Let's talk about consistency.
At any given moment, if someone were to come up to me and ask what my biggest piece of fitness advice would be, I can say with 100% certainty that it's to be consistent. It seems like an obvious answer, but you'd be surprised how hard it is to follow through with. I know, because I have fallen victim to the pitfalls myself on numerous occasions.
When I say to be consistent, I am not telling you to consistently take a walk once a month, or to exercise five days a week when you aren't tired, or busy. Consistency takes planning, time and dedication. It's incredibly easy to make excuses about why you can't do something. Consistency forces you to regularly think about why you should do something.
Depending on your goal, there are steps that need to be followed that insure you will get there. If your goal is to lose weight, you need to always think about better choices. You need to consistently get out and walk, or go to the gym three days a week like you planned. You need to consistently prepare your own healthier meals, or chose from the lower calorie menu. This isn't to say that you can't splurge once in a while, but that splurge needs to be the exception to the rule, not the rule anymore. If your goal is muscle growth, you need to consistently lift heavy things.
After I moved to a different state a couple years ago, I let a lot of my healthier habits slide. I was suffering from anxiety and depression and although I loved the new path I had taken, it took a lot to adjust. I had never lived anywhere else in my life and I left my entire extended family behind. Pile on a car accident in which I broke my dominant hand and I completely and utterly derailed. I gained weight I wasn't used to having on my body which made the depression worse and I became an "eat the Trader Joe's cookie butter outa the jar" kinda girl. Those cycles aren't easy to break. I know that. Just telling yourself you need to do something, or making a small goal is a huge step in the right direction. It took a good year and a half after the car accident before I could reboot myself and the only way I finally accomplished it is I made a goal that I knew I could obtain. I told myself that I was going to get outside and run five days a week. I called it my weekly dedication.
Your goal might not be the same. Your goal shouldn't be the same unless it also fits your schedule and ability. Your goal could be to swim for 20 minutes, four days a week, or to take a 45 minute walk after dinner each day. Pick whatever you like and do it . . . wait for it . . . dependably!
Ha! I gotcha! You thought I was going to say consistently, didn't you?
Anyway, when I originally set my goal, I didn't give myself any other expectation except to run five days a week. This meant that some days, I really didn't want to get out there. Some days were dreary and rainy and anybody who knows me understands that when it's raining, all I want to do is curl up in a ball with a cup of tea and The Hobbit (the book, we shall never speak of those movies.)
But I kept a promise to myself. I would run five days a week. All I had to do was put on my shoes and get out there, run for five minutes and it would totally count! So I'd get my shoes on. I'd step outside. I'd turn on my music of choice and I'd do what I said I was going to do -- and surprise! I would usually end up doing a lot more than five minutes. Even if I ran for five minutes and walked ten it didn't matter because I did what I said I was going to do. Some days were much better than others, but that's ok. That's life. The point is that I got it done.
And I know you can get it done. Before you know it, your strive for consistency will turn into habit and it won't feel like work anymore. It will become a part of your everyday life. It will become a part of who you are.
Trainers will tell you that you will only get results if you are consistent. They tell you this because it's true. You can't learn to play the guitar if you pick it up and strum a couple chords three times a year. What they don't usually tell you however, is that consistency does just as much (and in my opinion, more) for your brain as it does for your body. You learn to depend on yourself instead of others. You learn to trust yourself and love yourself for what you can and will accomplish. Hell, buy yourself some gold stickers and build a chart so you can put those suckers on each day you followed through with your plan. Not because you need to be treated like a child, but because it's a freaking gold star and you freakin' earned that biznatch. Make it fun. Treat it like a game. I know for me my love of roleplaying games comes through when I earn new achievements on my fitness apps. Whatever keeps it fun and whatever gets you out, doing your thing every day and every week.
My husband's rule is that he isn't allowed to play any video games for the day unless he has done some form of exercise -- how's that for keeping you consistent? Another way to hold yourself accountable is to reserve an audiobook or podcast that you really enjoy only for when you are working out.
Below I have linked a few fun apps to help you on your journey. These aren't necessary of course, so don't let lack of access discourage you. If you are able though, they can be a fun way to stay consistent. I'm not paid to mention these at all. These are just some of my favorites:
Zombies, Run! --- Want to help collect supplies and build a bunker for people during the zombie apocalypse? I know I do!
Runkeeper --- Join challenges and earn badges for new accomplishments. Track your progress and get reminders sent to keep you accountable.
Fitocracy --- Earn points and badges for each workout and see how you compare with friends on the leaderboard! Each activity earns a different amount of points. There's nothing like a little friendly competition.
Lolofit --- Lolofit has an awesome array of fitness apps as well as constant reminders for your next workout. My favorite is the Kettlebell app.
Audible --- Join to receive access to over 180,000 audio books to keep you interested.
We're Alive --- My husband and I really enjoyed this serial podcast when we first started getting into running. Think of it as The Walking Dead for your ears.
Freethinking Fitness --- Ok, ok. So this last one's me, but what's more accountable than a real person? You'll have access to a calendar (frequently updated by yours truly) reminders, workout routines and more! You can use it via the smartphone/tablet app as well as the website.
Shameless plugging aside, what I really want is for you to achieve your goals and to know that you can achieve them. It takes some dedication, but anything that is worth doing usually does. Whatever you find helpful in keeping you persistent makes this health nerd incredibly happy. So, have fun exploring! There are probably a zillion more where that came from and if you know of any great ones I haven't mentioned be sure to leave them in the comments! What helps keep you consistent and accountable? Do you have any fun, silly or serious tricks that keep you coming back and working hard?
Just remember that all of these are tools that can help you with the process, but the real work happens inside of you.