Many components make up a successful exercise & diet plan...
Achieving a goal requires you to...
choose the 'most effective' and relevant exercises
perform the exercises correctly
exercise at the correct intensity
eat the correct calories
the correct nutrients etc etc.
But even if you somehow created/bought the 'perfect' plan (difficult/impossible), you will never achieve your target...
... if you fail to implement that plan CONSISTENTLY.
In fact you are more likely to achieve success if you implement a less than perfect plan CONSISTENTLY...
...versus a 'perfect' plan sporadically.
Why Consistency Is So Important:
1. Building A Habit
Many of you will see exercise and diet as a chore. And especially when you're starting out, regular workouts and healthy eating can be a difficult habit to maintain.
There's no magic trick to solve this... just consistent behaviours. The more often you go through your workout routine, the more days you adhere to your diet plan, the easier it gets... and everything gradually turns into a habitual routine, rather than a conscious effort.
On top of that, as the consistency of your plan begins to produce visible results, your 'motivation' to maintain those habits will be reinforced.
But when you don't apply consistency, you're constantly having to start again.
There's no momentum.
So you never really develop that sense of routine. And you continually feel that sense of your plan being a chore.
Obviously, when this is the case, you are far more likely to give-up on your plan long term.
2. Perceived Difficulty
One of the most common reasons given for 'not enjoying/avoiding' exercise, is the perceived difficulty and discomfort...
If you're new to exercise (especially if you try to dive straight into intense workouts), it's likely that you will find it 'hard';
- muscle discomfort
- poor aerobic fitness causing breathlessness
- general fatigue
- joint stiffness
- sore muscles the day after
It's obviously not a great feeling.
But... again, without consistency, you will keep returning to this start point.
And if you only ever associate exercise with the above feelings, you're understandably going to be reluctant.
So again, it's extremely likely that your inconsistent approach is going to end up being a permanent break.
3. The Science of Human Physiology
The laws of science simply dictate that you must maintain your programme to see the results you want.
The human body is designed to respond to physical stimuli. And to produce long-term adaptations, the body needs to be exposed to these stimuli over and over again (exercise, food etc).
This should be stating the obvious, but...
Not only do you need to constantly be challenging your current level of fitness (by training regularly and ensuring that your nutrition is on point)... but you also need to avoid reversing your progress...
Remember, when you miss workouts, you do not simply stay at your current level of fitness... without the stimuli of exercise, YOU WILL GO BACKWARDS.
1. Set Clearly Defined Goals
A clearly defined goal is the most important part of a plan. Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve makes every other decision easier. Without a goal, every step is random... and it’s inevitable that you’ll lose focus...
Once you have clearly defined your goal, so-called ‘motivation’ falls into place.
Imagine you planned to go to the gym before work... you need to get up at 5am. And it’s winter.
Without a goal; your decision when the alarm goes off, is “do I want to get up and go to the gym - it’s dark and cold... or do I want to stay in bed until I actually need to get up for work?”
9 times out of 10... you’ll skip the workout.
With a goal; the decision to make, is...
"Do I want to look good in my bikini on holiday (your goal in this imaginary scenario)... or do I want to stay in bed?”
Every now and then, you’ll still skip the workout. It’s inevitable that life will get in the way occasionally (even more reason to be consistent when you do have the choice).
But when you frame the decision in this way (your success/failure is at stake)... you’re far more likely to feel motivated to get up and get to the gym...
Automatically, your workout schedule becomes more consistent.
2. Compromise Instead Of Quitting
When things don’t go perfectly to plan... adjust the plan.
Don’t just throw it out altogether.
It’s easy to convince yourself that you can “just do it tomorrow”.
But whatever your excuse was today, will probably still be there tomorrow.
If you are genuinely short on time, lacking energy etc...
Try shortening the planned workout.
30 mins instead of 1 hour is infinitely better than doing nothing.
(Plus, if your problem is simply a “lack of energy” or “lack of motivation”, you’ll often find that by the time you’ve finished your warm-up and the first 10 minutes of your actual workout, you’ll likely feel a lot more ‘switched on’ and your energy/motivation levels will rise again anyway).
3. Learn To Love The Process
Maybe "love" the process is a bit optimistic...
But at least try to appreciate the process, rather than viewing each necessary step as a 'sacrifice' that must me made in order to achieve the end result.
Consistency means long-term. So if you're adopting a strategy that is clearly a struggle... there is obviously very little chance of maintaining it.
Make sure that your process is a realistic way for you to live.
That might mean adjusting the timescale for your targets. Most of the unrealistic habits that people try to follow only occur because of a lack of patience. It's easy to convince yourself that you can make extreme sacrifices for a few weeks (you probably can't) in the hope that you will achieve rapid progress.
Ultimately, your programme should be viewed as a lifestyle rather than a short-term plan.
Assuming that you want to achieve results AND maintain them... the process that gets you those results needs to be an acceptable way for you to live... permanently.
Setting "Process Goals" as opposed to "Outcome Goals" not only helps to provide ongoing motivation, but will also force you to focus a lot more on the what and why of your programme rather than simply chasing the perfect result that you have imagined inside your own head (this can be an extremely frustrating way of approaching health & fitness, and more often than not, that frustration will lead to you giving up as your real-world progress doesn't match the unrealistic expectations that you have).
4. Keep It Simple
Make things as easy as possible (while still being productive obviously)...
Nothing kills consistency as quickly as a sense of failure.
Or dreading an upcoming workout...
Especially if you are new to regular exercise (or starting again), reduce the pressure that you put on yourself as much as possible.
Design short, easy workouts.
You might feel that you are holding back.
But the main thing is that you tick of each workout, and end each day knowing that you did what you said you were going to do.
Just focus on racking up the small, easy victories... over and over again.
This will reinforce the new habit.
You can (and should) gradually increase the intensity or volume of the workout later.
The concept of "train hard or go home" is fine once you have established your consistency.
Until then, its more likely to mean "go home" rather than "train hard".
5. Address Your Obstacles
If you are missing workouts regularly (once per week or more)...
Make a note of your reasons/excuses.
If a one-off obstacle gets in the way... so be it...
But if the same barrier is getting in the way over and over again...
This is clearly something that is going to affect your long-term consistency...
You need to deal with it...
Get rid of the problem...
Or redesign your programme to work around it.
6. Allow Some Flexibility
This might seem contradictory...
But plan room for deviating from your training plan.
Generally speaking, if you can adhere to your plan 80%+ of the time, you will be on the right lines.
That doesn't mean that you can deliberately go ff the rails 20% of the time...
It means that you should be able to easily afford a night out at the weekend without having to worry about destroying your progress.
Believing that you are going to suddenly go from nothing, to committing 100% to a strict training and/or diet plan is a recipe for failure.
Most people are never going to sustain that lifestyle.
We mentioned earlier, the damage that a sense of failure causes.
By allowing room for flexibility...
We acknowledge that perfection is impossible...
And a balanced lifestyle is the plan, rather than a weakness.