Consistency Series: Time & Effort
The ultimate shout out needs to be given to my dear friend, swolemate, and boss lady Kelly Cutchin for her editing and meme skills. <3
“Just be consistent.”
How many times have you heard this phrase? How many times have you said this phrase? Probably too many to count. I know I’ve personally said this phrase no fewer than three times a week for the better part of a year and I’ve lost count of how many times it has been said to me. Consistent effort over time yields results. We KNOW this, right?
But how do we actually do consistency? I mean, if it all it took was just doing the thing most of the time, most of us would be shredded and fit as hell. While consistency may sound easy, it turns out that it’s a little more complicated than just “do this thing most of the time.”
Earlier this week, I posed a question on my personal FB page that stated: “What is your biggest struggle with being consistent with your nutrition and/or your exercise?”
Almost immediately after I posted it, responses started rolling in from all different types of people at all different levels of fitness ranging from novice to global competitor. I mention that because it’s important to realize that NO ONE just magically wakes up one day and says “I’m going to get fit and healthy. Let me execute this plan flawlessly.”
While reading through the responses, several themes emerged:
Time & Effort
Expenses & Budgets
It’s worth noting that the biggest barrier to consistency seems to be the idea that there is ONE correct way to do things. There isn’t. You don’t HAVE to meal prep on Sundays, you don’t HAVE to buy only organic foods, and you don’t HAVE to do any one particular thing.
This series will explore each of those items and provide some answers to the question “How can I be consistent?”
TIME AND EFFORT
Before we get into common issues and potential solutions surrounding time and effort, let’s just be real here: Improving your health and fitness takes time and effort. Period. There is no “quick fix” or “one weird trick” that will suddenly make everything happen. There is no magic exercise or combination of foods or supplements that can replicate the results that you will earn/achieve through time and effort.
Improving your health and fitness requires an investment, whether it be your time or your money (Shout out to Joy Victoria for making a post about this!). For the majority of people, it will be some combination of both. These categories tend to be inversely proportional meaning, the more money you spend, the less time you have to put in, and vice versa. Effort, however, remains constant, since you can’t actually pay someone to eat your food and do your squats for you, even if that seems like a great option on some days.
The most common issues dealing with time and effort were:
- Lack of time to prep food
- Prepping food takes a lot of effort and mental energy (we will touch on this more in the fatigue section)
- By the end of the week, taking the time to prep doesn’t seem worth the effort
- It is difficult to make time and put in the effort because it feels like there is an overwhelming amount of things to do
If these sounds familiar, I 100% feel ya! Setting aside time to do some not-so-glamorous things like chop veggies and cook chicken is highly valuable but not very fun. Unlike exercise, it doesn’t necessarily give you an immediate euphoric sense of accomplishment. It’s worth mentioning again that if you don’t want to (or aren’t able to) invest the time, invest some dollars instead. Time is valuable and while it may cost slightly more to pay someone to prep your food, it is likely that your time is worth more than the additional cost.
If you ARE going to invest your time and effort, make it a good investment by working smarter. Here are some of my favorite ways to work smarter, not harder and make your investment count.
Prep in small chunks: The idea that everyone has to spend all day on Sunday prepping their food is a total myth. There is no right or correct way to prep your meals! Whatever way that works for you the majority of the time is the “right” way.
Rather than cooking for several hours on one day, divide it up. Cook twice a week or if you cook dinner every night, make extras.
Make the most of your time by cooking one additional item while your stove/oven are already going.
Decide what is worth cooking and prepping yourself. Personally, I like to get all of my protein delivered to me (I use Trifecta Nutrition and highly recommend them) because I don’t mind prepping my carb and veggie sources. You can also buy pre-cooked carb options (like Veetee rices) and pre-chopped veggies - again, these may cost slightly more but do save you a decent amount of time.
Keep it simple: Rid yourself of the notion that every meal has to be some Pinterest worthy endeavor.
Truthfully, eating simple meals saves SO much time because you can mix and match bulk options. I usually keep 2-3 carb sources, 2-3 veggie sources, and 2-3 protein sources on hand each week and build my meals from those. I rotate options every few weeks to keep it from being boring and introduce variety by varying spices/sauces/condiments added after cooking.
Simplify your prep by choosing 2-3 options for each food category and build accordingly
Uses spices and condiments to introduce variety
Utilize hands-off cooking methods when possible such as the oven, rice cooker, and crockpot. You can have all three of those going and make 5+ items in less than 2 hours.
Schedule wisely: I looooove scheduling and planners so it’s no surprise that I block off meal prep time each week. I also schedule all of my training sessions as if they were appointments so that I won’t miss them.
Schedule your meal prep time each week. Schedule exercise time like appointments. This is an important shift in perception, so it can take time, but keeping appointments with yourself is an act of self care. These amounts of time and energy are investments in yourself, and you’re fucking worth it.
Make it a race. Challenge yourself to see how much you can get done in 2 hours and you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in that short block of time!
Make your environment work for you: Environment is everything so make all of your environments (work, home, etc.) work in your best interest. While you may not be able to control people bringing cupcakes into the office every day, you CAN control your decision to partake in said cupcake. No one shoves a cupcake down your throat. Set up your environment so it is easier to skip the cupcake (if you want to skip it) and set yourself up for success.
Don’t buy stuff you don’t want to consume. It’s as simple as that. You don’t want to eat it or it doesn’t serve your goals? DON’T BUY IT. If you absolutely have to buy it for other members of your household, keep it somewhere that you forget about. I don’t believe in “hiding” food, but keeping things out of your direct line of sight can help keep them out of your mind.
Prepare. Keep grab and go healthy snacks in your house, car, work, etc. so that when you’re running around and are suddenly hit with hunger, you can grab those items. It’s easy to just grab whatever is convenient in a state of hunger so treat your future self and pack a few go-to items.
Inventory your energy levels and use it to your advantage: Letting go of the idea that there is some ideal/perfect time to prep, train, etc. is a huge part of setting up your own routines and habits to help you be consistent. Another factor? Knowing when you’re most productive and using those times to get your stuff done.
Figure out your productive times. If you’re a morning person, use your morning time to plan, prep, or train when you have the most energy.
Find your best day to prep (in small or big chunks). If you know that you’re going to be too tired or busy to prep on Sunday, then don’t! Find another day or time (or several smaller chunks of time) that you can set aside for prepping.
Stop majoring in the minors: If buying all organic fruits and veggies is too expensive, don’t. Pick a few that matter to you or that you eat most often and invest your money there. Don’t worry about making sure every gram of rice is perfectly timed if you’re struggling to eat your allotted calorie amounts.
The bottom line here is to not let perfection be the enemy of good (or complete).
Prioritize. Big the big items that matter to you and focus on those.
Baby steps. Work on hitting a goal like meeting your overall calorie intake for two weeks. Once that has become a bit easier, add in another goal like hitting your overall macro numbers. Then two weeks later, focus on making some healthy food swaps if needed.Consistently meeting your own goals gives you satisfaction and momentum that’s all yours.
Next up, the topic of mental fatigue!