You see it all the time—the athlete and gym-goer who will go to the ends of the earth to find the hottest new supplement, piece of workout gear, or routine that is guaranteed to give them the results they so badly crave (but so badly don’t want to have to work for).
In reality, the guys and gals that are killing it at the gym understand that it isn’t about the supplement, or the shoes, or necessarily the workout they are doing.
What it boils down to is one hilariously unsexy word…
I know, I know.
But it’s the secret sauce. Until someone can package the stuff, it will continue to be the quiet little workhorse that runs in the background, quietly gaining you results while everyone else darts around looking for the next magic potion promising overnight results.
If you’ve struggled with being consistent in the gym, you are not alone.
For years I was the guy that gym owners absolutely loved. Why? Because I was the dummy who paid full freight for a membership and supplements and made it to the gym a handful of times per month.
Until things changed.
Having hit the gym more times than there are days over the past two years (two-a-days made up for holidays, sickness, days off, etc), I have picked up some valuable insights along the way about what it takes to be consistent in the gym.
Here are some of my favorite tips for being a consistent gym goer:
1. Decide to become all things consistent.
The first step in being more consistent at the gym is making the conscious decision to do so.
Yes, this sounds stupidly simple, border-line New Agey, but hear me out for a couple moments…
There are identities you already have, and all we are going to do is add “consistent at the gym” in with the rest of ‘em.
Can’t think of some of your identities? Lemme help ya…
Are you a great brother? An amazing girlfriend? A great cook? Someone who always keeps their word? Someone who is always there for friends?
These are all different identities you have chosen to assume over time. (Reinforcement from others certainly helps—“You’re such a great cook!”—but at the end of the day you are the one pulling the trigger on these identities and letting them stick.)
The reason this works so well is that we tend to hedge towards the things we believe ourselves to be good at. It’s natural to lean on our strengths, and that’s why we love our positive identities so much. We take heaps of pride and satisfaction in having them.
At the end of the day, it is the way that we perceive ourselves that drives our behaviors. In other words, if you tell yourself—“I’m the kind of person that always makes it to the gym, no matter what”—than your actions, behaviors and workout habits follow suite.
Pretty simple, right? Yes.
But before you get carried away that in order for this to work you need to feed the positive feedback loop to reinforce the identity. Which means you can’t tell yourself that you are consistent in the gym and then not go.
Perception feeds action, which reinforces perception. And around and around we go.
2. Set a non-negotiable workout routine.
Number one excuse for why people don’t make it to the gym?
Not enough time.
This excuse is bulls***.
How do I know this? Because no matter how busy your life is, no matter how wild and nuts your schedule appears to be, there is someone busier who is working out right now.
One of my favorite quotes is by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who quite eloquently said—
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
When you set a specific, non-negotiable window of time each day for your workout, the rest of your schedule will be forced to fall in line.
Yes, there will be friction as you get used to your new schedule.
You’ll have to drop some things (sorry, no more late night Netflix benders), and economize and plan better for others (food prep, for instance).
Your time shouldn’t be dictated by your schedule.
You run that bitch, so put it to work for the things that matter most.
3. Create an environment that is favorable to being consistent in the gym.
Now this might sound wild…
Or even a little crazy…
But when you look at the rest of your life, your lifestyle, nutrition, people you spend time with, sleeping habits—do they support or hinder your efforts in the gym?
Here are a few examples:
- Are you going to gorge on junk food in the middle of the afternoon, knowing that the resulting sugar crash will leave you feeling less motivated to hit the gym later?
- Are you sitting in bed dawdling around on your cell phone when you should have been asleep an hour ago?
Look, I’m not telling you to live the life of an angel.
But showing up every day to the gym is tough work.
And it’s shocking the number of ways we make it even tougher before we even set foot in the door.
Take an objective look at your life and see where you can remove some of the friction that is keeping you from getting your butt to the gym.
4. Adhere to the 5 minute rule.
What is the 5 minute rule?
It’s a conviction to start.
Here is something you already know:
There will always be days where the last thing you feel like doing is going to the gym. Your boss tears you a new one at work and all you want to do is grab a beer with the girls. Your partner has got you stressing over some bullshit that happened last week at the club with her friends. You are tired, groggy, just not “feelin’ it”, or whatever other myriad of excuses you come up with today.
The way around these excuses, and to maintain that high flyin’ level of consistency we are after—is to committing to doing 5 risk-free minutes in the gym.
Promise that no matter how bad you feel, how crappy of a day you have had, that you will walk into the gym, and warm up for 5 minutes. If after working out for 5 minutes you still have absolutely no interest in being there, than hasta la vista.
But in actuality, this will rarely happen.
Not only does the brain absolutely hate incomplete tasks—the idea of an incomplete workout is enough to push us to finish the workout, but being in a workout environment will greatly increase your likelihood of wanting to work out.
(Remember what we were talking about with having an environment that supports consistency? You’re welcome.)
5. Keep a workout journal.
“What?” I can hear you saying.
“Now I have to write out my workouts?”
Yes, and here is why.
Pound for pound, dollar for dollar it is the most effective tool you can use to be consistent in the gym.
After all, the simple act of putting pen to paper for a couple minutes a day does the following ultra-rad things for you:
- It clarifies progress. We all like to think that we are completely on the ball with our workouts, and with no written record who is to argue with us? Having a detailed record of your workout history gives you a much better indication of how much you have actually trained, which helps in setting goals for your fitness and work outs that are based in reality, and not what you like to think you’ve done in the past.
- It will motivate the hell out of you. There are fewer things more powerful than being able to flip through the pages of a log book and seeing all of the progress that you have made. The sum value of all of those small wins. Seeing where you have been, all that you accomplished, and how far you have come along provides a kick to the can like few others can provide.
- It will keep you honest. Wanna know what drives me most days? It’s not thinking about looking good with my shirt off. Or even setting a personal best. Sometimes it’s the thought that I will have to write out a crappy workout. So on those days where nothing seems to be clicking, I will go out of my way to salvage the workout as best I can, so that when it comes to writing it out I can jot down an “A-“ or a “B+” instead of a “D” or an “incomplete.”
It’ll also make you taller. And better looking.
(Sorry. That was a lie.)
Being consistent in the gym isn’t easy, but it’s one of those things that do get easier the more time you spend on it.
After all, success doesn’t come out of a bottle, or out of a shoe box (as much as apparel and supplement companies would have you believe otherwise).
At the end of the day, it comes down to working hard, and doing so over a consistent basis. Everything else is just a bonus.
Will you be the guy or gal that commits to being more consistent in the gym today?