Methods for Consistency / My Fitness Journey
Consistency is the best indicator of success when it comes to fitness, and if you ask me, consistency IS success.
So how do you stay consistent with working out regularly? Well, let me tell you a few methods I have tried. I’ll highlight what worked or didn’t work for each method, and at the end I’ll explain what consistency looks like for me now.
In high school, my friend and I decided we were going to get ripped. We were just a couple of nerds so we thought it would be better to be jacked nerds. We wanted abs. Bless our hearts.
So, we made the logical decision to try Jillian Michaels DVDs called “Ripped in 30” and “Six week six pack.” We then signed a contract stating that we would do these workouts 5 days per week, NO MATTER WHAT until we were swole. Or at least until the DVD series was over, whichever came first.
Looking back now, one thing we did right was accountability. The sky-high expectations, the no-mercy attitude, and the appearance-based goals probably did more harm than good.
In case you’re wondering, ever since then I’ve had an aversion to workout videos.
After that I discovered I could make my own workouts to do at home, based off the things I was learning in LiveFit class (and yes, I even incorporated some of the exercises I learned from JM.) I could make the workouts at MY level, and push myself when I felt up to it, in whatever capacity I felt like. I loved it.
Once I graduated high school I got a real gym membership and my goals shifted from appearance based to process based. I wanted to make it on the “frequent sweaters” list of members who came to the gym at least 10 times per month. I was also working an exhausting, repetitive job at a factory so I wanted exercise to help me have more energy and stamina. My definitions of success became based on my consistency and my progress.
Every time I upgraded to heavier weights or made it on the frequent sweaters list, I felt successful. I remember one day a trainer I looked up to walked by and said I had great form and was doing great work. That made me feel amazing.
Those were all strategies I would recommend. Break down your larger goals into process focused goals. Celebrate your skill improvement and consistency. Aim for health and vitality instead of a “fitspirational” body.
One thing I still lacked was grace. Every workout had to be grueling. I had to make improvements every week, or I wasn’t trying hard enough. Therefore, I didn’t go as often as I could have. I pretty much only worked out on my days off because I didn’t have the energy for a grueling workout after being at the factory for 10 hours. Looking back, I bet I would have felt better during the week if I made time for some lower intensity workouts after work.
Then, I went to college and got a part-time job at a gym. We had a wellness course in college that taught us to create healthy habits and reflect on them. We made goals, tracked our progress and had to reflect on how we were doing. It helped me set realistic goals and develop a new routine for this new season of life. I would go to the gym to focus on strength training, and I’d do my cardio outside. At the end of every week we had to reflect on our goals, stress levels, and progress. I noticed that I felt less stressed when I spent more time exercising, both in the gym and outside. This is when I started associating exercise with better mental health and stress management.
At the end of college things got crazy. I was in full time placement, and school, planning my wedding, working on the house we bought, starting my new job and studying for my Personal Training exam. I remember wondering why my eye kept twitching (hello stress response) but I can’t remember much about working out, other than I wanted to make sure I fit in my wedding dress (WHY do they order them too small, assuming you’re planning to lose weight? Aren’t brides under enough stress?)
Eventually I graduated, passed the PT exam, Kenton and I got married and moved into our home. Things slowed down. We got comfortable and didn't workout out as much. Kenton and I both decided we wanted to make more of an effort to exercise consistently. So I made a calendar page on Microsoft Word (like the digital creative genius I am) with some motivational quotes, and little pictures of people doing push ups and bicep curls. I wrote at the bottom:
“Goal: Workout at least 3x per week.
Reward: Date night at The Keg”
The stakes were high. We hung the calendar page on the fridge and had to initial on the days we worked out. And guess what? A month later we went out for dinner (we had a gift card.) The next month I wanted a haircut as my reward. After that we started earning points towards buying new equipment for our home gym. Eventually, we didn’t need rewards anymore but we used the calendar for accountability. We bumped the goal up to 4x per week. Then one day, after almost a year and a half, I just stopped hanging up the calendar. Working out had become a habit, and we knew we felt our best when we exercised regularly.
Now, a couple years later, Kenton is still my accountability partner. My goal is still to workout at least three times a week in our home gym. My goals also include time sensitive things, like increasing my cardio capacity before our hiking trip out West, and results-based goals like being able to do 10 pull ups with the green band.
On days when my body or mind is really tired, I take it easy. I choose exercises that I feel like I can do well. Sometimes I do an entire workout lying on the ground. When I’m really stressed, I like to do cardio because the oxygen and endorphins pumping through my body make me feel good. In the summer I go on more bike rides because I know I’ll be stuck inside all winter.
At this point I’ve been working out for so long that I don’t feel like I’m starting over if I miss a workout, or go on vacation and don’t touch a dumbbell for 2 weeks. What I’m trying to say is I’m both consistent and flexible. Exercise is not a chore or a punishment, but rather a tool to help me live up to my potential.
The result? I feel good. Better than ever. I have consistent energy, and my body and mind feel strong and capable. It feels good to set goals and reach them, but also to have grace for myself on days when I’m not feeling my best.
Wherever you’re at, I hope you can learn something from this post. I hope you see that you too can feel strong and confident. Most of all, I hope you see that exercise can be a tool to help you live out your best life. Whether you want to serve the needy, invent something brilliant, or be the best parent for your children, regular exercise can equip your body and mind for the demands of your daily life.
If you want to stay consistent, you’ll need some sort of accountability, you’ll need goals- some that are process based and some that are results based. You’ll need to work hard but also give yourself grace, keep the big picture in mind, celebrate all your wins and maybe set up some rewards for yourself. But most of all, you’ll just have to keep at it.
If you have any questions or would like the chance to work with me as your fitness coach, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org