“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
Does that statement mean we must be innately excellent, or is excellence in the habit itself? It is said that you can be a master at anything if you devote 10,000 hours to it. Surely 10,000 hours is ample dedication to the habit, but who has 10,000 hours to spare?
Luckily, exercising doesn't have to be that complicated. In fact, uncomplicating the process is the first step towards consistency. As we gear up for our most ambitious Challenge yet (you can still sign up HERE) we encourage you to reflect on how you can make each of these best practices work for you!
Here are our 7 best ways to keep consistency in your workouts, and overall health.
1. START SIMPLE
Greatness lies within you, but just in case it takes a few months to tap into that greatness, it's best we set practical expectations. Set your first goal just a step or two better than what you're currently doing. For example, if you are just starting to exercise, then start with 2 days per week. If you are moderately active, start with 3 workouts per week. You will hit those goals quickly and confidently. That makes your next goal seem even closer and more attainable. If you start simple, you will set yourself up for success and positively reinforce your efforts.
2. FIND EASY HABITS
Start your day with some easy victories, it will make it easier to "catch fire" as the day moves on. An example of this is setting your bed before you do anything. Another example is practicing gratitude whenever you get road rage. Or maybe your first habit is simply brushing your teeth. Either way, this simple act will have a snowball effect on the rest of your day; that is, if you're open to them. Completing tasks releases endorphins into our brain, which make us feel pleasure. This results in positive reinforcement, which is used to help make specific behavior become recurring. It's easier to keep momentum than it is to start from zero.
3. IT'S OKAY TO FALL OFF (AS LONG AS YOU GET BACK ON)
We learn more from our failures and shortcomings, than we do from our victories. The keyword being: learn. If you skip your workout because you drank a bottle of wine the night before, watching The Bachelor; it's okay. It's okay, as long as you don't do it all the time and as long as you get back on your #fitnessgoals horse. Where we run into trouble is when we get down on ourselves for not being perfect. Perfection comes from balance, and we decide where the equilibrium lies. Best of all, we can always adjust our center as our lives change and different things mean more or less to us.
4. PICTURES ARE THE NEW SCALE
Muscle weighs more than fat, and when we increase our workout frequency, we build muscle. For those of us trying to "lean out", it is important to remember that muscle building does (and has) to happen as our bodies get into shape and adapt to our workouts. A lot of times this is the reasons why our scale weight may even go up when we increase our weekly exercise. This is why it is best to take progress pictures as you move along your fitness journey. Monthly pictures in the same clothes (indoor) will give you a much clear picture of how far along you've come, and help take a lot of the guessing out of your progress.
5. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
Healthy competition is exactly that: healthy. Although when we fall in denial of how much time, energy and emotion we are dedicating to trying to be like others, it becomes counterproductive. This starts a cycle of unconscious negative reinforcement. Specifically, when we are not seeing results as quickly as we want (remember, it takes time...and consistency), and ultimately feel a sense of hopelessness in the whole process. There will always be people more fit than you and there will always be people less fit than you. Your goal is to become a better version of yourself.
6. SCHEDULE ONE UNMOVABLE WORKOUT DAY
This is a more specific continuation of #2. There are 168 hours in a week. A one hour workout per week takes up 0.6% of your time. A one hour workout three times per week takes up 1.8% of your time. An exception to this is when we are sick or require some level of recovery. Observance of this is just as important as adherence to our workout schedule. Recovery aside, never allow life to leave you with less than 0.6% of your time. Your health (and sanity) are more important in both the short and long term.
7. SET A SPECIFIC GOAL
This is the little extra effort that goes a long way. We may think that we can succeed without this step, but what does success look like if we don't take a moment to define it? If we don't specifically know what we want results-wise, we can set a goal structurally. For example: my goal is to workout 46 times in the next 3 months, or my goal is to watch what I eat 5 days per week from now on. That's something you can measure. You can say: "I've been (consistently) working out 3 times per week for 5 months now," or whatever your goal may be. Either way, the specificity is another metric you can use to measure your progress. And if you don't hit your goal, re-read #3.
Don't overthink what you want. Dedicate a little (but not too much) time to mapping out what success looks like. Then dedicate a little time each week to checking back in with yourself and planning for the next week. Sunday is a great day for this. There may be blind spots and frustrating moments, but such is life. What separates the successful from the ladder is that the successful consistently continue forward, even after they fall astray.