With the massive amount of information out there concerning fitness, things can get confusing pretty quick. How much cardio should I do, how do I manage my macros (what even are macros?), am I allergic to gluten, what supplements should I be taking..? The list goes on and on and on the questions can seem endless.
Well, hopefully I can help simplify things a bit for you, because even though there are many different factors when it comes to reaching your fitness goals, I am a firm believer that consistency should be your main concern. Keep in mind, if you have been training for over 3 years this article may not pertain as much to you as the higher our training age is (how long we have been resistance training), the more specific we have to be to continue to achieve favorable gains. That being said, if you’re new to training, this definitely applies to you.
Why Should Consistency Be #1?
Personally when I think about consistency and fitness, it permeates through not just exercise, but also diet and psychological aspects as well. Now, nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, have times of weakness, and veer off the path every so often. That being said, being consistent is all about immediately getting back on track when we have those missteps.
Concerning diet, many people end up regaining the weight of which they had lost when doing very intense crash diets “Only 5 percent of people who lose weight on a crash diet will keep the weight off. Crash diets include any unhealthy diet, from severe calorie-restriction diets to diets that consist of only a few kinds of foods” (1). A healthy rate of weight loss should be roughly 1% of your total body weight per week. This helps to ensure maintenance of lean mass (muscle) which is metabolically expensive which can aid in weight maintenance, and takes more calories to upkeep, also helping with everyday physical tasks.
Metabolism is adaptive, it can and will slow down when caloric intake is restricted for long periods of time, or in excess. Fat cells actually produce hormones that can affect hunger and satiety as well. Being consistent can allow us to better manage our weight, as well as give us a much more stable place to help initiate and manage metabolism as weight, when approaching weight loss in a scientifically based manner.
Consistent Muscle Building
Consistency also applies concerning goals for building muscle as well. Physiological adaptations take time; things don’t happen overnight (even though many ads will tell you otherwise). It is important to recognize this as it can help us set more realistic goals for building muscle, which can help to prevent frustration and becoming discouraged. People who are afraid of putting on too much muscle normally don’t realize how difficult of a task that truly is. It also can help us to appropriately increase weight and other factors involved in exercise programming to build muscle strength as well as muscle size. Appropriately increasing factors such as volume, frequency, time and type can help us to safely and effectively reach our fitness goals.
Pertaining to the psychological aspect of fitness, it is important to consistently remind ourselves of things as well. This can help us to stay rooted in realistic and healthy body ideals. A lot of what we see in the media presents an unrealistic portrayal of health and fitness. Even though most people know that Photoshop exists, and that it is used in major media, it subconsciously can affect us in a negative manner concerning body image. In fact, there has been research done that shows how when shown a photo and imagining “thin ideal body image” that many individuals reported less satisfaction for their own body (2).
Because of this, I believe it is important to be consistently and consciously aware of that fact. Not only to be aware of the unrealistic standard presented to us, but also to seek out realistic goals and ideals so that we can reinforce those healthy goals. This can help us to keep a healthy psychological outlook on our fitness, body image, and help to keep us in healthy behavior patterns.
There are many ways in which the fitness industry can lead us astray and set us up with unrealistic expectations. 6 minute abs, fit in 30 days, etc. etc. the list goes on. The truth of the matter is this; consistency is key to success. If you cannot see yourself doing what you’re doing in 6 months or a year, if not even further down the road, then you may need to rethink your strategy and change what it is you are doing.
The body adapts and gets used to the same stimulus, that’s what we do as humans, adapt and overcome. If we want to progress and continue that progression to our fitness goals than consistency may very well be the most important factor, because without it our bodies are never forced to adapt.