Big goals are not reached in a single day. They need consistent effort. That means working on them on a regular basis and in a systematic, planned manner. Training specialist Christian Soetebier takes us through how to set yourself up to train more consistently.
Reaching any big goal takes dedication and work – that is even more true in the realm of health and fitness. To get where you want to be, you need to stick to a plan and do the work needed to execute it.
Repetition is the basis of mastery
Did you ever try to learn a new language? The best way to get it inside your head is to expose yourself to it on a regular basis. Learning a few words every few days and then forgetting about it will not work out. This is true for learning any new skill.
Training a new exercise is like learning a new word in the language of movement – you have to use it often to really know how it works! This is because one big factor in moving well is your coordination.
As Malcolm Gladwell explained in his book, “Outliers”, to become good at anything, you need countless hours of practice. By repeating your exercises regularly, you build the neurons that are responsible for that movement pattern and they learn to fire together, strengthening their connection.
Now, you might think “I don’t need to be a master of fitness exercises, I just want to work out!” True, you do not need to master every exercise perfectly and become a movement artist. But the better you get at any given exercise, the more effective it becomes. Because you feel exactly which joints must go where and which muscle needs to work.
As you can see, time spent training is time well spent. If a certain exercise gives you trouble, train it daily! As for your regular (full) workout, aim for at least 2-3 sessions per week to develop a routine.
Your body will adapt best to consistent training
Another reason that consistency in training is important lies within our biology: The sensors of our body need input on a regular basis. Only then will adaptation take place.
As the researcher Hans Selye found out years ago, our body reacts in different stages to any stressor. First, we enter an alarm reaction phase: The body reacts to the stressor by having a stress response. After a while, it recovers and, if not stressed again, returns to baseline.
However, if the stressor returns, we enter the second phase. During the resistance phase, the body adapts to the stressor and becomes more resilient to it. This model is called “General Adaptation Syndrome”.
The adaptations that happen are dependent on what you train: If you train your cardiovascular endurance, you will improve your cardiovascular system in a way that allows you to tolerate longer and more taxing workouts. If you train your strength, you will train both your nervous system and your muscles to transfer greater forces. And of course, you will eventually make your muscles grow.
Now a natural question to ask is: How long will it take? It depends on the specific adaptation, but the most noticeable changes will happen after 8-12 weeks of consistent training. Those “4 weeks to big arms” programs really are part of the realm of false advertising. You will get them (or any other fitness goal) only if you stick to your plan for weeks at a time. But it will be worth the effort.
A consistent schedule allows for planned rest days and therefore, more results and fewer injuries
On the other end of the spectrum of the benefits of having regular, scheduled training is this: You have your pre-planned rest days. No one gets strong or fit by training constantly without rest. That just leads to injuries and pain.
By having planned rest, you make sure your system has enough time to repair, recover, and grow!
Did you ever experience muscle soreness after a new or hard workout? Well, that is your muscles needing some rest for repair. Train again too soon and you will find that not all your strength has returned. Better wait and work out with your full potential.
Your central nervous system also might need some rest from more complex or intense exercises.
Did you ever feel the need to go to bed early on the day of your heavy deadlift workout? That is your CNS demanding enough rest to adapt.
Worried about detraining when you rest? Don’t be! You can take up to two weeks off from training your cardiovascular system without noticing a significant decline in your endurance. And you could take a break of up to three weeks and not lose any muscle or strength! Make sure to plan those rest days in to avoid injuries and get better, faster!
Build momentum to stay motivated
People often struggle with willpower and lack of results. Psychology research shows that by focusing on working out consistently, you can generate a lot of motivational momentum!
This is because each individual workout leaves you with a good feeling. Maybe you liked the way your body felt after breaking a sweat and feeling warm. Or perhaps you liked the way it felt to lift a very heavy weight or perform a bodyweight exercise you’ve been trying to master?
No matter the reason, having that good feeling will carry you from one workout to the next. And by keeping your workouts regular for weeks, you will get the results you want without losing your commitment on the way.
Consistently training will allow your body to adapt better and keep you going without losing motivation. The best way to be consistent is to plan for at least 2-3 workouts per week and make them part of your athletic lifestyle for good. Not sure how? We have you covered in this article.