Is Consistency or Intensity More Important?
So, you’ve started working out (again) - or maybe you’ve been working out for awhile. Chances are you find yourself in one of the following 3 categories:
- You are consistent but lack intensity
- You have intensity but are NOT consistent
- You are consistent AND have intensity
When it comes to how we view and treat our fitness, every single one of us is going to find ourselves in one of the above 3 categories. One of them will produce results (but oftentimes much slower than we’d like), one of them will produce results quickly followed by the majority of us quitting because it isn’t sustainable, and one of them will produce results that are ideal for both our short and long term lifestyles.
Let’s dive into the 2nd category (having intensity without consistency), what it can look like, what the outcome usually is, and what the solution is.
Goal: Travel 1000 miles on foot as quickly as possible
Guidelines: You can only travel for 1 hour per day
Person A walks - can travel roughly 2.5 miles per day - will reach their destination in 400 days
Person B slow jogs - can travel roughly 4 miles per day - will reach their destination in 250 days
Person C runs - can travel roughly 7 miles per day - will reach their destination in 143 days
Person D sprints - can travel roughly 1.6 miles per day - will reach their destination in 602 days
Why would Person D end up coming in last place if their pace was faster than everyone else’s?
Here’s what happened…..
- Day #1: Person D was able to travel 10 miles (Score!)
- Day #2: Person D was able to travel 10 miles (We are crushing this)
- At this point Person D is confident they can maintain the 10 mile per day pace, which in theory would get them to the finish line in 100 days. However, Person D is pushing their pace past what is sustainable. By the end of day 2 they’re wrecked, sore, and mentally drained
- Day #3: Person D needs a break and doesn’t run at all
- Day #30:
- When all is said and done, Person D is only able to muster up enough energy to sprint at that 10 mile per day pace for a total of 5 times over the course of 30 days. When they aren’t able to sprint the 10 miles per day, they do nothing, because in their mind they’ve determined it’s 10 miles - or nothing. Because of this sporadic pace, they reach their destination in 602 days, which is 202 days slower than if they had just committed to the leisurely walking pace
Intensity without consistency doesn’t work
In the specific example above, intensity can be defined by the distance traveled per day by each person. From the outside looking in, we all assumed that Person D (the sprinter) would win the race because they were traveling at the fastest pace per day.
The reason Person D came in last place even though they had the highest amount of intensity while they moved? They were sporadic and inconsistent over the course of the 30 days.
This is the approach many of us try to take with our fitness. We start from scratch and choose a fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle plan that requires us to change 25 different aspects of our current lifestyle (completely unsustainable). We start off strong and are consistent for the first week or two. Then during week 3 we start to break down. We take a day off, followed by missing 3 workouts, followed by missing an entire month, and now we need to start over from the beginning. This vicious cycle starts to repeat itself.
Let’s use another example with the goal being fat loss.
Goal: Lose 30lbs
- Person A: Slow and steady approach. Low intensity workouts and 1-2 nutrition changes
- Person B: Uncomfortable, yet sustainable route. Adds more intensity to their training and 3-4 nutrition changes
- Person C: Overhauls their entire life in one fell swoop
Which person will come in last place in this scenario?
The approach Person C takes may “appear” to work better initially because they will have drastically changed their behaviors, but the approach will (almost always) be highly unsustainable and they will quit. They restrict themselves to cleanses, fasting, and avoidance of entire food groups. They spend hours in the gym and push their body in a way that creates a higher potential for injury. They’re miserable, not having fun, and loathe the entire process. They effectively create a yo-yo effect, which leads to a dysfunctional relationship with diet and exercise.
Build the foundation first
Intensity has its place in fitness but it is absolutely useless if you don’t first build a foundation of consistency.
If you haven’t yet developed the foundation of unwavering consistency, it’s time to put everything else to the side and build that foundation first.
If you need to start with walking - do it. Start walking until it becomes habitual.
If you need to start with highly modified, low intensity workouts - do it. Do it until it becomes habitual.
Consistency will breed results and those results will be in the form of a higher tolerance for fitness. In a few months time that walk will feel too easy, or the weight on your dumbbells will start to feel too light. Turn that walk into a jog. Pick up the heavier dumbbells. Move a little bit faster. Maybe not every single day - but when you can. Eventually you will continue to pick up speed. You’ll continue to get stronger.
Change your belief system about which one should come first (consistency or intensity). Commit to consistency over everything else. THIS is the most assured path to your destination. Consistency first. Consistency + intensity second.
CRAWL - WALK - JOG - RUN
Enjoy the view.