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 stick with it consistently, 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: strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and proper nutrition. All three are equally important on achieving your goals in fitness.
If one is not executed consistently, the other two will suffer and so will your progress. Don’t get me wrong— to assume we can be perfect, 100 percent of the time will just be setting ourselves up for failure. Our goal should be to follow our programs the best we can day in and day out, most of the time. The longer the time 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 anywhere from 3-6 times per week. The importance of strength training is that it will help 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 more dedicated, I would find a workout partner or hire the help of a qualified personal trainer. This way you are held accountable. I am more likely to go to the gym if I know there is someone waiting for me. Also having a training partner or trainer will keep you more focused and motivated during your workouts and will keep you from getting bored of the same old routine.
Cardiovascular activity is necessary to keep the metabolism roaring and help 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 find themselves losing weight, but also a lot of 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, 30 minutes plus, before breakfast. This way it is out of the way, and it will really boost your energy for a good portion of the day to follow. It is a little tough in the beginning, but after a week, you will feel so good doing it, you will be locked into a routine.
If there is no way you can do it first thing in the morning, I would do 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 that biggest inconsistency lies in most people. Some are good for 2-3 days, and then blow it for two days.
This vicious cycle will lead to frustration. Instead of following an extreme diet plan, I rather you 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 mess up and indulge in one or two of your meals, the day is not ruined, just start back to your diet for your next meal following.
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 will eliminate the excuses of stopping off at a fast food place because you have nothing to eat. It will eliminate the excuse for 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 the 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 today make it very easy to hit all of your meals.
You can purchase a protein powder and protein bars. Again these help eliminate any excuse for not getting the proper nutrition your body needs.
I would still rather you eat whole foods, but something is better than nothing at all.
A consistent routine will take some time to develop. After a couple of weeks, it will be part of your every day routine. Once you hit that level, it is smooth sailing, almost “auto-pilot.” Sure, in the beginning it will be difficult at times to prepare all your meals, do all your cardio, and hit every training session.
You will get used to it, and there will come a point where you will not even think about it because it will be a consistent part of your daily routine. It is just a matter of convincing yourself that you can do it, and giving yourself time to get there. The more time you do it, the more confidence you will develop to stick with it. So please go out there and try your best— you owe it to yourself!