Students use various machines to exercise in TRECS.

So, you’ve discovered the most effective exercises, found the most nutritious foods and finally got in the mood to work out. Now, are you ready to do those exercises, eat that food and maintain that motivation consistently throughout your entire life?

Consistency will make or break your fitness efforts. You can create all the plans you want, but you’ll fall through every time if you can’t stick to them.

After you make those first steps, the goal is to maintain momentum and keep making progress. It’s not an easy process, but you needn’t be lost on your road to better health. Here are a few ways to ensure consistency.

This article focuses on exercise consistency. You can read more about how to build good nutrition habits here.

Change your mindset

As cliché as it is to say, fitness is a lifestyle. The sooner one understands that, the easier it is to maintain consistency.

The first thing one needs to do is examine their mindset about fitness.

It’s easy to view exercise and fitness as a chore or temporary action we begrudgingly do to be healthy. And why not? Exercise hurts and makes us sweaty. Why wouldn’t it be a chore?

But having this view is unhealthy. It frames fitness as deviation from the norm and sedentary lifestyles as that norm. If fitness is a chore, then sedentary lifestyles are the natural way of things.

Though understandably conceived, it’s a worldview that encourages you to fall off track. If being sedentary is the norm and fitness the deviation, what’s the harm in missing a few days?

However, by viewing wellness as a lifestyle — as a way to live and a set of daily routines and behaviors — it becomes much easier to maintain your health.

Fitness and wellness as a lifestyle doesn’t mean exercise and nutrition consume your every thought. It means that your actions are made to promote your health. Viewing wellness as a lifestyle encourages you to be mindful about yourself and what you need to be happy and healthy on a physical and emotional level.

There’s no simple way to change your cognition. It involves re-contextualizing your decisions and life on a large scale. But the following suggestions in this article may help with the transition.

Here is another resource to help out in changing your mindset.

Make exercise a routine

How often do you not perform tasks like showering or brushing your teeth? If you’ve developed a routine around those actions, the answer is probably “not too often.”

Routine is key to consistency, especially in fitness and nutrition.

The goal here is to make exercise as integral to your day as sleeping, waking up or eating. This transforms fitness from a monumental chore to a normal and accepted part of your day.

After deciding on a basic routine, take another look at your weekly schedule. Pick out a chunk of time each day — 45 to 60 minutes being plenty for a good workout — and dedicate that time to exercise.

Now, enforce the importance of that time. Whenever the clock strikes your decided hour, switch your mind to exercise mode. Make that time sacrosanct. Over time, this will lock exercise into your mind as the essential part of a healthy life it was always meant to be.

Furthermore, write things down. Write your max weights for each exercise, how fast you can run certain distances, how many reps you can do, et cetera.

Of course, things will sometimes get in the way. You may get a heavier load at work and need to stay later, a personal tragedy may strike, you may get injured or just have bad luck with traffic. Don’t ignore other responsibilities.

However, if your chosen time is repeatedly pushed back by other responsibilities, that doesn’t mean stop. It means you probably need to find another chunk of time.

Create long-term and short-term goals

Goals are necessary for every task, not just fitness. As with anything in life, you’re more likely to stick to your training if you have a goal than if you don’t.

So, take a few minutes to formulate your goals.

Short term goals are the results you want to see in a short time frame (usually three to six months). A goal should be something that’s within your ability, that you can objectively measure and that outlines a specific achievement while adhering to a time limit.

For example, “lose 10 pounds by next month” and “squat 20 more pounds in three weeks” are smart goals. “Run every day,” “be more fit” and “lose 100 pounds in three months” are examples of vapid goals, as they’re either too general or too unrealistic.

Long-term goals are what keep you going to the gym day to day if you’re running out of improvements. They’re the reason why you have your short-term goals, and they can be less specific.

Base your goals on what makes you happy.

For example, “maintain a healthy BMI” and “keep hiking at an old age” are good, long-term goals.

A later article will give a more in-depth look at goals. For now, stick to the basics, do some introspection and draw up some plans.

Don’t wait for motivation, create it

How often have people missed workouts due to “lack of motivation?” Short answer, a lot.

It’s easy to lose motivation if you have a bad day or feel especially tired.

The thing is, motivation is fake. It’s mostly in our heads. The emotional state of “being motivated” is just that, an emotional state.

How motivated are we to do things like eat, sleep, shower or go to work? Do we do these things because we’re motivated? No, we do them because they are set parts of our routines and because some of them are essential for life.

In the case of fitness and nutrition, they’re essential in making that life a long and healthy one. Yet we put off these essential parts of life because of we lack “motivation.”

The feeling of motivation matters, humans perform tasks better when they want to do those things, but motivation isn’t something we “have.” It is something we create for ourselves through goals.

As such, don’t wait until you’re in the right mindset to start. If you set goals, make schedules and abide by those goals and schedules, you create incentive to act. Afterwards, with consistent action, you see results. These results encourage you to continue. This is motivation that you create for yourself, and it’s not something that any motivational quote or poster can equal.

Exercise will become a routine you don’t need motivation for because it’s something you just — do —.

Forgive yourself for small lapses

The end goal is to maintain and build on your fitness for your whole life. Since a fitness lifestyle leads to a longer lifespan, there’s a lot of time to make mistakes.

As such, you will have a few lapses. Maybe you get so busy one day that you can’t exercise. Maybe you experience excess stress and overeat. Maybe you become injured and can’t workout effectively for a few weeks.

These things happen. It’s natural, but it’s easy to get yourself down and treat such happenings like personal failures. They’re not. Lapses happen, and you won’t reset your progress by making a few of them.

If this happens, acknowledge it, accept it and forgive yourself. Life happens and no one is perfect.

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