Trouble staying consistent with your workouts? Try this genius system and never miss a workout again.
Success in the gym, like most things in life, comes down to mastering the basics and executing them consistently.
And the most basic of the basics? Showing up and doing the work – something many, many guys really struggle with. You probably know what I’m talking about all too well…
- You “meant” to hit the gym today… and…yesterday… and last week… but something just came up
- You’re just too damn tired (as a dad of two young kids, trust me – I get it)
- Driving to the gym, putting in an hour+… how exactly am I supposed to fit that into a to-do list that already fails to ever get completely checked off?!
- The idea of working out just seems like one more gruesome, difficult task to add to your (constantly growing) list of obligations
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if getting in a few workouts per week so that you could build and maintain the body you’ve always wanted was… simple?
What if you could start enjoying your workouts, and leave the gym energized instead of drained?
But before we get to that, let me kick this thing off by saying I don’t have an issue staying consistent with my workouts. In fact, I’ve probably only skipped one or two workouts TOTAL in the past 3-4 years.
Note: This doesn’t mean I haven’t taken time off — there are times when I plan to skip workouts for vacation, rest, etc. Here, I’m referring to times I’ve skipped a workout that I had planned on doing.
Now, If I were you, I’d be thinking one of two things:
- Good for you buddy, but how does that help me if I’m struggling to stay consistent?
- Must be nice to have all the time in the world to work out (I mean — that HAS to be why I’m so consistent, right?)
Here’s the thing: I don’t stay so consistent with my workouts because I’m special or because I’m genetically prone to being consistent or because I have so much extra time that I don’t have anything else to do…
I stay consistent because I’ve found a system that helps guarantee I show up, day after day, week after week, and put in my “sweat equity” in the gym.
Truth is, I know a lot about the struggles of trying to fit fitness and working out into a busy schedule because I have a lot going on in my life too.
I currently work 55+ hours per week, am married, and have two young kids. But my system keeps me on track and helps me stay consistent in the gym – even when I don’t feel like it, and even when I have 100+ other things going on.
Today, I’m going to share this system with you and show you how to 10x your consistency in the gym…
THE ‘STUPID-SIMPLE’ 5-STEP SYSTEM FOR CONSISTENT WORKOUTS
STEP 1: COMMIT TO THE LONG HAUL
When you get right down to it, most of us are avoiding the gym because on some level we feel like it’s not even worth the effort.
We’ve been fed the “quick-fix”, 12-week transformation mindset handed out by mainstream fitness magazines and websites that suggest we should be able to look like The Rock in 90 days… and it’s never worked out all that well for us before, so why even try?
The short-term mindset has skewed our view of what to expect and forced our attitude toward fitness to trend negatively – even if we don’t really consciously realize it.
My advice? Ignore the short-term results. Instead of working out with a short-term goal in mind, look at fitness another way…
- The goal isn’t to get a six-pack by summer. The goal is to regain your health and strength so that you can live life on your terms.
- The goal isn’t to deadlift or bench press 300 pounds or have a sub-two-minute Fran time. The goal is to be a guy who never misses a workout.
- The goal is not to sacrifice time with family or friends or hobbies to get “insane” results in the next 30 days. The goal is to be bigger, leaner, and stronger next year than you are today. And stronger and fitter two years from now than you will be next year.
This may seem subtle, but this mindset shift is absolutely crucial for you to reframe your time in the gym as something positive, rather than an exercise in futility.
Plus, when you have healthier, more realistic expectations, you’re less like to let the feelings of “failure” when you set overly-aggressive goals (and fall short) crush your motivation.
The funny thing? When you commit to being consistent and focusing more on long-term outcomes, you actually end up getting dang good results in the short term, too.
STEP 2: STOP DOING STUFF YOU HATE
It took me 10 years to figure this out. Instead of chastising yourself for a lack of willpower to stay consistent in the gym, have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “Do I even enjoy the things I’m doing there?”
Very few people will be able to show up and doing something that requires physical discomfort if they hate doing it.
Makes sense, right?
Plus, it doesn’t have to be that way. I know, I know – we’ve been led to believe that working out should suck, that we should “man up” and do squats and deadlifts (or whatever) because “that’s what real men do” and “that’s what gets results” — that’s what we’re “supposed” to do.
You know what I say? You aren’t supposed to do shit.
I hate heavy squats and deadlifts. Actually, I hate doing pretty much anything for less than 5 or 6 reps. It takes too much of a mental toll with all of the stress and lack of sleep that this season of life has for me right now.
