 

 

Notes:

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

From Drunk Shopping to a Healthy Habit: The Consistency Challenge

 

drunk

 

I am a lightweight. I rarely drink alcohol at all: it gets in the way of my performance goals and a night out with several drinks under my belt ends with a very harsh jerk back to reality in the morning when I awaken to three small kids tugging on my arm at 6 a.m.  If I have more than two drinks I’m done-zo. I suppose you could say I can’t hang.

But I’m all for moderation, and once in awhile I’ll let loose a bit. Last weekend while in Kansas City, my friends and I decided to head downtown to the Plaza for dinner and a few drinks. Unlike me, these girls can hang.

After savoring two cocktails over a leisurely dinner, they pulled me up to a rooftop patio. It was a beautiful night and we basked in the warm weather while sipping just one more drink. Unfortunately, that put me over the edge and I got a little tipsy. Oops.

So naturally we went shopping next. Considering we were in a fantastic district for picking up some new goodies, it seemed like the right thing to do. I’ve never shopped while being drunk before, but I don’t recommend it unless you feel like spending way too much money.

rich

Wheeeeee!

As soon as we wandered into Athleta I spied a bright yellow water bottle made by S’well. Like a small child attracted to sparkly things, I snatched it up and decided I definitely needed to buy it. After all, the sales woman boasted, it kept water cold or hot for 24 hours. “This is amaaaazing” I declared with a bit too much exuberance. I peeked at the price tag. “Holy crap. $45?” “It holds 24 ounces,” she chirped, and I was sold. YES. I need this in my life. Of course.

As the sunlight creeped into our hotel room the next day, the memory of buying this thing settled in. I’d already done a good bit of shopping that month and I inwardly cringed. Shit. Oh well. There are worse things to regret after a night with a few too many cocktails. Maybe I’d drink more water. Meh.

Tastes like regret.

Tastes like bad choices.

After I returned home I saw a link to “The Consistency Challenge” on Jen Sinkler’s site. I clicked and immediately thought of my new water bottle. Here’s why:

For the last few years I’ve told myself that I want to drink more water. It’s not that I don’t actually want to be better about this habit. It’s just that for some reason, I suck at actually incorporating it into my life. Just saying that I’m going to drink more water has done absolutely nothing to improve my intake.

When I say that I don’t drink enough water, I’m not talking about not getting 60 oz. I’m not even close. There are many days when I don’t even drink a single glass. I do, however, drink a ton of coffee. Why is drinking water so hard? I don’t hate water. I know it will most likely make me feel better inside. What is stopping me?

Typically when I read about challenges I don’t bite. Usually they involve a huge commitment or focus on a bikini body or something else that just doesn’t speak to me. The ones I’ve actually done in the past usually involve me white knuckling through. For example, I jumped on the Whole 30 bandwagon a few years ago. On day 31 I ate all the cookies. Challenges that require behaviors that aren’t sustainable for the rest of my life just don’t work for me.

But this one was different in a few ways from what I typically see.

  • The goal is to develop consistency with one single action.
  • The action has to be something that we actually want to work on, not that we feel like we should work on.
  • An outcome of success is less important than what we discover in the process.
  • A big point of this challenge is to see what other things shift in your life when you incorporate a new habit. The focus is more on discovering how our habits impact our lives than a tangible outcome like weight loss or miles run.

So I approached the challenge as a bit of an experiment with myself. If I bought this thing, could I put it to use and commit to becoming consistent about drinking just 24 ounces a day?

Even on day 1, I noticed a few things:

1. I committed to carrying my water bottle everywhere with me, except during walking or running outside, because though that would be a natural time to need water, this thing is freaking heavy. I noticed that having it with me made me more likely to sip. Duh.

Oh, the places we'll go.

Oh, the places we’ll go.

2. Remembering to take my bottle with me has been way less problematic than in the past. It’s enormous and bright canary yellow. I can’t miss it! Even at home, I see it sitting on the counter and I sip.

I won't give up my precious. But maybe we can all get along.

I won’t give up my precious. But maybe we can all get along.

On days 1 and 2, I filled up my bottle twice and finished all my water, even though I’d committed to drinking only 1 bottle. Score! It wasn’t even hard. Ha!

So what has this taught me so far? First of all, committing to being consistent led me to be mindful of the habit I’m trying to instill. I downloaded a sheet from the challenge page as a visual reminder to stick on the fridge, though the yellow bottle has served the same purpose. But I’ve quickly discovered that the barrier to my water drinking was probably lack of a visual reminder. Only time will tell if I’ll need to develop other strategies to keep my habit going. I’ll report back in a month.

My conclusion so far is that drunk shopping might not always be so bad after all… (ok, it probably is a terrible idea). But sometimes what we consider an extravagance might become an unexpected tool for change. That surprised me!

Are you up for a challenge? Read more here for background information on how the consistency challenge was created. You’ll also find extra tips on how to make your new habit stick. Leave a comment and let me know what habit you’re working on incorporating into your life this month.

My constant companion.

My constant companion.