What matters more for long term health - intensity or consistency? By the title of this post, you can probably guess that consistency is the answer. Unfortunately, learning how to stay consistent is arguably tougher than being intense. If you go to the gym and do ten 100 yard sprints, squats, and bench press, you were just very intense. But how are you going to feel tomorrow? Can you come back the next day and do it again? It is about finding the right strategies to consistently show up to the gym, day in and day out. Here are three strategies to help you stay consistent.
Psychological studies have shown that positive reinforcement creates an environment in which you are more likely to repeat the action. However, it is so easy to mess up a reward system, especially when it comes to working out. For example, if you reward yourself with ice cream after every workout, you've created a system in which your reward takes away from your action. Here are a couple things to keep in mind when creating a reward system:
An example of following this reward system could be getting new workout clothes or gear whenever you complete 15 workouts in a month. The reward (workout gear) supports and encourages you to stay consistent with your workouts, and if you simply head over to the mall after your 15th workout each month, or order your new gear online, it is an immediate reward mechanism.
One of the major benefits of social media is that it creates an entire network of accountability partners. Imagine you're on Facebook, and you post that you've joined a new gym and will live a healthy lifestyle starting now. You ask your friends for recipe recommendations, and you start posting a few pictures when you attend classes.
Now what happens if those pictures stop showing up?
No one will say anything, but you know in your mind they're thinking, "what happened to your healthy lifestyle?" Even if they aren't actually saying that, you believe they are - and that's the entire point.
If you want to stay consistent with your fitness effort, you need to tell people both in person and on public domains like social media. Simply saying it out loud makes you far more likely to stick with it when you just want to stay home on that cold, January night.
Here's the truth. You are the last person to realize when you've made major progress in your health and fitness - or really any goal. You are living your life, and the gradual changes are so easy to miss. For example, you may go to a party one weekend with some friends you don't see often, and someone will say, "Wow you look great! Have you been working out?" and you will literally look at them like they are crazy. Because you look at yourself every day and don't realize the massive changes you're making.
The best way to combat the feeling of running in place is to keep a progress journal. How you do this is completely up to you. A combination of health markers, progress pictures, weight, muscle mass, and body fat percentage is a complete list - but just pick a couple to begin. Maybe for you it is going to be weight, pictures, and a qualitative score on how you feel while you workout. When you get discouraged and feel like you're stuck, go read this and realize just how far you've come.
A lot of people claim intensity is the name of the game. Intensity matters. But, you're unfortunately not going to get in amazing shape going to the gym for nine hours one day - you will get in amazing shape going to the gym for an hour day in and day out. Consistency trumps everything when it comes to living a healthy life. Consistency with your diet, consistency with your exercise, and consistency with your mindset practice. These are just a few of many tricks you can use to stay consistent as you work toward your healthiest life.