If someone told me, “You gotta do heavy squats and deadlifts and bench presses for less than 5 reps”, I’d dread my workouts.
Heck, I’d probably skip most of em’.
So let’s stop doing stuff we hate because we feel like we have to. There are a lot of different ways to build muscle, gain strength, and improve general physical preparedness.
As a general rule, everything works if you follow the time-tested, proven principles for building muscle and gaining strength.
Find something that stokes your fitness fire and run with it.
Maybe that’s kettlebells. Maybe it’s mostly bodyweight stuff. Maybe it’s joining a local Crossfit gym for added accountability and camaraderie.
I don’t know, man, it could be alotta different things – but if it helps you actually look forward to working out (or at least not hate it), give it a shot.
Maybe that sounds crazy (probably does). But what’s the alternative… keep feeling bad about yourself for skipping workouts and fail to get any of the results you want? I don’t want that and neither should you.
So stop doing stuff you hate in the gym and find something that will help you look forward to working out – you’ll be amazed at what this does for consistency.
STEP 3: PLAN IT AND PROTECT IT
You know what happens when you “wing it”? You end up here, wondering…
- Will I be motivated to workout when I wake up (or when I get home from work)?
- Will I have enough free time to train today?
- Will I have enough willpower to actually show up and put in the work?
When you’re constantly wondering when you’re going to train next, you’ll have a really difficult time staying consistent. You end up only working out when you feel motivated or inspired (hint: you’ll rarely feel that way).
Here’s a better idea: Plan a specific time when you will workout each week and protect it like a date with your wife, a meeting at work, or anything else in your life that takes precedence.
When you do this, things like “motivation” and “willpower” are needed much less. Instead of waiting for those things to randomly strike, you tell your brain (and your body) ahead of time, “This is how it’s going to be.”
And when you do this, the lazy, I’d rather be sitting on the couch and eating nachos version of you is more likely to give in and come along for the ride.
For example, I work out every Monday and Wednesday at 6am and Fridays at 2pm. Every week.
I don’t have to sit around wondering when I’m going to train or wondering if I’ll feel motivated or wondering if I’ll be able to fit it into my schedule.
Those times are set aside for training – that’s it.
No question about.
Now, will things come up from time to time that require adjustments? Sure – but that’s the exception, not the rule.
Ninety percent of the time you stick to your schedule.
Bonus: Always schedule one of your weekly workouts on Monday morning if possible. Starting your week off with exercise sets the tone for the week and the positivity and productivity that stem from physical activity and hard work will carry over into other areas of your life.
STEP 4: GET OUT OF THE GYM
Sounds contradictory, right? Here I am writing an article about “being more consistent with your workouts”, and yet I’m advising you to get out of the gym? What?!
Here’s the deal: If you’re struggling to get to the gym… maybe you should try finding a way to train without having to go to a gym.
- Get a TRX or Jungle Gym Suspension Trainer and do your workouts at the park or in your backyard (or, if you have kids — at the playground while your kids play)
- Get some basic, minimalist equipment for a garage gym
- Get a few kettlebells or dumbbells and do stuff in your basement
One of the best decisions I made when we had my son four years ago was buying a barbell, some weight plates, gymnastics rings, and a few kettlebells so that I could train in my garage.
Now, I train in my garage gym 75% of the time and it makes it much, much easier to stay consistent because I don’t have to go anywhere.
I can keep an eye on my kids while getting a workout in (not ideal, for sure – but a huge obstacle for most parents – and hey, a semi-interrupted workout is better than no workout).
I used to scoff at the idea of training with a few dumbbells in my basement, but now that is something I will do from time to time when things get really busy.
Truth is, you can get a great workout in with a few random kettlebells or dumbbells.
Here’s one I’ve done before:
A1) 1-arm Kettlebell push press x 8-12 (per arm)
A2) Kettlebell Goblet Squat x 8-12
A3) Kettlebell Bent-Over Row x 8-12
A4) Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift x 8-12
A5) Farmers Walk x 60 seconds
… And you don’t need a fully equipped gym to get this done.
All you really need is a few dumbbells or kettlebells and one of those “perfect pullup” attachments that hook onto a doorway.
If you play your cards right and check out used sporting goods stores, you could probably score all of that for a couple hundred bucks – probably less than you’d pay each year for an actual gym membership (that you may or may not even use).
That’s something doable on a time AND money budget.
Now, the name of the game is progression – something often thought to be impossible if you don’t have access to a fully-equipped gym. Most people think if they’re not stacking another weight plate on a barbell then they aren’t progressing – NOT true.
