- Steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc.;
- Agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing;
- The condition of cohering or holding together and retaining form; solidity or firmness.
Consistency is one of your most powerful tools. It helps power you through the day-to-day so you can reach your goals. It can also make tougher routines become more automatic, triggering action, which in turn boosts motivation. [Read: Momentum to Move]
But consistency does not necessarily mean doing the exact same thing, every time, every day or week. Not only is that a path to boredom, but from a fitness perspective it will soon lead to a lack of progress. The body – and the mind – adapt quickly and settle into a new status quo. [Learn more about this, known as General Adaptation Syndrome]. Only through new challenges do we become stronger and more resilient.
The body is quite good at adapting to change, and once it finds a new normal, it likes to stay there – whether it be weight or body composition levels, strength, or cardiovascular endurance. Changing up your exercise routine periodically will challenge your body in new ways, allowing it to rise to the challenge and create a new status quo (the scientific term for this is homeostasis). The result is muscle fiber growth, improved mobility and flexibility, and new neuromotor pathways connecting the brain and muscles. Not only that, but new experiences add novelty and keep you engaged by tapping into your brain’s reward center. As a result, you’ll feel invigorated and inspired.
The trick is to remain consistent while at the same time incorporating new challenges, and throwing in some spontaneity as well. Here are a few techniques to help you strike this balance.
1. First, build a base
When it comes to healthy behaviors – whether it’s exercise, clean eating, meditation – start with a solid base of consistency before adding spontaneity to the mix. To make a new behavior stick, think about what your higher purpose is – your “why” – for this behavior. This can give you the psychological push you need to follow through. Consider this: How will this new routine enhance your life? Then when your mind starts to think of excuses, remembering why you’re really doing it will help propel you into movement – and motivation will follow.
2. Find some wiggle room
Once you’ve established a consistent routine, allow yourself the flexibility to modify or switch things up when life gets in the way (which it inevitably will). Otherwise, the smallest disruption can feel like failure. Giving yourself permission to modify your routine when the need arises, while still remaining true to your “why” increases and strengthens your overall commitment. So plan ahead and devise some strategies to accommodate those times when stuff just comes up. For example, if a last-minute dinner invite throws off your eating routine, choose to treat the dinner out as a reward, enjoy it, and have a light, healthy breakfast the next morning. If a last-minute meeting derails your lunchtime strength workout, either consider that day as a recovery day, or fit in a shorter body-weight routine or power walk later that day. Knowing you have this flexibility lets you to embrace the interruptions and see them as happy surprises (well, maybe not so much the last-minute meeting though!)
3. Progress to success
Consistency can make a challenging routine almost automatic – which in many ways is a good thing, but can lead to becoming like a hamster on a wheel – going and going but getting nowhere. For example, doing the exact same strength exercises, three times a week, every week, with the same number of reps and sets and with the same amount of weight will quickly lead to a plateau you’ll never get off of. So enjoy the comfort of a routine – but slowly and steadily build in new challenges. This could mean new exercises, adding weight, reps or sets to your current moves, or trying new formats. If you’ve only ever done dumbbell exercises, try the TRX Suspension Trainer™ or BOSU Balance Trainer™ for new challenges to your core strength and coordination. If you’re a runner, try some indoor cycling, boxing or a rowing machine. When making changes, be sure to introduce them slowly and gently, and allow your body time to recover and make its adaptations. You’ll soon see progress, and get a mental boost from trying something new!
Need some guidance in building an effective, progressive exercise and nutrition program? I can help! Contact me here and let’s have a conversation about the right path for you to your goals.