Dr. Anna, PT
Consistency Really Is Key
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
I did NOT feel like working out today. Sound familiar?
I did it though! And here’s why: Consistency is key.
No matter what we endeavor to achieve, consistency is absolutely essential for getting where we ultimately want to be. This comes up in the clinic with patients I’m treating all the time!
Somebody sitting in front of me says they want to be able to hike a mountain again. (It’s a thing we Coloradans do around here….) “Great goal!”, I say. So I follow that question up with, “How far can you hike currently?” Their response: “Well, the last time I hiked a mountain was in 2010. I really don’t do much now. About 6 months ago I hiked 3 miles and I hurt afterward so I haven’t done much since.” Ah ha. Do you see the disconnect?
The goal is not the issue here. It’s FANTASTIC to have a goal, regardless whether it’s a fitness goal or personal life goal. The issue here is the lack of consistent hiking or training, in this case. As it turns out, what we do most days of the week is far more impactful than doing one monumental thing just a few times a year.
Think about something you want to achieve in your own life. Do you want to learn how to play the piano? Practicing daily for even 10 minutes will help you make far more gains than sitting down to the keyboard once every two weeks. Do you want to write a book? Committing to one hour of writing 5 days a week will get a lot more down on the page than cramming (and fatiguing) over the span of 6 hours a few days a month. Interested in upping your fitness level? Exercising even 15 minutes, four or five days a week, is better than a 60-minute session one day a week. Do you see the trend here?
I promise you, it’s the little things that truly do matter. We can always increase the quantity of time later, if that’s what you choose to do. But getting into a basic routine where what you want to do is no longer a choice, but instead a priority in your life, will make all the difference.
When you leave the action toward your goal as a choice, there is room for an “out.” That voice in your head will say, “I will just do it tomorrow.” When you make it a priority, there is no question. When you make it a priority, you choose YOU. You choose your goal. You choose to be the person you want to become.
Needing help getting started? Here are 4 tips to incorporate more consistency in your life to work toward your goal:
Make small changes first- I read something a long time ago that stuck with me. (...So long ago, I can’t even remember the source.) A person wanted a total makeover of his life. He was talking to his therapist about quitting his job and traveling the world. His therapist responded with a challenge, “Why don’t you start by making your bed every day? If after a month you don’t miss a day, then you might consider making other shifts.” The man made his bed every single day, and he said it totally changed him. It was the change he needed to make other change. Sometimes we don’t need to turn our world completely on its head to see major change. Sometimes it’s the little things done consistently that can push a reset button for us from the inside out.
Pick only one thing- Simplify the number of behaviors in your routine with which to be consistent. Narrow it down to only one thing that feels do-able and that will make an impact. Example: Wanting to lose some weight? Don’t bite off more than you can chew right now by saying you will now change your diet and meal prep each week, work out 5 days a week with weight training (which you’ve never done) and cardio, hire a trainer, and join the local fitness club again. Woah. Too much. How about you start with going for a 20 minute walk every day? Make it manageable. (Refer to tip #1. That walk may shift something big in you to then feel ready for more down the road.)
Habit Stacking- Have you heard of it? The concept is that you incorporate a new habit “next to” a habit you already have. Here’s a way habit stacking totally worked for me: I knew I wanted to establish a daily meditation practice, but time and time again I kept starting and stopping in fits. When I learned about habit stacking, I told myself to try meditating before working out every morning. At first it felt foreign, but now I don't miss a morning of meditation. Let’s hear it for habit stacking!
Accountability buddy- This is not new news, but having somebody, or something, else to help hold you accountable can totally work when being accountable for yourself doesn’t (yet). Find somebody you trust, whether it’s a friend, a coach, or an online support group and tell them your goal. Be specific! What activity will you do, and for how many days a week? Then report back. If you’re driven by external validation, maybe simply making a chart where you can check your activity off each day and see your progress works for you. After all, those check marks or gold stars can sure feel rewarding!
Where do you want to add more consistency in your own life? And what can you do today to get started? I’d love to hear!