Imagine you want to get into really good, and I mean awesome physical shape. Strong, lean, whatever that means to you. You start going to the gym, watching what you eat, and feel really accomplished. Rock on you nimble gazelle you!
But then 3 days later you’re derailed. Something happened, either work, family, a bad nights sleep, whatever, and you’re no longer motivated to hit the gym. You grab a quick donut or 3 on your way to work, don’t have the same meal planning in place you did back on Monday, and for the rest of the week you’re not doing what you’d gameplanned.
“Next week will be different though” you tell yourself. You’ll get to the gym 7 times, they’ll all be amazingly hard and fruitful workouts, you’ll spin 3 times, and your nutrition will be flawlessly executed.
Monday comes, you sleep in, forget to grab your food, and you’re derailed again.
This continues, and at the end of the month, you’ve accumulated 5 workouts, 3 of which were in the first week, and you’ve eaten a total of 6 meals all month that were planned out. Everything else was grab and go on the run.
As you could imagine, this is likely not an ideal set up to see the kind of results you’d hoped for at the start of the month. The challenging part is that often our ability to goalset puts our eyes bigger than our stomachs, so to speak. We can set lofty ambitions, but seeing them through is tougher than expected, especially if it’s a big shift from our current routines and lifestyles.
In order to see any kind of change in physiology, body composition, or performance metrics, you need to expose yourself to some form of training stress regularly over time. When you workout, there’s a short term period where you see “results” following that workout, before returning to baseline if you don’t have another stressor exposure. This is commonly seen in many periodization graphs, but perfectly overviews the idea of homeostasis. If you expose yourself to something, your body will adapt to it. If you don’t consistently expose to that stress, your body won’t adapt to it.
Think about if you were to live somewhere that doesn’t get very warm. Edmonton for example. A hot summer day gets to 30 degrees celsius, about 85-90 Farenheit. That’s hot for this region. Now go somewhere that’s considerably warmer, about 45 degrees celsius or 115 Farenheit. That’s really warm. If you’re not used to it, you’re going to sweat just thinking about going outside. However, people who live there and have acclimated to that heat on a daily basis for many months or years, will not consider it much of a discomfort at all.
If I go to a warm climate for a week, I likely won’t adapt to it very much before returning home. If I was exposed to it for multiple weeks or months, I would adapt to it more readily, as the timeframe of stressor application would cause a shift in my physiology to more effectively maintain homeostasis in the new environment.
We adapt to the stressors we’re routinely exposed to. If you want to get used to warm temperatures, you have to get into warm environments. If you want to get into better physical shape, whatever that means to you, you have to exercise regularly. If you want to reduce your body fat, you have to eat in a caloric deficit on a regular basis.
This element of consistency is one of the hardest things for many people to develop, but once it’s engrained, it’s almost automatic. Working out 4+ times a week will deliver better results than working out twice a week, even if the intensity and volume in the 4 times a week sessions is less than those in the twice a week sessions.
So how do you get consistency in your workouts? There’s really no specific way that works best, but there are ways that seem to work for many.
As a correlate to these, try doing activities you actually enjoy doing and would want to do on a regular basis. If you absolutely feel like your soul is being crushed every time you go to the gym, it’s not likely going to be something you want to keep doing, so maybe pick something else and give it a whirl. The best activities are the ones you can’t wait to do again.
Doing one workout is great. Following a single program through to the end is fantastic. Working out regularly for the span of your life is the biggest goal you could possibly achieve, so whatever you choose to do, keep doing it as consistently as possible, and you’ll see the results you’re looking for, even if the process used isn’t perfect or world-shattering.