You can satisfy the need for progression even with a simple workout like the one above.
Here are two ways:
- Complete the workout with heavier weights (if you used 20-pound dumbbells this month and you are able to complete the same amount of reps on each exercise with 25-pound dumbbells two months from now – you progressed, and if you continue this over time you will build muscle and gain strength.
- Complete the workout in less time. This is known as “training density”, and is another way to progress your workouts. Here’s how you would do this:
- Set a timer and perform the entire workout above in as little time as possible. Let’s say the first time you do the workout, it takes you 25 minutes to complete it.
- Try to complete the workout in less time from week to week or month to month. By week four, if you’re able to complete this same workout in 23 minutes, you will have progressed and will build muscle and gain strength.
“Simple” workouts like the one shown above don’t have to be mindless, ineffective workouts – if you can find a way to progress it, you will see improvements in strength and muscle gains.
Is it ideal? Maybe not.
But it’s a helluva lot better than sitting on your couch eating Doritos because you think the only way to “work out” is at a fully equipped gym that you can’t seem to force yourself to go to consistently.
Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
STEP 5: RIDE THE FENCE
Usually, telling someone to “ride the fence” would be horrible advice. “Make a decision — take a side!”, we hear all the time.
But an interesting thing I’ve found is that alotta guys are struggling to be consistent in the gym because they’re stuck thinking that if they’re not working out a certain way, it’s not worth doing at all.
I call it the “all or nothing” approach, and it’s something many, many people struggle with. Recently, I received the following comment from a reader expressing his struggle to do what it takes to get results:
“It seems that either you need to devote multiple hours per week in the gym, or else are stuck doing feeble bodyweight exercises at home in front of the TV!”
Do you see the invisible scripts that are play here? Like many other guys, this reader is stuck on extremes…
- I either have to workout for hours and hours in the gym each week
- Or, I have to do wimpy body weight exercises at home in front of the TV (that are ultimately worthless for building a muscular, athletic body)
But is that actually true? Are those really your only options?
You can find a middle ground.
Here at Muscle That Matters, we ride the fence like a stubborn sonuvabitch.
They say, “You either take the obsessive approach and spend hours in the gym each day OR you do useless “home workouts.”
We call bs and suggest you can stake a claim right down the middle.
We say, “You can build a leaner, stronger, healthier body in as little as 2-3 workouts per week lasting no more than 45 minutes.”
They say “You have to bench press and squat and deadlift and use a barbell.”
We say, “It’s not so much what you use, it’s how you use it. And as long as you’re focusing on the principles that make for a good, effective strength-training, muscle-building program, you’ll progress just fine.”
See how these two points of view differ? When you release yourself from the shackles of extremes, you give yourself more options.
When you have more options, you have the ability to start doing things you enjoy in the gym and find an approach (from exercises to types of resistance to where you train) that makes it more likely that you’ll stick to the plan and show up consistently.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO NOW
Here’s my challenge for you: before you even think about worrying about all of the advanced stuff 99% of the fitness industry obsesses over – master the skill of training consistently.
Use the “Jerry Seinfeld technique”: Grab a calendar and place an “X” on each of the days you have workouts planned and you complete them successfully. Your goal is to not let that “chain” break.
Sure, it’s a little different because you’re not working out every day so you’ll only have 2-4 days marked with an “X” each week, but your goal at the end of each month is to look back at that calendar and see every single day that you planned to workout marked with an X.
Here are your other Action Steps:
- Ask yourself: Am I focused on the long haul or am I hyper-focusing on short-term outcomes? Remember: Execute the basics consistently and you end up getting remarkable results even in the short-term. Fail to execute the basics consistently and you’ll get nowhere.
- Stop doing stuff you hate. Take some time to think about what types of exercise, types of training, etc. you enjoy most… how can you do more of that regularly? Remember: don’t worry about what you’re “supposed to do.”
- Plan it and protect it. Decide right now the day and times in which you will be working out from here on out. If you haven’t been consistent for a while, start small. How many days can you commit to with 100% certainty that you’ll follow through? Start there (even if it’s just one day per week) and add more after you’ve built the habit.
- Find what works for you. If you can’t seem to drag yourself to the gym, find another way to stay active. Get a suspension training or pick up a few dumbbells to use at home. Maybe it’s not what you’re used to hearing is “allowed”, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.
- Fight extremes. Evaluate the “hidden scripts” that drive your thoughts about exercise and fitness… do you really have to decide between hours and hours in the gym and worthless “at home workouts”… or is there a middle ground that would fit better with you lifestyle while still delivering the results you’re after?