The power of consistency in diet and exercise

“Your body must be disciplined like a child, calmly but forcefully. You are, in fact, re-educating your body and as the various areas are convinced that you are serious, they will begin to obey. Your body is your child.” — Richard Hittleman

I think a challenge for a lot of people is consistency. We see the yo-yo effect in the gym industry, mostly by people who sign up in January, then try for a bit on their own, and fall away as spring approaches and then summer. These folks find it hard to drop weight and keep it off, and the reason is simple – consistency. As the yoga teacher I quoted above says the key is to realize that on a daily basis, you are teaching your body how to be. What are you teaching your body today? Are you teaching it to be stronger? Or allowing it to get weaker? Are you providing your body with solid nutritional basics with which to build and repair? Or low quality junk that will give you a little energy, but allow your body to fall into disrepair?

Today the group I run with went 26kms out on the highway. It was a tough run, being the longest one of the year so far. I go through this every year – rebuilding a base of running. In 2011 I ran a double marathon of 84kms during Ultraman Canada, so why was 26kms hard today? Shouldn’t I be able to just do that? The human body doesn’t sit still, it is always changing to what we create. I took much of 2012 off as my wife and I had our first child, so I lost a great deal of my running base.

So that puts me in a state of re-teaching my body how to run fast for a long time. As we age that gets harder to do, requiring more patience, more effective rest periods and better nutrition.

Something my run partner said today really struck a chord – “My Friday run lets me have a good Sunday run.” That is a very powerful truth because it speaks to the fact that consistency brings about success. By running consistently four days a week, the body adapts, grows, changes and becomes better at running. Through various things I have only been running two times a week, and I can feel it on my long runs. So to get better I have to run more often.

I was watching a client train on Saturday. This guy has gone from more than 350 lbs down to his current weight of 194 lbs – the lowest he has been since junior high school. Another client was working through the difficult Spartan training workout that we were doing and remarked that this other fellow was too happy during the suffer-fest. I observed that he was so happy because three years ago he could barely move. So yes, in spite of the difficulty of the current workout – the fact that he had taught his body to do such things, was a pure joy.

How did he do it? Consistency. No crash diets, no tricks or supplements, just good old, honest effort and consistency, coupled with good nutrition and a goal. Five days a week of clean eating, two days of whatever the weekend brought. Six days of strength or cardio training and a day off. Consistently for two years brought him to a half marathon, then a Spartan race, a few 10km runs, and more.

It’s probably the hardest thing to teach people and the most rewarding to watch when they understand, that consistently teaching your body to be stronger and to feed it good clean food, will yield a powerful, amazing machine that will let you do whatever you choose to do with your life. And that is pretty cool.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.