You want so badly to work out consistently but no matter how many times you get a good streak going, it seems like life gets in the way, and next thing you know, you haven’t had a good workout in for weeks, maybe even months.
So how on earth can you get your workout in consistently time and time again year after year?
For the most part, I used to dread exercise of any sort. I’d try something for a while and then eventually… quit. Early on I thought group classes and their comradery were the answer but then I couldn’t stand being yelled at. You know, the “you can do it!” just one more rep!” “hold that squat!” So I’d go for a while… and then quit. Then I tried yoga. I loved the community but the restriction of the studio’s schedule just didn’t jive with my own. So I stopped going altogether. It seemed like no matter what I tried, I always ended up quitting.
Since then, I’ve been working out consistently three to five days a week, year after year. I learned a few things along my journey that can potentially help you be consistent on your own.
Motivation Vs Discipline
I used to believe that I needed to find motivation in order to work out consistently. That all the people who showed up day after day must be motivated to do so and oh how I envied them. I also believed that being motivated meant I needed to be stoked each time I worked out.
Now I know better. Hardly anyone is motivated to work out every single time they go. In fact, there are huge stretches of time when someone isn’t motivated whatsoever… yet that same person still shows up time and time again.
If you think I’m excited to go to the gym every day, you’re wrong.
According to Oxford Languages, motivation is defined as “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”. In other words, motivation is a feeling. If we know anything about feelings, it’s that we can’t control how we feel. What we CAN control; however, is how we act on them.
Contrarily, discipline is defined as, “to train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way". I think of discipline as being a muscle you develop over time. The reason why anyone works out consistently is that they’ve trained themselves to do so, NOT because they’re always motivated.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, how exactly do you become disciplined to exercise consistently?
How to Exercise Consistently
These tactics are simple and realistic for just about anyone to implement. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!
01: Start with Movement You Enjoy
If you force yourself to do something you know makes you cringe - even if you know it’s what you need to do to reach your body goals - I think it’s safe to say that you won’t be consistent. You’re better off spending some time trying a variety of exercises and figuring out what you truly enjoy so you will be more motivated to go in the first place. Let that motivation help you create a habit that sticks in time.
When that exercise you enjoy becomes a non-negotiable in your life, consider branching out and incorporating new styles. Because at some point, you’ll likely need to get uncomfortable and try something new in order to continue towards your goals. (Say, for example, you want that toned look and therefore, need to incorporate strength training). As long as you’ve already created a non-negotiable habit to work out, it’ll be far easier to start incorporating another form of exercise you may not like as much to help you get closer to your goals.
02: Make it Easy
Are you far more likely to work out at home than go to the gym? Then invest in some basic home gym equipment rather than dragging yourself to a gym you likely won’t end up going to anyway. Sign up for an online workout program or take some YouTube classes from your iPad. Or if getting yourself out of the house is your ticket to success, then get a membership at a gym, pilates studio, or whatever is convenient for you and is going to keep you going back.
03: Set Realistic Goals
Determine what’s truly realistic for you to follow through with and use that to set your goals. Ask yourself what can you actually be consistent with at this point in your life. If working out for an hour three days a week isn’t possible to do week after week, don’t even bother setting that as a goal. If you know you can only be consistent with 15 minutes three days a week, that should be your goal. And chances are, you’ll end up doing more once you get started. And once that’s solidified as a habit, you can add additional days or longer duration. The point is to choose a goal that you know you can follow through with - even if you don’t feel like it.
04: Invest in Yourself
It’s well known that if you invest money in an endeavor, you’re more likely to follow through. Whether that’s an in-person personal trainer, utilizing an app with a monthly fee, or hiring an online coach like one of us from Pretty Healthy Family, you increase your chances of success. Let one of these resources help you build that discipline muscle so that in time, you’ll be working out consistently of your own accord.
05: Have a Plan
Keeping all the above factors in mind, set a plan in place. I want you to literally take a moment to carve some space in your calendar. Choose dates and times that correspond with the expectations and the goals you’ve set for yourself and block out times that are non-negotiable. Simply creating the space in your life will make it more likely you’ll follow through.
06: Avoid Burnout
Going all in is hardly ever a recipe for success. Make a point to allow yourself days or even weeks to rest and not push yourself as hard. (Muscle is built during rest anyway!) If ever you reach a point where you feel like you’re ready to throw in the towel completely, you’ve probably pushed yourself too hard or set unrealistic goals for yourself. Reassess your plan, scale it back, allow yourself to rest… and then follow through. It’s one thing to take a day or week off here or there, it’s another to just stop going altogether. After all, it’s consistency over time that matters. In other words, taking time off and getting back on track isn’t a big deal. Taking time off and not going back, never yields results.
If you’re relying on motivation to get you to your workout, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Motivation comes and goes, but discipline becomes embedded into your life indefinitely. Take the time to train yourself to follow through with the expectations you set for yourself. It won’t happen overnight but chip away at it long enough, and one day you’ll realize that you’ve been working out consistently enough to see real results (keeping in mind, that it almost always takes longer than most people think.)