I was at a networking workshop recently when I found myself standing among a group of women who were discussing the reason they struggled to exercise consistently, if at all. This isn't the first time I've been in a conversation like this; in fact a few of my really good friends have spent a large portion of their lives struggling to stay consistent with their health and fitness so I know how common this problem is and how it can really affect people both physically and mentally.
This conversation got me thinking. Three women, all different in age and situation but all with a very similar (and very normal) struggle of not being able to maintain a fitness routine consistently and effortlessly. There are so many things I could have discussed in this article but I wanted to keep it simple so you can take this information and implement it immediately. After much thought, I've developed my '5 simples steps to staying consistent with exercise' so busy people, like yourself can have the best possible chance of maintaining a fitness routine, long term.
1. Eliminate obstacles before you begin. It sounds straight forward but I see people sabotaging themselves before they even step foot in the gym. For example; choose a gym that's close to home or work if you don't have a reliable means of transport, choose a gym with childcare options if you know that finding a sitter is hard and make sure you have the financials sorted before jumping in especially if you're on a month to month membership. It's important to eliminate as many obstacles as you can before they crop up so grab a pen and brainstorm solutions for each one you've encountered in the past, no matter how big or small. Remember that things do come up and that's life but preparation will give you the best chance of overcoming those obstacles and less chance of using it as a reason to skip the gym.
2. Form a good relationship with your trainer/s. I think of my clients as friends. I enjoy spending the one or two hours a week with them and they "enjoy" (I use that term lightly ;-) ) spending that time with me. If you have no relationship with your trainer then you are less likely to care if you miss a class or two and they are less likely to notice when you're not there. Having a trainer that keeps you accountable is really important and if you have a good relationship with each other, that's even better.
3. Find your tribe. I train at a Crossfit gym near my house because I find that training at home alone is too distracting. I've made some really great friends through that gym and when I don't feel like going along, the thought of seeing my friends can give me that little push I need. It's about being part of a community and having accountability buddies to help keep you on track (and vice versa).
4. Write a realistic exercise schedule. Exercising six times a week looks great on paper but when you can't attend all of those sessions, you can start feeling disappointed in yourself and that's when people tend to throw the towel in. Start small and build up over time. If two classes a week is all you can get to at the moment then start with that. Consistency speaks volumes above six times one week then nothing for six weeks. It's better for getting results, preventing injuries and building a realistic routine that you won't dread every week.
5. Choose classes you enjoy. It sounds simple but do you hate the classes you're going to? You should have a love/hate relationship with your trainer. The sessions should be challenging and occasionally you might give your trainer an eye roll (or throw out a few profanities) but all in all, you should find your sessions varied and not boring. Most gyms have a range of class options so mix it up and keep it interesting. Not only is it better for avoiding a plateau in your results but it also prevents you from finding the classes monotonous (and giving up!)
Health and fitness goes way beyond stepping into the gym and eating a salad. There are a lot of mental barriers we face that can sabotage our efforts but giving yourself the best possible chance to stick to a plan is so important. Be kind to yourself and realise that finding something right for you can take time. You don't have to become Serena Williams in the first month, in fact from my experience in the industry, starting gradually and building up over time is the best way to stay on track.
Here's to a happy, healthy and consistent you.