You’ve heard the advice before. Be consistent to be successful over the long term. Do the same basic things, eat less, move more, and don’t expect quick results. It takes time to lose fat and gain muscle, and you won’t see the quick progress that you expect. On the flip side, it’s important to change it up to keep yourself interested. Vary your exercises to keep your muscles guessing. Your body gets used to a routine and doesn’t need to adjust after awhile, so keep changing it up and shock your system. Be consistent but change it up – Two completely contradictory pieces of advice that are both valid. How can you incorporate them both?
So much of what the world tells you about diet and fitness is contradictory. I was having a conversation with my sister yesterday about what is the best diet for general health. I subscribe to a low-carb, high protein philosophy, where she is experimenting with veganism. Both have benefits and drawbacks, and if both work, who can say one is better than the other?
They are both good, but it depends on the goals of the person who uses them. If I want to build muscle, a vegan diet may be tougher since it can be difficult to get the increased protein needed. While on the flip side, a person who supports animal rights and wants to be generally healthy could find a vegan diet would be the best fit for them.
When it comes to fitness, the philosophy you use also should reflect your goals. Consistency is the golden rule when it comes to fat loss. If you want to lose fat and keep it off, go to the gym consistently 3 times a week and eat the same meals day in and day out that keep you in a calorie deficit – forever! You have no choice but to lose weight, from a simple input/output standpoint.
Effective muscle building, on the other hand, takes variation. For the most part, if you start slugging weights on a regular basis, and you get enough food and rest, you’ll add some muscle. But eventually your muscles reach the point where they’ve grown enough for you to accomplish consistent feats of strength. You’ve gotten good at the movement, you’re stronger, but your muscle growth has slowed down. In order to stimulate growth, you need to change the program, to surprise your central nervous system, recruit different muscle fibers by working muscles at different angles, and generally confuse your body by changing it up. You can shorten rest times, increase reps or number of sets, switch dumbbells with a barbell, anything that makes you work in a different way than before.
My goal involves losing fat, but I also want to maintain the muscle mass I have and build strength. I spent the first ten weeks of my lifting routine with a set program, increasing the amount of weight I lifted whenever I could. After ten weeks of solid consistency to ensure I was getting the most out of the program, it got a bit boring, and I found I wasn’t increasing the amount of weight I lifted very often. So I started a different program, which reflected some new goals I had, such as increasing stamina for distance running. The exercises were different, even though I was using the same muscles. I found my strength increased rapidly again as I got used to the new movement. I’ve been consistent, and just this week I started a new program after ten weeks to change things up again. If I get bored, I make adjustments, but otherwise I stay consistent with my lifts.
To pull it all together, consistency is necessary no matter what you do, because you have to let enough time pass for all those small changes to add up to something measureable. But once the measureable changes slow to a crawl, changing it up can be good for your body and for your mind. It keeps adding new challenges, so you stay interested, without changing things so often that you don’t see any improvement.
So be consistent, and change it up. Just make sure it fits with your personal goals.