By Kim Duke
NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer
Through my years as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I have noticed the one main ingredient that keeps people from reaching their fitness goals. That ingredient is consistency.
People tend to be impatient when it comes to exercise. Too many times, people do not give their exercise plans enough time to reap the benefits they are looking for.
No matter what we do in life we will not achieve the success we want unless we work at it day in and day out for months and months. The same goes for your exercise programs.
You can have the best trainer in the world, and the best diet to follow, but if you do not consistently stick with it, you will wind up spinning your wheels. This can be very frustrating for someone who is trying to achieve fitness goals.
I feel there are three main components in any exercise program to build lean muscle and lose unwanted body fat. These components are strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and proper nutrition. All three are equally important to achieving your fitness goals and if one is executed inconsistently, the other two will suffer and so will your progress.
Don’t get me wrong; expecting to be perfect 100 percent of the time will just be setting yourself up for failure. Your goal should be to follow your programs the best you can, most of the time. The longer you stick with something the better you will become at it.
Strength training has always been my favorite piece of the exercise equation. Depending on your goals, you should perform some type of strength training with weights 3-6 times per week. The importance of strength training is that it helps increase your lean, tone body mass, thus giving a better shape to the body and increasing you basal metabolic rate.
Muscle is like a 24-hour furnace, so we must be sure we maintain or even increase our lean muscle to keep the metabolism on the rise.
To help keep you dedicated, find a workout partner or hire a qualified personal trainer. I am more likely to go to the gym if I know there is someone waiting for me that I am accountable to. Also, having a training partner or trainer will keep you more focused and motivated during your workouts and will keep you from getting bored with the same old routine.
Cardiovascular activity keeps the metabolism roaring and helps you burn some extra calories that will lead to fat loss.
The main reason I choose to do a good amount of cardio is that it allows me to eat more food and still make the fat loss results I am looking for. Some people who rely on diet alone to lose fat usually find themselves losing weight but also muscle. Keeping a little bit more food in the diet, but using cardio to burn more calories will end up in retention of lean muscle while losing the fat.
I would recommend doing your cardio first thing in the morning for 30+ minutes before breakfast. This way it is out of the way and it will boost your energy for a good portion of the day. It is a little tough in the beginning, but after a week, you will feel so good doing it, you will look forward to the routine.
If there is no way you can do it first thing in the morning, try it right after you train with weights or at night after your last meal. Bring a headset with your favorite music to help the time go faster.
The nutrition element can be the toughest piece in our fitness equation. This is where I find the biggest inconsistencies in most people. Some are good for 2-3 days, and then blow it for 2 days, for example. This vicious cycle will lead to frustration.
Instead of following an extreme diet plan, follow a nutrition plan that is moderate and one you feel you can follow every day for most of the time. Find a plan that is filled with the healthy foods you like. No, this does not mean ice cream, but once in a long while, you can indulge and enjoy. Moderation is the key. If you do indulge at a meal, the day is not ruined. Just go back to your diet for your next meal.
Convenience is a big factor that affects the consistency of eating the right foods. I recommend you get in the habit of preparing your own meals ahead of time. This eliminates the excuse of stopping off at a fast food place because you have nothing to eat. It also eliminates the risk of skipping a much-needed meal.
The best thing about preparing your meals is that you know exactly what you are eating and have complete control of the food you eat.
To speed up your metabolism and to help recuperate from your training, try to eat 5-6 small meals per day. It takes a minimum of around two weeks of a consistent eating regime to start boosting your metabolism and making results as far as lean muscle gain and fat loss.
Supplement companies make it easy to hit all of your meals with protein powder or protein bars. I would still rather you eat whole foods, but they can help eliminate any excuse for not getting the proper nutrition your body needs.
A consistent routine will take some time to develop. In the beginning it may be difficult to get into the habit of preparing all your meals, doing all your cardio and hitting every weight training session. But after a couple of weeks, it will be part of your everyday routine and once you hit that level, it is smooth sailing – you’re almost on “auto-pilot.”
So please go out there and try your best. You owe it to yourself!