by Will Grumke May 07, 2021 8 min read
For most people, the hardest part of working out is … working out. That is, working out consistently.
Whether it be getting to the gym on a consistent basis or heading downstairs for an at-home workout, the hardest part is simply working out consistently.
The most common excuse, being “I'm too busy.”
Which there's no denying that life makes it tough at times to make time for your workouts.
Especially after a long day and all you feel like doing is relaxing. But whether you have time constraints or not, you still have to work out. You still have to be consistent.
So, how do you find the motivation and desire to work out consistently when it’s hard enough just to get started?
Well, it’s about building the habit into your routine. It’s about learning how to be consistent.
The good news is, there are proven strategies to build this habit and increase your motivation to consistently stick to your plan and reach your goals.
Whether you’re making a new years resolution to work out more consistently, or just want to get in shape, these 8 strategies will help you stick to the plan through the colder fall and winter months ahead!
In other words, make a smaller commitment. Many people struggle to stay consistent because they over-commit.
Example: They commit to working out 6 days a week for life when they aren’t exercising at all right now.
You might love it at first, but most people end up hating it. That’s because it can be overwhelming as you try to work it into your busy schedule.
That isn’t the only type of over-commitment.
The other type is over-committing to how long or how hard each workout is going to be.
If you’re not working out now, committing to working out an hour a day sounds great, but can be very challenging to follow through with.
Instead of committing to working out “x” amount of time, change your mindset and commit to working out in some way “x” amount of days in the week.
So, if you planned on working out at the gym for an hour, but you got hung up at work and can’t make it to the gym, don’t worry … just head home and do a 20-minute workout at home (or whatever you have time for).
After all, consistency is more important than anything else you could be focusing on.
Remember, we are building habits and consistency, so the most important thing is working out consistently.
Reaching your goals, and more importantly maintaining your goals, is a life-long process. You can not just hit it hard for a month or two and expect to achieve the results you want and keep them forever.
No, fitness is a lifestyle.
And just like everything else in life, you will have ups … you will have downs … there will be times you really hit it hard and make a lot of progress … and there will be times that you are taking it a little easier.
Having the mindset out of the gate helps with consistency and longevity of sticking to the plan, because it alleviates a lot of pressure.
Just like from point number 1, if you can’t make every workout the best workout of your life ... that’s ok.
A small step forward is better than doing nothing that day. Do the best you can in each situation and understand that one workout isn’t going to make or break your results.
Yes, physically put your workout into your schedule.
By putting your daily exercise time into your schedule (no matter how short or long), you prioritize the workout in your day.
This simple action makes it a little commitment to yourself and will show you that you do have time in your day for it.
Try your best to not move the time around and definitely avoid skipping it altogether.
Trust us, small steps like this help a lot.
If you do have to move your workout time though, re-schedule it for sometime in the week, don’t just tell yourself you’ll fit it in somewhere else because let’s be honest … that won’t happen.
What we say matters. It matters a hell of a lot more than you think.
What we say shapes our mindset and our reality.
Without getting into a metaphysical discussion, just look at these examples and see how you FEEL after saying them…
I can’t do it.
I can never lose weight.
I suck at this.
It’s too hard.
I don’t have time.
Now, say these phrases and notice how you FEEL.
I can do it.
I can lose weight.
I’ll get better.
It’s getting easier and easier every time.
I will reach my goals.
The last list of phrases made you FEEL better … didn’t it?
Now, this goes even deeper than just what you say. It also matters what you THINK!
Unfortunately, those negative phrases (and others you might be telling yourself) can limit your results and become self-fulfilling statements.
Therefore, I highly encourage you to be very careful and intentional with what you say and think.
When you change your thoughts and words … you’ll change your mindset and results.
We’ve already covered 4 great tips and this one amplifies the impact of those 4.
Remember, we are building new life habits here so you want to reinforce the positive actions you take to help solidify them as long-term actions.
Unfortunately, most people only think about when they mess up. They don’t take the time to stop and think about when they have done a good job.
For example, being hung up at work and instead of skipping the gym all together going home and doing that 20-minute circuit workout.
That would be a great time to take a second to reflect and pat yourself on the back for sticking to the commitment to work out.
