When you search “how to stay consistent with training” on the Internet, you’ll read tips and tricks that include signing up for events, having friends and fitness professionals hold you accountable, incorporating some variety in your program, etcetera. All of these strategies can work great and you can incorporate them. They have also become generic in fitness literature. For that reason, I’d like to shake things up a bit and focus on specific sport and exercise psychology principles to help you achieve success. These Three P’s will help you to develop a mindset for consistently following through on your training program as you’re getting back into routine with life.
In sport and exercise psychology, we use process goals for developing confidence. A goal such as performing one more pushup today than last time, hiking up the mountain two minutes faster, or focusing on your core during headstand can instill confidence quickly. Greater confidence in training can lead to feeling better about yourself overall. Feeling amazing about yourself can motivate you to stick to your plan so that you can continue to feel amazing.
In my experience, when you control your thoughts, you control your emotions. When you control your emotions, you control your behavior. Your attitude can create your reality. People who are optimistic about being consistent with training expect good things to happen. They have an “I can” attitude and, as a result, they take positive action that raises the probability of success.
Even during a setback, there are always things you can control. If something unforeseen happens such as a sick child, last minute business meeting, or your personal trainer cancels on you, focus on what you can do to move forward.
You may not be able to get to the gym with your child at home, but can you do something (anything) at home?
Your lunch training session may have turned into to a business meeting, but can you go for a quick run after work?
If your trainer cancels on you is there a group fitness class you can participate in or can you redo a session you did last week with your trainer?
Whatever you do, choose to react to the situation in a positive way by engaging in a productive activity that keeps the momentum moving forward. Getting fixated on the fact that things did not go exactly according to plan creates a negative attitude that drains you of energy—energy needed to stay on track of your training. No more, “This week is ruined and so I’ll start again on Monday.” Instead, choose, “Okay, this is a temporary setback and what can I do to keep my training consistent?”
Motivation is classified as extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is the reward you get from training such as building lean muscle, completing an event, beating your fastest time, supporting health, being a good role model for your kids, and more. Intrinsic motivation is the pure satisfaction and enjoyment you experience from participating in physical activity. Generally, as you develop intrinsic motivation for training, you are more likely to stay consistent with your program.J. Buckworth, R.D. Dishman, P.J. O’Connor, & P.D. Tomporowski (2013). Exercise Psychology (2nd Ed). Champaign, IL Human Kinetics.
Being present when you’re training and identifying the key components that raise the enjoyment factor can help you to develop intrinsic motivation. Do your best to focus on the fact that you chose to be here training, that you are challenging yourself and achieving something, and that you are part of a healthy fitness community. Staying focused on the present and soaking up all that the experience has to offer you in the moment can strengthen your intrinsic motivation and your adherence will be more likely.
Incorporating the Three P’s in your training as you get back into routine with life will help give you a great shot at developing confidence, concentration, and motivation. Even more than signing up for events, having friends and fitness professionals to hold you accountable, and incorporating variety in your program, an optimal mindset can help you to stay consistent with your program.
What’s your favorite way to stay consistent with training?