Hey, Mitko Kazakov (aka the Fitness Consistency Coach) here and today I want to help you finally get out of the rut and make exercise a habit for life.
As you know, if one part of the equation to developing a better physique is giving your body the nutrients and rest it needs in order to repair and rebuild itself, the other part undoubtedly is working out regularly to stimulate your body to become leaner and more muscular.
Keeping in mind the vital role training plays in the development of a leaner, meaner physique, you can imagine why not being able to make yourself show up and put in the work consistently might be a problem if you’re trying to lose a few pounds or build some muscle.
Rest assured, today I will help you eliminate everything stopping you from making exercise an unbreakable habit for life in this monster guide to workout consistency.
Without further ado, the very first thing that you need to do is…
Set a goal
Goal setting is, and always will be, the very first thing you need to do whenever you want to improve any given area of your life. Setting a goal you’re hungry for will both keep you motivated over the long run and it will dictate how you go about achieving it.
Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t just work out like a madman because he wanted to “get toned” or “look better”. No, he regularly visualized himself up on stage, dominating his opponents and winning the Mr. Olympia title. He knew exactly what he wanted out of bodybuilding (and life), and he went after it with everything he had.
Chances are, you’re not setting yourself up to become the next Mr. Olympia (though I might be wrong!). That being said, you still need to set a goal – a vision of what you want to achieve when it comes to your physique – and you need to be passionate about it.
This is what’s going to propel you though all the hardships, towards a leaner, more muscular version of you. Once you set your goal, you can go ahead and…
Choose an effective method you like and finds ways to make exercise fun and enjoyable
Having a goal will not only keep you motivated in the long run – it will also dictate how you go about achieving it. For example, if you want to get really strong, then you’re going to have to train in the gym with very heavy loads and low rep ranges (1-5 reps most of the time).
On the other hand, if you want to get leaner and uncover your six-pack abs while preserving your muscle mass, you’re probably going to have to do some form of resistance training (and maybe some cardio to burn more calories). As a side note, if you don’t already have a training routine, you can try out my free “3 Days A Week To A Lean Muscular Physique” gym routine & home workout routine, which is suitable for real people with busy lives.
Once you pick a method that will effectively help you reach your fitness goal – in order to maximize your chances of sticking to it long-term – you’ll want to either choose a variation of it that you like or find ways to make it fun and enjoyable.
Why? It’s simple. If you like the activity, you’re more likely to stick to it. No surprises so far.
For example, Simeon Panda, a popular bodybuilder and fitness model recently shared a video of himself bench pressing two huge 170 lbs (77 kg) dumbbells. He explained that since he’s been working out for 17 years almost every single day, if he didn’t challenge himself by conquering ‘the last dumbbell’ in the gym, he would never have stuck to it for as long as he has.
Always aim to challenge yourself and make things interesting. Break down your goal into smaller milestones and enjoy conquering each one of them, and slowly but surely you’ll reach your final destination – without even noticing how the time passed.
I try to use this principle in my training as well: I don’t really like steady-state cardio (treadmill, jogging, elliptical) and HIIT tends to impede my performance on lifting days, so instead what I do to burn more calories and stay active is hip hop dancing. It’s fun, it’s social, it’s enjoyable, and at the same time I get my fair share of “cardio” in.
Anyway, I don’t know you – your thing might be swimming or playing football, but whatever it is, as long as it’s an effective way of moving towards your goal, pick something you enjoy. That’ll help you stick to it long-term.
Once you’ve picked your approach, make sure to…
Have a training plan and start small
I must have used this quote a thousand times, but here goes:
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
The last thing you want to do is enter the gym without having a structured routine prepared ahead of time. You need to know exactly what you’re going to be doing every time you step into the gym. Ambiguity kills consistency.
That being said, when picking your routine, make sure to start SMALL. Do not pick up a 6-days a week training routine from the get-go. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Instead, you want to start small and build up as time progresses (and only if needed). 3 days a week is a great start. It’ll help you build the habit of exercising consistently without losing your mind.
Once you can consistently work out 3 days a week, you can scale things up if you want to – and if it’s necessary. Adding to that final point, depending on your goal, it might not be necessary to work out more than 3 days a week – you can easily develop a leaner, more muscular physique with just 3 workouts per week without putting the rest of your life on hold.