Unfortunately, though, most people will focus only on the fact they couldn't do their normal workout ... they'll focus on the frustration... which doesn't help.
Instead it would be better to acknowledge that you had to change plans, think about how you can prevent that in the future, and then also take a second to remind yourself "even with the change, I still got it done rather than skipping it like I would have before."
Then, as you reach smaller goals, say, consistently working out 5 times in the week as you committed to, reward yourself for sticking to it, or at a bare minimum, acknowledge it.
This reward doesn’t have to be big (and you should try not to make the reward one that undoes your progress), but by rewarding yourself for reaching that smaller goal ... you are reinforcing the positive actions that it took to accomplish it.
Rewards make fitness more fun and help make the transition into a fitness lifestyle. Plus, the right reward might be all you need for extra motivation when life gets tough.
Now, keep in mind, as you reach smaller goals and build consistency ... what you reward yourself for or celebrate has to get more challenging.
For example if you start with acknowledging/rewarding getting to the gym 5 times a week, you can't reward for that every week, and it would need to progress to say hitting the gym 20 times in a month ... or so forth.
Basically, you have to be honest with yourself and decide what is reward-worthy, and what is not. If you celebrate or reward for too little of an accomplishment you'll never advance.
Having a trusted friend, loved one, or co-worker join you in your fitness journey can make a huge difference in your success.
We spend the majority of our day around these individuals anyway, so having daily support from them makes sticking to the plan easier.
You can help one another work through excuses and give each other a kick in the ass when needed.
Don’t have an accountability partner?
No worries. It’s not mandatory.
If you would like one though, you can try joining workout classes at your gym, CrossFit, bootcamps, or running groups.
Shoot, even if you don’t find one main person to be your accountability partner ... joining those groups will help you stay more accountable, because of the little community those groups have.
The simple truth is that by preparing, you eliminate a lot of excuses.
For example, by simply taking your gym bag with you for the day it eliminates the excuse of not having your stuff with you … not having time to run home and change … or if your workout time changes, you are prepared to workout at any time.
Most people fail because they don’t take the few minutes needed to prepare.
Because they aren’t prepared, they feel stressed and anxious, which leads to them wanting to eliminate the stress, so they just cancel their workout plans.
This stress can very well be eliminated by preparing ahead of time.
This might be my favorite point.
It's also the point that I think I do the best in many areas of my life and what has helped me the most.
Because the truth of the matter is, in most cases, what we need to do is simple. It might not be easy, but it's simple.
We just make it complicated.
Take working out for example. We can technically workout anywhere.
We can run ... walk ... do push-ups, air squats, sit-ups, lunges ... and the list goes on and on.
There are also many types of gyms, studios, and places to train.
On top of that, there are all kinds of programs that will have different reps, sets, rest periods, and so on...
And while all of this can be great ... it can also hold us back.
We can get so caught up in thinking about which workouts to do, where to go, if we should do this, or that, or something else ... that before long, we've wasted valuable time and energy.
Time and energy that could have been spent actually working out.
Because in the grand scheme of things, when it comes to building the habit of working out and earning results from it ... what matters most is ACTUALLY working out.
Then, second-most important, is the effort we give during the workout ... and third, would be the actual program or style of workout.
Said a different way, you could have the "best plan" in the world, but you wouldn't get any results if you didn't actually do it, and didn't put forth a good effort.
So, keep it simple.
Workout ... give your best effort for the day ... and keep moving forward.
You might have read all of these and thought, “Well, that sounds simple enough.” That’s because they are simple. What works is not complicated.
But it certainly can be challenging ... especially in the fast-paced world we live in, other commitments we have, and hobbies we enjoy...
But by consistently utilizing these eight strategies (or even some of them) day in and day out will help you build consistency with working out!
Plus, what's great is that these 8 tips and principles can help you with building consistency in other areas of your life! Maybe that's reading 10 pages a day ... spending time to stretch or mobilize ... setting aside time for reflection ... and so on!
So, if you want to increase your consistency, work out consistently, and set yourself up for more AND long-term success … then those eight strategies are a great place to start!
Will Grumke is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.