Consistency is key
I’ve started to realise that much of my written content starts with the line;
“Just as you would with your horse.”
It’s becoming a recurring theme in my messaging I convey through social media & blog platforms but it is so true & something I truly stand by as a coach. Imagine you’re going to your first 2* next month. I am sure you would have been following a systematic training plan over the previous few weeks or months with your horse to make sure that he is fit & ready to go for the event.
I am sure his training would have consisted of a variety of fast canter work, flatwork sessions, jump training, coaching with your trainer as well as a very specific diet so that you make sure he has all the energy & nutrients he needs whilst maintaining an appropriate competition weight & you know you have worked on every element to get him in the best pre-competition state possible.
So it is all about consistency right? I think we can all agree whatever discipline you compete in that getting results comes down to consistency.
People always ask;
"How do you train every day? How did you hit that weight on your deadlift? Or how did you get to your current weight?
Consistency is the most important component of any gym or home training programme & is so often totally overlooked or disregarded. Without consistency, your programme isn’t going to be organised & your body will not have the stimulus it needs to adapt & therefore you’ll struggle to see results with either your nutrition or training.
I train 5-6 days a week every week. I eat well at least 6 days a week. I try to fill my body with goodness every day. I aim to hit a step count every day. These are all things I do consistently & by that I mean consistently week to week/month to month. I don’t dip in & out & that is the secret to success.
Just like I preach to my clients to get their results consistency is key, I’ve most definitely learnt this in my business over the past year too. There are no secrets & people so often overlook the basics as they think of them as boring but honestly, the basics done well will get you the results.
If you’re not currently getting the results you want with your own training or nutrition or equally your horse ask yourself honestly.
“Am I being consistent?”
The key is being consistent, at the end of the day if you’ve got the bomb of all home workout programmes but you’re not consistent it won’t make an inch of difference. So how do you get yourself to this place of consistency?
When you’re looking to improve your health & fitness you are making positive lifestyle changes. These changes have to be things you can do every day consistently as otherwise, in the long run, you won’t get the results you’re hoping for & this comes down to habits. Repeating these habits consistently is where change will come from so you want to be focusing on building new habits.
Just as you go into the bathroom & brush your teeth before bed in time we are aiming for your nutrition & training habits to become autonomous like this. It will take time & in the beginning, a lot of conscious thoughts will be holding you back. You’ll think about it & this conscious thought process is where doubts or excuses may creep in to start with but in the long run you just need to stick with these new habits & they will become automatic habits you do as part of your daily life.
As these healthy habits start to become autonomous changes will begin to appear & you will be getting yourself closer to where you want to be with your health & lifestyle changes.
For instance, rather than finishing work at 5 pm & going straight to the yard could you visit the gym at 5.30 pm for a 30-minute class?
Instead of grabbing a chocolate bar when you stop to fill the lorry up could you grab a healthy snack & some fruit?
In time these habits will become automatic but consistency is the key to building these habits & making them stick for the rest of your life. So how do we develop this consistency?
1; Make sure you have your real WHY
Motivation is a struggle I hear people come up with time & time again. They say motivation is lacking but actually most of the time it comes down to making sure you are sufficiently motivating yourself. So if a rider said to me I need to improve my core strength for my riding my next question would be WHY?
What is the real deep emotional connection with this goal?
It’s far more likely to be that you fell off at your last event. You felt yourself tip with your upper body as you jumped over the drop into the water & felt right away you didn’t have the sufficient core strength to hold yourself & you let your horse down. If you find your motivation comes & goes it is paramount to spend some time finding the real WHY behind your goal!
2; Keep it simple & realistic
When we are talking about lifestyle changes it can sometimes seem like the best thing to do is to change everything at once however taking things one step at a time and focusing on implementing one good habit on its own first is the key.
If you want to help people keep things simple; that is a coaching mantra that I stick by. The basics work and if you do the basics well and keep things simple you'll get the results you want you don't need to overcomplicate it.
Also keeping it realistic for your lifestyle is essential.
Think about what fits and what works for you. If you've got 10 horses, three dogs and four kids to look after trying to train six times a week in the gym is just going to be completely unrealistic and you're going to fall at the first hurdle.
Making sure that both your nutrition riding and training plan is realistic and works for your lifestyle, your time and your goals is essential for long-term adherence
3; Focus on adding new habits
Concentrate on adding new habits rather than getting rid of your old ones. In time yes some habits may be better to eliminate but to get going & for you to be able to stick to the process you're far better at focusing on adding in new habits.
Gradually over time what you should find is that these new habits become autonomous and they start to cancel out your old habits. For instance to start with aiming to eat two more pieces of fruit a day instead of an afternoon chocolate bar would be a much better habit than trying to totally eliminate chocolate from your diet all together & much more attainable! You'll probably find that you can't stick to that & in time you'll be back to the start again!
4; The habit loop
Forming habits is the process by which a behaviour becomes more automatic through repetition; the more you repeat an activity the more your brain recognises it and you will become more efficient and effective at that activity.
Repeating habits leads to clear physical changes in the brain just as your muscles of the body would change in response to regular resistance training.
The habit loop & the four stages are described as a feedback loop.
The cue triggers a craving which motivates a response from you to satisfy the craving which then becomes associated with the original cue. All together these four stages form a feedback loop; cue, craving, response, reward.
This loop is happening continuously in your day & over time this is how your fitness & nutrition habits will stick. The cue & craving process is your brain identifying the problem, it may be a good problem as in you notice something & you aim to obtain it. Then the response & reward phases are the solution to this problem.
You wake up=CUE
You want to feel awake & alert=CRAVING
You drink a coffee=RESPONSE
You satisfy the craving to feel awake. Drinking coffee becomes associated with waking up & feeling alert=REWARD
You can use this loop to engrain good habits especially at the start of your fitness journey. If you were trying to engrain a new habit of going to the gym at 6.30 am in the morning it would be a good idea to leave your gym bag packed & trainers by the end of your bed so you see that cue as soon as you get out of bed & it gives you the feeling of yes I want to go & train & feel good. You're then far more likely to actually follow through with that habit than get back in bed & before you know it you'll be that person who trains at 6 am.
Forming habits is the key to long term adherence. If you’ve tried a training or nutrition programme before to help your riding but were unable to maintain those results then there was probably no change in your habits during the process or behaviours which meant you lacked consistency & therefore weren't able to sustain the results you had achieved or were hoping to. For sustainable & long term change the key is consistency & hopefully, this helps you to understand how to focus on building consistency into your health & fitness journey.