When it comes to devoting yourself to fitness, you need plenty of patience and effort to stay focused and keep progressing. You need to make some drastic lifestyle changes, and it’s not exactly easy to switch to a healthier diet and get enough regular exercise into your schedule. People will often tell you that staying consistent – i.e. never missing a training session and not allowing yourself to fall back into bad habits – is of utmost importance, but how do you actually manage that?
How do you stay motivated and develop that iron will and strong work ethic that keeps pushing you onwards? There are a few things everyone can do to ensure that they remain consistent on their path to achieving their fitness goals.
Define your fitness goals and the level of effort you are willing or able to put in
You might not want to reach the fitness levels of an athlete, just as some people aren’t content with just losing weight and getting in shape, but want to be able to perform more advanced feats of strength or endurance in their daily life. You should define the goals you want to achieve and factor in your obligations, like work or quality time with your partner, and decide on how much time and effort you can put into achieving these goals.
It may be two workouts at the gym a week and come running every other day to stay healthy and look good, or it can be a serious strength training program coupled with kickboxing training 3 times a week to develop strength, endurance, power, and fighting skills – it’s up to you to decide what you want and need.
Learn and develop a deep understanding of the basics
You will always be falling back to the basics, and if these aren’t understood and eventually mastered, you will have no business trying out more advanced routines or modifying your diet or training. Read up on the essentials behind a healthy and well-balanced diet, dieting for weight loss, the big basic exercises, strength training programming, different types of endurance training and so on.
With just the good basics and enough weekly practice you will be able to get 90% of what you need from your training, the rest is just tweaking and fine-tuning. Focusing on basics makes things simple, and simple is sustainable in the long run.
Don’t be afraid to make less ambitious changes if it means you will be able to stick with them in the long run
Speaking of long-term changes, it is better to make a few simple lifestyle adjustments – like cutting out most fast food and sugary drinks and walking at a brisk pace for an hour each day – and make them a part of your life for the next several decades than to make huge changes – like buying whole-foods, cooking and weighing all your meals and doing HIIT for 15 minutes every day on top of lifting weights – that you will stick with for just a few months or a year.
Workout buddies are a great source of motivation and will help keep you on track, but if you are only looking to lose 20 pounds and stay healthy and you pair up with a fitness freak who works out twice a day, six times a week, you will lose interest in training very quickly. Find someone who shares your goals and trains the same way you do so that you can support and push each other to reach your goals.
Instead of trying to fit exercise into your schedule, create your schedule around your workouts
While the idea of being flexible with your training looks good on paper – after all, we often have bigger priorities, and skipping a workout or postponing it for a day isn’t the end of the world – this approach usually fails in the real world, because most people are lazy and will find tons of excuses if given the chance.
What you should do is develop a fairly strict training schedule – e.g. 50-minute gym workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with 20-minute bouts of mid-distance running on Tuesday and Thursday, and some jump rope training on Saturday – and then plan the rest of your day around your job and training.
You can move the workout for later in the evening or get up early and go for a quick run before work if you have to be somewhere later in the day, but try to hit your scheduled training session for the day. This way, you will perceive it more as an obligation that you need to complete before you can relax and do other things.
Remind yourself daily about your end goals and the benefits you want to reap
You have to keep your eyes on the prize as they say or visualize your goals each and every day when you get up, before you train when you sit down to eat and before you go to bed. You should take a couple of minutes to think about your progress and ultimate goals several times during any given day.
Look at your role models, read quotes from people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish, look yourself in the mirror and psyche yourself up, think about the negative things associated with not focusing on your goals and the benefits you have to look forward if you reach them. You have to vocalize your determination and visualize success – no matter how corny that sounds, it really helps to keep you motivated and focused.
Reaching your fitness goals, whatever they might be, is a long and arduous journey, and you need to work on staying consistent and pushing through difficulties. By being smart about your training and dieting, and never biting off more than you can chew, you will be able to stay on the right track without too many problems and keep constantly improving.