Patrick Gilbert PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS
What is the single most important factor about a healthy lifestyle that makes it work? No, it isn’t heavy squats, AMRAPs, endless cardio or kale smoothies. It is consistency. Being consistent with your lifestyle, from nutrition to exercise to sleep, is the absolute best thing you can do to improve your health and fitness. So how can you make sure that you are consistent with your habits? Read on.
Begin with Realistic Practices
If you have never been too concentrated on pursuing a healthy lifestyle, you will likely not be able to sustain a big, drastic change to your norm. Instead of trying some crazy diet strategy or trying to squat 400 pounds out of the gate, try more reasonable methods that are easier to achieve and stick with.
An incredibly simple way to improve consistency with nutrition is simply to log what you are eating. Now, this does not necessarily mean weighing or measuring every morsel of food you put in your mouth. Your best guess is probably good enough when it comes to measuring food if you are just looking for a way to be more consistent.
Likewise, when it comes to consistency with exercise, find something you enjoy doing. Whether that is going for a daily walk, doing a specified set of push ups throughout your day, or playing some type of recreational game/sport with friends, choosing something you enjoy doing will make it easier to follow through with over the long term.
Set Small Goals to Achieve Big Goals
Sure, everyone has big, lofty goals. One person wants to lose 50 pounds and look great at the beach. Someone else wants to bench press 250 pounds. While these are great goals, they will require a significant amount of time, effort and dedication. By starting to attack those big goals, people often get frustrated by a lack of progress and end up giving up on that goal.
Instead, focus on smaller goals that can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. If your big picture is to lose 50 pounds, start with 5, then 10. Then the next thing you know you’ve been at it for a few months and are down 25 pounds and feeling great about the progress.
By achieving these smaller goals, you will continue to gain confidence in your ability to ultimately succeed in achieving your big, long term goal. If your goal is to knock off a few pounds, check out this post about the “Secret to Losing Weight”. It isn’t quite as complicated as people make it sound!
By achieving smaller goals, you will continue to gain confidence in your ability to ultimately succeed in achieving your big, long-term goalTweet
Similarly, if your goal is to be able to put up 250 pounds on the bench press and you’re currently benching 200, you should make smaller progress goals to hit on your way to your ultimate goal of 250. While this goal may take careful planning on your part and possibly from a personal trainer, it should still ultimately be attainable given proper dedication and consistency.
Develop Consistent Habits
By being able to incorporate some of these more fundamental practices into your daily routine and overall lifestyle, you will find that living a “healthy life” takes much less effort than it did initially. A well-documented study from 2009 showed that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit1. That same study reported that habits can be formed in as little as 18 days or as long as 254 days, so this is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
With all that said, do not get discouraged during the initial stages of trying to develop a new habit. Every small goal you succeed in accomplishing will end up being a small victory. These wins will build your confidence in making health-conscious decisions and should make it easier to have the consistency needed to create those habits for the long haul.
The longer you do something regularly, the more natural it becomes for you. Once something becomes a true habit, it becomes part of your normal life and routine, rather than a tedious task you need to actively focus on doing consistently.
Crush Your Goals
Start by deciding on realistic practices you want to incorporate in your life. Build a solid foundation by accomplishing smaller goals. Finally, turn those practices and goals into lifestyle habits. Now there is nothing standing in your way of nailing all those big goals!
Building the foundation for a healthy lifestyle is just the beginning. Once those routines become habit rather than forced actions, things should fall into place for you. Now, this does not mean accomplishing your big goals will be easy; good things worth doing will of course take hard work. As long as you stick to your plan and carry through with your actions, those lofty goals you once thought you had no shot at accomplishing will be right at your doorstep.
1. Lally P, Van Jaarsveld CH, Potts HW, Wardle J. How are habits formed: modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur J Soc Psych. 2010;40(7): 998-1009.
About the Author – Patrick Gilbert PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS
Patrick is a physical therapist, athletic trainer and personal trainer. He runs Summit Performance and Therapy in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has been training clients of all backgrounds for years and has been a practicing physical therapist since 2016. His training philosophy combines his knowledge of rehabilitation as well as strength and conditioning in order to train clients to achieve great results and avoid injuries in the process. His physical therapy practice focuses on a three-dimensional view and treatment of the body and its many parts. Treatment emphasizes manual techniques and rehabilitative exercises to get patients back to previous activity levels without pain or dysfunction.
For more information about training or rehabilitating with Patrick, contact him at SummitPerformancePT@gmail.com or visit SummitPerformancePT.com