There is a reason the gym gets more crowded every January. Sure, some of the onslaught of people may be brand new to the scene, but most of them are starting over…again. While I do always believe that you should never be ashamed to start over or try again, it is beneficial to discover why consistency is complicated for so many of us. Why do we struggle even when we know that consistency is what produces long-term, positive results?
Have you ever thought back to a time you started a workout plan or nutrition program that didn’t last for more than a few months or even a few weeks? Then comes the self-realization that if you had just stuck with it, you probably would have seen results by now. It’s like, aw shoot, the exact same 6 weeks (or months) just passed by, and I could have experienced great progress by now…if only.
You may have started with an aggressive goal or an uncompromising workout plan. Then, when you are not seeing results like weight loss or an improvement in your mile time, you start to wonder, “Why am I even doing this. I got the same result sitting on the couch.” I know this because I have been there, and I have fallen into this unproductive thought pattern. It also doesn’t help when you hear people around you talking about their big ideas, the changes they’re going to make, and the goals they’re going to accomplish, and then they just don’t. Nothing changes. You start to wonder if big transformations are even possible. They are, but often it happens quietly, less aggressively, and through consistency in small changes along the way.
In 2009 I decided it was time to make some changes, so I set a weight loss goal. I found success, and after several months I was down about 30 pounds. The difference in the way I looked was almost night and day. I was astounded at the amount of praise I received. I mean, I was being applauded daily for my grand achievement and how great I looked. Until… after a while, the way I looked was just my new normal. My cheering section was gone… I am talking, completely gone. It was time for me to make another big decision. If I wanted to maintain looking and feeling good, I would have to drown in the doldrums of consistency, and guess what? It is exceedingly rare that anyone takes notice or compliments consistency. If they did, they might say something like, “WOW! You look great! You are doing such a fantastic job! You look the same today as you did last year. What a feat of human persistence!” However, pretty much nobody does that, which means, it ends up being just you left alone with your consistency. It gets quiet and boring, then complacency sets in.
If consistency starts to feel boring or tiresome, here are 5 things you can try:
Yes, consistency is good, but an hour on the elliptical machine day after day after day can be monotonous, and I am shocked at how many people do this. It may be that they simply want to maintain mobility, maintain their weight, or get some cardio endorphins, but why not set a goal? What if you could finally shed those few extra pounds? What if you saw the changes that resistance training could make to your muscle and physique? Sometimes this change is as simple as switching from one machine at the gym to another. This humble step can help you develop a mindset of working to become consistently better!
If your routine is going to the gym Monday through Friday, try taking a walk or jogging outside. Being outside will bring fresh air and a constant change of sights and sounds rather than the lunks and grunts of the gym. If your usual go-to is a 20-minute walk during the day, you may need to start pushing yourself to do more. Join a gym, take a group class, or ride a bike.
I like being by myself from time to time; it is usually how I regroup and recharge. So, the idea of a workout buddy, or a friend at the gym, has not always interested me. However, the times that I have been able to pair up with someone who has different goals than I do, or is at a different fitness level than I am, has allowed me to learn from them. Reversely, being an inspiration to someone else often results in you working harder on your own goals. Remember that when another person expects you to be great, sometimes it makes you greater. If you take a risk and pair yourself with someone at a greater fitness level, they will inspire you and push you to do more than you would on your own. You will learn from them. Remember that we have different strengths and weaknesses, even when it comes to fitness and mobility. We all have something to learn from each other.
Oops. Did I just say that? Yep, I did, and here is why. Because I have been in and around the gym for years, most of that time in the same gym. That gives me the unique perspective of watching some of the same people come and go over the course of years. There are those who arrive in pairs and, for weeks, months, years (you get the idea), do the exact same thing. Two friends show up, get on the treadmill side-by-side, hit the go button, and walk. And walk. And walk. Is this consistency a bad thing? Not necessarily. However, what is the goal? It may be that what they are doing is bringing them exactly what they need at that point in their lives, and that IS a good thing! The movement, the camaraderie, the routine, and the conversation are all good. However, keep in mind that if YOUR goals are changing and shifting, and you want more out of your workout, it might be that your workout buddy is holding you back. Take the lead and suggest something new or different, something that might be a challenge for both of you. If they’re unwilling to try, don’t abandon them (I was kidding at first… sort of). Try a group fitness class, use the rowing machine, switch from the treadmill to the stair climber – just try something different for a change, and watch the results happen!
This could be a spin-off of #4. Do you have the mindset in life to continue becoming consistently better at everything you do? It is sobering to realize how contagious a mindset of improvement can be. When you want and are willing to continually improve your health and fitness, it will spill over into every area of your life. That is why it is important to think often about becoming consistently better rather than just consistency all by itself.
Consistency and aggressiveness complement each other quite well. If you think about it, they are the best non-human gym buddies to have. Aggressiveness IS a good thing when paired with consistency. Together they keep each other accountable. Consistency will always ensure that you have a long-term approach, while aggressiveness will make certain that you never become stagnant and are always looking to improve. Being aggressive does not mean dangerous or unreasonable. It means that you are pursuing your interests with conviction, just as you always should be if you want a noticeable and lasting change in your life.
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