Sometimes even the best-laid and best-intentioned plans can quickly unravel. And we all know that a very familiar example of this is the struggle to stick to your workout program.
Be honest . . . how many times have you found yourself coming up with some excuse to skip a workout? Maybe you’d had a bad day. Perhaps you were particularly busy. Or maybe it was just too cold to get out of bed so early in the morning.
One of the major keys to success for any fitness program is consistency. Without that, you have nothing. Simply put, your success literally hinges on whether or not you manage to stick to your workout program consistently.
Let’s face it, starting out is always the exciting part. You make big plans, you’re super-motivated and hell-bent on making some serious changes to your body.
But then as time goes on, the cracks start to appear. Slowly your motivation starts to fray. A skipped workout here and there, then a few more. Before you know it, your five-day a week workout program looks more like one or two days per week. And quite often, it then stops altogether.
As I said, this is a very familiar story . . . and it’s typical of the way New Year’s resolutions often go.
If you’re serious about making changes to your body, it’s important when starting out on a new program to take appropriate measures to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
Here are 7 simple tricks, or strategies, that you should use to make sure you stick to your workout program consistently for the long haul.
1. Set Program Sub-Goals
It goes without saying that you should have a goal in mind when starting out on a new workout program, but what a lot of people neglect is to set smaller milestones, or sub-goals, for themselves. This is especially important if your main goal is one that will take a year or more to achieve.
When you’re working towards an objective that’s such a long way away it’s easy to become complacent and lose any sense of urgency. That’s because without any short-term time accountability it feels as though you have all the time in the world.
What invariably happens therefore is that what would have taken you a year to achieve ends up taking you two or more years, if you manage to stick to your workout program at all.
By setting shorter-term goals such as six-month, three-month and monthly milestones, for example, you ensure that you’re always working toward something that’s close within your reach. That will help you to give each and every workout more importance and take them all seriously.
By giving your workouts more purpose through short-term goals you’ll find that you’re far less likely to compromise your consistency.
2. Make Sure Your Program Fits
It’s important to ensure that your workout program fits your lifestyle well. If you’re unrealistic about what you can achieve it’s a certain recipe for frustration and inevitably, failure.
Start by figuring out how much time you can sensibly allocate to your program. Then plan your daily workout times around important things like your job, studies, family commitments, and so on. It’s not important whether you work out in the mornings, afternoons or evenings. The best time is whatever time suits your lifestyle best, otherwise you just won’t stick to your workout program.
Be sure to set priorities however. Going out for impromptu drinks with the girls may be part of your normal lifestyle, but if such an invitation happens to clash with a scheduled workout, you need to decide which is more important to you.
Your workout program needs to fit your lifestyle, but you need to accept that it will change it in some ways as well.
It’s also important to be realistic about what you can cope with physically. Trying to take on too much intensity is another sure-fire road to failure. Your body and mind need time to recover and rebuild, so don’t overdo it. It’s better to start too light, you can always step things up as you go.
3. Plan Each Workout
It’s not enough to just show up to your workouts, you need to make each one count.
If you get into the habit of simply walking into the gym, and aimlessly wandering around from machine to machine with no clear plan in place, you’ll run into two problems. Firstly, your workouts won’t be balanced and effective. You’ll find yourself unintentionally focusing on the exercises you’re most comfortable with and neglecting the ones you dislike.
And secondly, you won’t experience the same level of satisfaction that you will from going in there with a clear and distinct plan and executing it to the best of your ability. That satisfaction will go a long way to keep you coming back consistently time and time again.
Let’s face it, all good workouts are tough. And you need to feel as though each one has been worthwhile, otherwise your level of enthusiasm will just gradually fade away.
Make sure you never walk into the gym without a clear plan for what you’re going to do. And don’t kid yourself into believing you can just have one in your head. It needs to be written on paper, in detail, including the list of exercises, sets, reps, and so on.
4. Set a Goal For Each Workout
Reaching any objective is all about constant and regular progress, and a great way of achieving that is to set some sort of a goal for each individual workout. This will prevent you from just going through the motions and staying in your comfort zone.
Your workout goal will generally be something which represents progress over past workouts. It can be more weight on a particular major compound exercise, more reps at a particular weight, a longer or more intense cardio session, learning a new exercise – anything.
Setting a goal for each of your workouts will not only help you to maintain a mindset of continuous progress, it will also keep things interesting and exciting for you. It will help you to value your workouts rather than taking them for granted, and again, add to that level of satisfaction that keeps you looking forward to the next session.
And of course by making each individual workout matter in this way it’s much more likely that you’ll consistently stick to your workout program for the long term.
5. Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is the third step (after planning and setting workout goals) for making sure that your workouts all have purpose and that you get the most out of each one. This is beneficial for two reasons.
First of all, without tracking your progress it’s not really possible to move consistently toward your overall goal. It keeps you accountable and serves as a regular check on whether or not you’re on track with your program, and whether any changes need to be made.
Secondly, seeing your progress in black and white is very motivating and pushes you to keep going. As for the previous two strategies, it gives your workouts purpose and you a sense of achievement and fulfillment. Because progress with fitness is often very slow, it’s easy for positive changes to go practically unnoticed unless you document them.
Tracking your progress takes very little effort yet it’s a very valuable source of motivation that you should definitely tap into.
6. Create a Ritual
For any workout to be effective, it needs to be tough. And a tough workout is of course not only physically challenging, but mentally as well. To cope with the demands of exerting yourself to your limits and beyond on a daily basis, you need to find a way to get yourself “in the zone”, where you achieve as high a level of mental focus and toughness as possible.
Some people like to indulge in pre-workout supplements, which supposedly stimulate the nervous system to produce a more energetic and intense workout. In my opinion however, stimulating the mind is far more powerful and effective.
To get yourself mentally in the zone for a killer workout, make each workout a ritual that energizes you for serious action and growth. Here are 6 steps to making up what I believe is a good workout ritual:
- Reminding yourself of your ultimate goal and reason for wanting to get into shape.
- A pre-workout motivation session looking at empowering quotes, photos, or videos.
- Wearing workout clothes that make you feel awesome and proud of yourself.
- Listening to energizing music during your warm-up and workout.
- Getting mentally focused and psyching yourself up during your warm-up session.
- A meditative stretching cool-down session where you peacefully connect with your thoughts and your body.
Of course, you need to find what works best for you personally.
That will often take some time and experimentation, but you’ll soon find your winning combination for not only getting yourself to stick to your workout program, but to actually look forward to each workout.
7. Get Connected
Surviving in the world of fitness is made so much easier when you connect with other people who can support you, encourage you, help you out with advice, keep you accountable, and so on. There will always be those negative individuals in your life who take it upon themselves to bring you down, so the more good guys you have in your corner, the better.
Make an effort to connect with people who can help you in some way, and of course who you, too, can help. Whether or not you actually need to hire a trainer is your decision based upon your goals, your finances and your level of confidence. But connecting with motivated workout partners and fellow fitness enthusiasts with whom you can compare notes and share experiences and your progress is always a great thing.
The chances of you reaching your fitness goals will be significantly influenced by how widely you allow your fitness activities and interests to integrate into your life as a whole, including your social life and relationships.
Hopefully these 7 simple strategies have illustrated how much there is that you can do to help ensure you stick to your workout program. Don’t take for granted the importance of stacking the odds in your favor in this way. The fact is, the vast majority of people fail simply because they don’t stick with it, and they quit.
Make the effort to implement these ideas so that you don’t fall into the same trap yourself.
If there are any other strategies other than these that you use personally to keep yourself consistent with your workouts, let me know in the comments below. Any new ideas will always be helpful!