Consistency is Key!
Years ago, back in the dark ages of the early and mid-2000's, I became acquainted with a thing called the "gym". It was a dimly lit, sweaty, grimy, and often smelly place. It was also a place where a lot of hard work happened. I should know! Every time I left there, I felt like I could barely walk, and I left little puddles of sweat wherever I performed my moves.
But there was a time around 2005 when I swore off the weight room. It wasn't because I didn't enjoy the feeling of working hard, but it was because I never felt like my efforts got me anywhere! My problem was not a lack of effort, direction, or clear cut goal, it was down to a lack of consistency. Some weeks I strength trained 4 times, others 2, some not at all. This was my downfall, and ultimately why the gym had failed in providing the results I wanted.
In college, I decided to give it another go, but this time it was my inability to train in a way that supported overall health, movement quality, and longevity that kept me from training consistently. Frequent injuries seriously hampered my results, and I actually grew weaker and more inflexible over my five years at university due to my injury problems!
With that being said, here are 5 reasons why maintaining consistency in a (i.e. any)training program is more important than effort, intensity:
1. Strength training is a long distance race, not a sprint
-If you're serious about getting stronger, especially in a way that will benefit you as you grow old (age gracefully, as we'd call it!), performing your sessions regularly, two to three times per week--without fail--is what will ultimately provide long term gains in fitness, strength, and health. And yes, that means EVEN on the days you feel like crap and don't want to work out. I have those days, too, guys, but I ALWAYS feel better about myself when I'm done! Jack Lalanne didn't learn how to do his crazy pushups in his 80's, he started training regularly early on and never stopped!
2. Effort and intensity are nothing without consistency
- It's a hard pill to swallow, but there are people out there (including myself, at one point) who love to do marathon workout sessions that leave them lying like pancake all flopped on the floor afterwards. Sometimes they do it to "make up for" not training the week before, or for other silly reasons. Ultimately, all this does is leave you so sore you can't work out for another five days, setting you back all over again.
-Train consistently, find the "minimal effective dose" that will provide you the results you want to see, and just keep plugging away. If you focus on this process regularly, the results will take care of themselves.
3. Strength is a skill
-The first time I heard another coach quote that "strength is a skill" I kind of scoffed at the idea. To me, playing sports that demanded facets like coordination, timing, speed, agility--those were things that required skill. But I completely misunderstood the message. Strength IS a skill, just like anything else, because if you want to attain a high level of it, it demands consistent practice!
-A great example is the pushup. The poor pushup is so often underrated in it's difficulty. Performed the way we teach at CFP (called the Hardstyle Pushup, due to how we try to generate tension in the lats and "corkscrew" the elbows tight to the sides) is especially challenging because it taxes the muscles we tend NOT to use every day (our lats and triceps). If you wanna get good at pushups, you better be prepared to practice them regularly! It just doesn't happen by itself.
4. Inconsistent consistency is a consistent road to flat-lining
-Truth be told, the reason why people get such great results at CFP is because we put an emphasis on consistency over all else. This is why we offer formats of two or three sessions per week, which can be supplemented with more aerobically focused conditioning classes. We don't sell by session, because we believe it sends the wrong message (that it doesn't matter how regularly or often you train,when it actually matters more than anything else).
-So if you're inconsistently consistent, possibly due to travel, injury (in my case), or not prioritizing your exercise and planning your schedule around it and allowing other stuff to creep in (let's be honest, it's EASY to do!), results will come more slowly. This brings me to my next and final point...how to fix a lack of consistency!
-How to make sure you stay consistent (and keep getting killer results) in 5 easy steps:
1. Know what the "Minimum Effective Dose" is, and work from there
-Understand that the MINIMUM number of times per week you should expect to strength train in order to maintain progress is 2, and a maximum of 3 times per week. Days in between sessions should be used for activities you enjoy (playing a sport, taking a walk, running, sprinting, attending a class at CFP), time permitting. If you aren't able to add extra days, you'll still have peace of mind knowing you got your 2 days in!
2. Prioritize your exercise schedule schedule first
-With that magic number 2 in mind, fit all other commitments, such as social gatherings, after you've found time for your 2 workouts. If you have more time available to you, take advantage of it and schedule an extra session, attend a class, or get outside and do an activity you enjoy!
3. Get creative with when, where and how you train
-If you are traveling and can't make it to the gym, that's OKAY!
-The beauty of CFP's training style is you need minimal equipment to get a great workout. We are happy to send your training plan with you, and we encourage you to stick to your regular training time, if that is possible.
-Better yet, pretty soon CFP will have an app with videos and the ability to send personalized workouts your way while you travel, even with the ability to customize the length of the workouts to fit your schedule! There literally will be no reason to NOT maintain your consistency when you're gone.
4. SOMETHING is ALWAYS better than nothing.
-Did you know that even if you're not performing your best, simply doing the work at the level you're capable of that day is like putting money in savings regularly?. It ALL adds up over time, and compounds itself when you "invest" regularly!
-If your schedule is nuts, and you simply DON'T have the ability to commit a full 50-60 minutes to exercise, call us, and we can drop your session time to 20-30 minutes and give you a chance to get something done! We want you to be and feel successful, no matter what.
-If that still isn't possible, performing your routine in chunks is actually just as effective. We call this"Greasing the Groove". If you have five minutes and don't want to get too sweaty, do some squats and a set of pushups. Later on, if you have another few minutes, do some leg raises and bridges on the floor. Then later if you have something to hang on, do a few rows, bar hangs, flexed arm hangs, or chin ups. -Rinse and repeat this throughout the day and you'll be pleasantly surprised that when your schedule normalizes, you'll have lost next to nothing!
5. When life gets in the way, plan for "maintenance" and be okay with it!
-Constant Forward Progress is our philosophy and mindset, but you know what? Sometimes the best way to keep moving forward is to keep from moving backwards. Family crises, work stress, illness, travel and poor sleep or lack of sleep due to these various times in our lives WILL creep up. Be prepared with this contingency plan we call "maintenance". Most important? Be okay with it! Don't beat yourself up because you can't train as often, just keep plugging away a little bit at a time.
In the end, understanding your minimum effective dose (#1), prioritizing exercise (#2), getting creative with when, where and how you train (#3), just doing SOMETHING, even when you're not at your best (#4), and planning for maintenance at times--and being okay with it (#5) is the secret sauce of long term success!
There you have it, folks. This may seem overly simplified, and maybe it is. But honestly, if you apply these ideas and principles in your life, no matter how crazy it may be, I know, nay, GUARANTEE you that you'll see regular results in your strength training.