Are you a Weekend Warrior? Do you find it difficult to sustain a regular program of physical activity? Are you an athlete who doesn’t make time for the fundamental work that supports your intense physical activity? If you are, you are not alone!
How many people do you know who made grand New Year’s resolutions to get back in shape – but just never seemed to be able to make it happen? You may not know this, but your local gym makes a lot of money from memberships sold to people who start out great guns, but just can’t seem to keep up the personal momentum to get results. It’s a fact that your overall level of fitness is not determined by what you do sometimes, or by your sporadic good intentions.
Here’s the secret:
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what our excuses are. The only thing that matters is whether we did, or we didn’t.
So, what does consistency mean? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers a three distinct definitions which might help us understand it. In fact, these three definitions are intricately woven together in the context of sustaining physical activity. If we can look within ourselves and consider each of them, we can come to an understanding of where we are supporting the pathway to our own success, and where that support may falter.
- firmness of constitution or character : persistency
In terms physical activity, most people would probably connect quite easily to this one. It’s that quality of “stick-to-it-iveness” that gets the job done. But as we all know, it’s easy to set a goal, easy to state a plan; but much, much harder to follow through. Some of us are able to hang on for a while by the skin of our teeth and sheer white-knuckled will-power. But eventually, even that diminishes. Why? Excuses abound. But the deeper reasons for being inconsistent are actually interwoven with the other two definitions. Here’s what I mean:
Let’s have a look at definition #2:
- degree of firmness, density, viscosity, or resistance to movement or separation of constituent particles – “boil the juice to the consistency of a thick syrup”
This one is about texture. Let’s think of it as the texture of your commitment to your goal, whatever that goal is. When you think about working toward your goal, how does your body feel? Is your goal a heavy thing, a weight on your shoulders, an onerous task to be completed despite whatever hardships may be heaped upon you? Is the light at the end of the tunnel worth whatever sacrifices, changes or pains you’ll have to go through to get there? Or does the thought of achieving your goal get you excited, help you find motivation and give you energy to proceed? How will life be better once you’ve reached your goal? Is there a goal at all? Or are stuck on the insidious hamster wheel of “I can never be fit enough?”
If you have to fight intense internal resistance all the time, or if your body feels dense, heavy and hard when you set out on the journey to achieving your goal, ask yourself why you’re feeling this way! Sometimes the resistance is simply a resistance to change. And,very often, that wears off after a few weeks. But if the resistance persists? Check in with yourself. That old Nike slogan, “Just Do It,” will only get you so far.
If you joined the local running club to improve your cardiovascular fitness and shed a few pounds, did you do it because health pundits say that’s what you should do, or because you like the support of a group and you enjoy running? If you’re killing yourself at Crossfit, is there some part of that workout that brings you energy and vitality – or do you simply feel depleted and beat-up when you’re done? If someone told you to do Pilates for your posture, and you can’t stand the pace of it – why do you stay? Sometimes we forget to listen to our own bodies, and we do what people tell us is a good idea, what’s popular, what’s getting OTHER people good results. I’m all for trying stuff out, as much as possible actually, but it’s important to check in and FEEL whether the path you’re choosing is a good fit for taking you where YOU want to go. Fitness has become an industry. Everyone has a popsicle stick to sell you. Make sure you choose the popsicles you enjoy most, and that get you the best results for every part of your life and every phase of your life. Avoid the ones that leave an unpleasant after-taste.
And that brings us to definition #3. This one provides the foundation for all of the ones above:
- a) agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole : correspondence; specifically : ability to be asserted together without contradiction
b) harmony of conduct or practice with profession “followed her own advice with consistency
Is your plan for physical activity in harmony with who you are, and how you like to live your life? Does it support the activities you want most to achieve in the rest of your life – playing with kids, staying healthy & preventing injury, climbing Mount Everest, running a Fortune 500 company, building schools in Africa? Because if your movement is not in alignment with the rest of your life, you are likely to experience, at the very least, a difficulty being consistent with it. Your physical activity will certainly change and evolve as you go along, just as the rest of your life does – does your program allow for that?
The trick is to stay active. However you can. Give yourself permission to go as hard, or as gently, as the circumstances in your life require. Whether it’s a good day or a bad one, just show up and do what you can. Cry through it, laugh through it, stumble through it or rock it off the charts. Just come back and try again tomorrow. In this, my clients have been my best and biggest teachers. These are people who’ve worked through disappointments, pain, dysfunction, injury, set-backs, surgeries, illnesses, grief and any number of challenges by just showing up day after day, and giving it whatever they had to give in the moment. They are my inspiration. And here are some of the tips I’ve learned from them over the years:
1. Recognize your “little victories” every day. If you’re someone who likes to journal – write about it! If your workout feels lousy imperfect… find something you can celebrate. If pain (either physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) prevents you from going as hard or as far as you’d like, take a breath. Take heart in the fact that you CAN be there, trying to do better. Because there are people out there who would kill to be in your shoes. It doesn’t have to be unicorns and rainbows all the time. You just have to show up and give it a go.
Consistency is a tricky thing. What does it mean to you? Leave a comment below! I’m curious, because to me, consistency is not just a word. It’s a fascinating and complex concept. I love it, and I hate it too. Probably because to really be consistent, I have to be completely honest with myself, call myself on my “stories” and make sure that my goals are meaningful things that I deep-down really want to achieve. When I really want something, then it’s a lot easier to move toward it. I can have fun and ground myself in a sense of purpose that will help me through even the toughest days. Figure out what you really want, and what you really like. If you need support, look for friends or professionals who can help you. And then, “Just Do It.”Again… and again… and again….