That being said, if you want to become a fitness model (or look like one), you’ll obviously have to put in a bit more work. But again, start small and increase your training frequency with time.
Anyway, once you’ve picked your training routine, make sure to…
Book your training sessions ahead of time
You don’t want to come back from work one day, having made plans for the rest of the day – only to remember that you were supposed to go to the gym.
To prevent this situation from ever happening, simply “book” your training sessions in your calendar ahead of time. This way you’ll be able to schedule your time in a way that lets you go to the gym when you’re supposed to – and to take care of the rest of your life too.
As a side note, to maximize consistency you might want to work out earlier in the day if possible. In his famous book titled “Eat That Frog”, Brian Tracy says that if you want to get something done, you should schedule it first thing in the morning or as early as possible. This way your willpower is fresh and you can do things you usually struggle with.
Of course, for most people training in the morning just isn’t an option. Rest assured, you don’t NEED to, rather it’s just another tactic in your toolbox to help you make exercise a habit in the long run.
Anyway, once the time to work out comes…
Just get your foot in the gym
A lot has been said about how to motivate yourself to go to the gym and what to do if you don’t feel like it, and, looking back, I feel like the best advice I’ve ever heard on the topic is to just get your foot in the gym and leave the rest take care of itself.
One of the most profound concepts in psychology is the fact that once you take action, your emotions follow along behind. If you wait around to feel like going to the gym, you’ll be waiting forever. You need to start doing, and only then will you actually “feel like it”. Ultimately, action elicits emotion, not the other way around.
So trust me, even if you don’t feel like going, as long as you show up and simply start your warm-up, you’ll soon get into the groove and the rest of your workout will flow nicely.
Another tactic you can try out is to…
Have designated workout clothes and listen to music you like
Having designated workout clothes (i.e. clothes you only wear when training) conditions your brain to associate wearing those clothes with working out. This basic NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) technique will help you get in the mood to work out just by putting on your workout clothes.
Once you’re at the gym, make sure to turn on some of your favorite music. One reason why you want to listen to music you like is because it will just make the whole experience of working out more enjoyable.
A lot of people complain that the gym is just no fun. Well, blasting some of your favorite music can both make things that much more enjoyable AND get you pumped up for the challenges you’re facing.
Once you’ve sorted out your gym attire and your playlist, a step that you absolutely want to check off as completed is to…
Getting other people involved in your fitness goals will help your efforts of making exercise a habit a hundred times more likely to succeed.
The reason why getting accountability is so effective is because once you’ve become accountable to other people it’s much harder to get off the hook and quit. Especially if you pick the right people, accountability might be one of the things that helps you the most with your consistency in the gym.
There are several ways you could go about getting accountability with your workouts.
One way would be to tell a friend that you’ve decided to go to the gym X times a week and that you’ll be sending them a selfie from the gym every time you’re there to work out.
Another way would be to get a training partner – find someone with similar goals and go to the gym together. It would be pretty lame of you to miss a workout and leave them alone. Plus this will make training more enjoyable since you’ll have someone to share the challenges with and joke around during rest periods.
You could also join a group workout class. Being a part of a group will make exercise more fun and will also give you that necessary accountability.
Another great option, of course, would be to get a fitness coach. You could either get a in-person coach or an online coach. Both work great for accountability – the first one will be waiting for you at the gym and the second one will do regular check-ins with you to track your consistency.
Finally, you can also join our very own free MK Fitness & Consistency Facebook group where you can ask questions, interact with the other members and me, and be accountable to our community.
Track your progress and don’t forget to enjoy your results
Ultimately, the reason why you want to make exercise a habit is to get results. And conversely, once you see results – and start to like what you see in the mirror – that’s when you get hooked for life.
So don’t forget to review your physique and enjoy the progress you’re making because that is what’s going to keep you going back to the gym for more.
As I’ve said many times before, consistency is the number one predictor of success in developing a leaner, more muscular physique in the long run. This is why one of the things that you absolutely need to do is make exercise a long-lasting habit.
The guidelines above will help you do just that – while enjoying the process.