Many people ask me how to stay consistent with working out.
And boy, I get it.
Your fitness routine can feel like just one more thing on an already to-do list, especially before you establish an exercise habit!
In this post, I’ll give you ten ways to stay consistent with working out so that you can set yourself up with success for your fitness goals!
How to Stay Consistent with Working Out
One of my mentors once told me, “An apple a day is better than seven apples on Sunday.”
In other words, doing a little something every day is much better than doing a LOT every few days.
Consistency is the best predictor of reaching most goals. So if you’re not happy with your progress, an excellent question to ask yourself is “How consistent have I been?”
Not feeling super happy about your answer? Here are 10 tips for improving consistency.
Get Clear on Your Why
Why do you work out, anyway?
Sometimes, returning to this question can help get you out of a severe motivation rut.
Do you work out because it’s good for your mental health or helps you feel more energetic?
Great! Write that on a post-it note and stick it somewhere you’ll see it several times a day.
Connecting your workouts with a positive outcome often makes it easier to get stoked about hitting the gym.
And while you’re at it, be sure to pick a why that’s just for you–not for anyone else.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to slay at your high school reunion or wanting your ex to be jealous when she sees you.
But studies have shown that extrinsic motivators like these aren’t nearly as effective as intrinsic motivators, like feeling healthier or more confident.
In other words, make it all about you, boo.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make it more difficult to form an exercise habit.
Even silly things like picking a gym too far from your home and office or forgetting your workout clothes can send your good intentions out the window.
This came up for me a couple of months ago (hey, dietitians and trainers are human too!).
I coach early classes at the gym three days per week, and I used to go home and rest a bit before working out.
But then, I hit this rut.
See, the couch is super comfy, and my dogs are so snuggly, and motivation became hard to come by.
To get out of that funk, I committed to working out before going home whenever possible.
I realized that driving back in was a barrier for me, so now I do it while I’m already there.
The take home from my fitness funk is this: Think about every single excuse you might make for why you can’t get to the gym, then brainstorm some strategies for overcoming those excuses.
Speaking of barriers, is time (or lack thereof) one of YOUR major obstacles to consistency?
Whether you pack your days full of activity or always seem to have something come up, there is a pretty simple solution: Schedule your workouts.
Seriously. Put it in your calendar like a work meeting or a doctor’s appointment.
Block out enough time for your workout, drive, and getting ready.
And then do everything in your power to stick with it.
If someone wants to meet during your workout time, politely decline and suggest another time.
If your kids ask you to take them to the mall, set a time to take them later.
It may sound crazy bordering on reckless, but putting your needs first helps you take better care of everyone else.
Make an If-Then Plan
Now that you have scheduled workouts, know this: You’ll probably still miss a few here and there.
This is where if-then plans come in handy.
If-then plans are backup plans. They say, “If (x) happens, then I’ll do (y).” And they’re incredibly useful for busy people.
To get started, look at your scheduled workouts and see if there are any that you’re at risk of skipping due to outside factors like crazy work weeks or kids’ doctor appointments.
Then, make a backup plan.
For example, “If I can’t get my workout in at my scheduled time, then I’ll jog at my daughter’s soccer practice instead of reading.”
The goal is to stick with the original plan, but the if-then plan ensures you get some activity on your craziest days.
Track Your Progress
It isn’t easy to know if you’re being consistent if you’re not keeping track of your progress.
I’m not talking about writing down how heavy you lift at each workout (although you can certainly do that too if you like).
I mean tracking how often you’re actually working out.
According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, habit tracking is beneficial for three reasons:
- It creates accountability.
- It’s motivating.
- It’s satisfying.
So, in the case of fitness, keeping track of your workouts can make you more likely to stick with your routine. It also helps you rack up wins to feel more accomplished and competent (both of which can help you stay on track).
There are lots of different habit trackers you can buy, but you don’t need anything fancy.
You can shade in cells on an Excel spreadsheet or even make check marks on a post-it.
Find an Accountability Buddy
Chances are, you also have a friend wondering how to stay consistent with working out.
So why not team up and hold each other accountable?
Many people (especially those with the obliger tendency) find it easier to give up on themselves than to let others down. For this reason, scheduling workout dates with a buddy can help if you struggle to stay motivated.
You don’t have to work out every day with your buddy. This could even backfire.
Try coordinating one or two weekly workouts and see if it helps you stay on track.
Make it Fun
I won’t pretend to know everything about fitness, but I do know this: You’ll never stick with an exercise routine you dread.
This is true if you commit to an activity you don’t like or if you fall into a rut with a routine that you normally love.
There are two ways to make fitness more fun so that you can stay consistent with working out.
The first is temptation bundling.
This involves pairing something with delayed rewards (cough cough, your workout) with something you enjoy.
There are lots of ways to do this, but my personal favorite is keeping a fun audiobook on my phone that I only listen to while I lift weights.
The second strategy for making workouts more fun is to mix things up a little!
If you’re feeling burned out on bodybuilding, swap one workout a week for a twerking class or a game of pickleball.
If that’s not possible, hit a different class time at the gym. It’s fun working out with a new coach and new classmates!
Sign Up for a Competition
Another way to stay consistent with working out?
Sign up for an athletic competition!
This could be a Spartan race, a half marathon, a powerlifting meet, a CrossFit comp, or any other sport that interests you.
Often, paying for something and telling your inner circle about it will keep you accountable to your routine.
Pick something you’d enjoy training for, search for events in your area, and get something on the calendar!
Give Yourself an Out Clause
Even the most consistent exercisers have those days when they don’t want to work out.
And I will tell you what I tell my clients when they express a lack of motivation.
You can quit after 10 minutes if you’re still not feeling it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this. And do you want to know how many times I’ve quit?
Those endorphins always kick in, and I realize that I feel much better just a few minutes into my workout.
There may be times when you throw in the towel, and that’s okay too!
Maybe you need a rest day, or you need to switch things up if it’s happening a lot.
But try this one out if your lack of motivation is just a sometimes thing. I bet you’ll surprise yourself.
Are you still struggling with consistency?
Maybe you need a little help!
Here at Two Six, we offer one-on-one and group fitness programs that actually make you WANT to come to the gym every day.
Click here to learn more!