By now, most of us are aware that without consistency in our actions, we’ll not reach our goals. The real challenge lies in determining how to develop that consistency and maintain it in our lives. We know motivation doesn’t last, and even willpower is sporadic. So let’s delve into why being consistent is so hard, and what we can do about it.
We have many barriers.
Our obstacles range from being too busy, to drumming up excuses, to buying into the notion that we’ll have to sacrifice really good things in order to reach our goal. All of these are barriers that keep us stagnant, and keep us from moving forward in action.
So what do we do about it?
First, we identify our personal barriers. These are goal specific, so initially we must identify the goal, then address the barriers to those goals. Let’s assume the goal is to work out consistently. But maybe we find that we are on for three days, then something comes up and knocks us off plan. Or maybe we only work out for half the allotted time. We need to address the barriers keeping us from reaching our goal.
Barriers in this case could be any or all of the following: too busy, too tired, not wanting to work out if my nutrition is poor, too embarrassed to work out at busy times at the gym, workouts are too difficult. Make a list of your personal barriers – be honest with yourself and list as many as you can think of.
We have too lofty of a goal.
Once you’ve pinpointed your barriers, you can reframe your goal to make it something much less daunting. Maybe your initial goal was to work out six days a week for an hour. Try making it something more doable, like four days a week for 20 minutes. Don’t set crazy expectations on yourself – simply have a goal of working out for a set number of days and time.
Your goal should be just at the level – or even below – that which you are currently having a hard time being consistent with. And, that’s going to look different for everyone.
We have too many goals.
Eliminate other goals that cause you to have too many irons in the fire. If you’re also worried about perfect nutrition, having the right amount of sleep every night, feeling awesome before every workout, etc., these will all be barriers. By focusing on your single, most prominent goal, you can work on forming that habit over the next month. Here are some tips to help keep you focused on forming that habit:
1. Track your progress and note your consistency. Next, track your habits in a spreadsheet or journal. At the end of each week, you can see how consistent you were in black and white. “X” the days you worked out and write the duration in minutes.
2. Plan ahead and circumvent barriers. This can be as simple as packing your gym bag and gym clothes the night before. It can also include seeking out a fitness center if you’re travelling. You must plan for a change in routine or to eliminate your barriers popping up and derailing you.
Here are some examples:
–Barrier #1: Embarrassed to work out at busy gym times.
Solution: Rearrange schedule so you choose less busy days and times.
Solution: Choose exercises you are comfortable with.
–Barrier #2: Boss sometimes asks me to stay late at work, then I don’t have time to go home and change or time to work out.
Solution: Pack gym clothes and take them to work.
Solution: Choose a shorter workout length.
Solution: Don’t schedule a workout for every week day – use weekends and take a day or two off during the week for nights you must stay late.
–Barrier #3: Travelling out of town for seven days.
Solution: Research hotels with fitness centers or local gyms and get a one week pass to workout while you’re there.
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3. Give yourself a week to get in the groove. Here is where you’ll lay the groundwork for your new consistent habit. This helps you get in the mindset of remembering what to do, how to rearrange your schedule, and make it actually happen! Work out any imperfections so that by week two, you’re ready to maintain a continuous effort of consistency.
4. Write and track your goal and progress. Write your workout days in your calendar ahead of time, and check them off when you complete one. This helps because scheduling it as an appointment will make it more concrete and obligatory. Tracking and looking back allows you to see that you were consistent.
5. Shift your perspective. Sometimes, a perspective shift can have a more profound impact than anything else. Few know more about consistency than elite athlete and reigning Ms. Fitness International, Whitney Jones. She climbed her way through the NPC and IFBB ranks over the past 10 years to claim the most elite title in her sport. “Consistency is crucial,” she said. “That has been a significant reason why I was successful at notching my way up the ranks to finally get to the top. I take my off season just as serious as my in season training and, truly, every day matters.”
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Here’s how she helps her clients stay consistent: “Anyone struggling with being consistent, I simply remind them that [this] is a choice, it’s something they wanted to do and nobody is forcing them to. That very simple reminder helps put things back into perspective where they can switch their mindset from being in a funk of “this is so hard, or I don’t want to go to the gym” because reminding them that this was something they wanted, they can then take ownership back and it makes it easier to get back after it.”
Another thing to consider is that giving up or quitting will only set you back. As Whitney suggests, focusing on where you will be in a few weeks or a few months helps to get refocused.
In summary, here are the key steps to take right now to form a consistent habit with one of your fitness goals:
- Identify your goal.
- List your barriers.
- Reframe your goal.
- Plan ahead and circumvent barriers.
- Begin week one as a practice week.
- Write and track your goal and progress.
- Shift Your Perspective
Making major lifestyle changes is a big deal! Start small, and start with one at a time. Next month, you can work on increasing your workout difficulty, or you can address nutrition at that time.
Be honest with yourself and remember, being consistent while forming a new habit is the goal and the only goal here – not intensity, frequency, or difficulty. Start at the most basic level, and once that is an established, consistent habit, build from there.
By Alissa Carpio