How Consistency Was Key for My Fitness in 2023 and Looking Forward to 2024
2023 was the year that I returned to my running habit, and really found ways to stay consistent with my fitness.
My 2023 started with a broken hand. I was hit by a car while running on a state forest road in November of 2022. I had bruised and scraped my entire body from shins to head, in addition to a concussion and broken a bone in my hand. By December 2022 I was starting to run again and was feeling much better by January 2023. I had already figured out that running at least 3 times a week was my minimum. Monday, I dedicated myself to running intervals, Wednesday was my long run, and Friday was my tempo, or intermediate run. If I felt like it, I would do a short 20 minute jog on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays. Saturday and Sunday I take off because I often travel on the weekend, and when I travel, I need to be 100% focused on the trip.
I also found a wonderful YouTube channel called NourishMoveLove. They offer daily workouts that you can do from home and focus on strength and fitness. This allowed me to get some strength training in, and I even bought heavier dumbbells because I needed to up my weights to make the exercises more challenging. I would try to do their workouts on Tuesday and Thursday.
Hold up, let’s go back to the beginning…
Years ago, I found this graphic from REI. There’s even an article that goes along with it. Way back then, I set it as the desktop graphic on my laptop, so that every time I open my laptop, I’m reminded about what a plan to be fit for the peaks looks like.
The funny thing is, pretty much no matter what resource you consult, they all kind of recommend what this says. Move your body every day. Do some cardio and some strength training. Incorporate interval training, in your cardio and/or strength training. Do some endurance training.
And the one thing that isn’t on here but does get more important as you age is to include mobility and flexibility as well. If you’d like to learn more about all the aspects of physical fitness, check out my previous post. It covers all the info you need to understand the aspects of physical fitness that you need to focus on.
Fitness Consistency Key #1: Find and do things that you enjoy, alternatively, find ways of doing things that make them enjoyable for you
Anyway. Back to 2023. I’ve been running off and on since about 2006. For many years, I’d run for a couple weeks or months, and then stop, for whatever reason. I lacked consistency. It wasn’t as if I didn’t try. And I had learned a few things that led to my success in 2023. I had learned that while it’s easy to just run the same route every day, some people love that. It’s not for me. I like to see different things, go to different places. I need to vary my running locations so that it stays interesting for me.
Similarly, I had lifted weights and done strength training in the past. However, I had learned that while I like to run alone, I like to do strength training with someone else. I don’t have a training partner, however Lindsay from NourishMoveLove on YouTube, is super encouraging, and makes you feel like your friend is pushing you to give it your all.
Additionally, in the past, I had a habit of lifting too heavy, too soon, and getting really sore and needing to take time off to recover (best case) or getting minor overuse injuries (worst case) and needing to take extended time off.
I tended to feel a bit lost in the gym. I could do exercises, use the machines, etc. But I just kind of felt like I was wandering around and had no idea if what I was doing was the “right” split. I just like to have a trainer or coach figure out what exercise I should be doing, and just follow their instructions. I don’t like figuring out which exercise to do, how many, what weight, etc. It’s too much for me. In this case, I just want someone to tell me, “Do this”, and I’ll do it. They can figure out what to do on “leg day”, or even if today is upper body, or push, or whatever. Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.
All that to say that following their workouts ticks the boxes for me. I started out trying to do them every day, but, frankly, I’m just not there yet, even at the end of 2023. And that’s ok. Because I am exercising every day, and the exercises that I’m doing are ones that I enjoy.
Find the upside
Speaking of enjoyment. It’s shocking, but true, that exercise, while good for you, isn’t always enjoyable. It can be hard. And to be fair, if you’re sick or injured, rest is the BEST option. Definitely rest if you are feeling under the weather, of if you have inadvertently done something to yourself.
And yet, if you aren’t sick or injured, it’s so important, at least for me, to just get out and do it. I run in all kinds of weather, rain, snow, ice, wind, heat. I even ran (and this was a super questionable decision on my part) in a smoke advisory. The summer of 2023 brought absolutely MASSIVE wildfires to Canada. And Canada, being the kind, sharing country that it is, shared it across the border with those of us in the USA. Thanks… Sometimes sharing ISN’T caring. So, yeah, I probably should have stayed home those days. Instead, I ran.
Fitness Consistency Key #2: Realize That Starting Over Sucks More Than Continuing
I ran because way back in the summer of 2022, I had an epiphany. After yet another lay off and restarting my running. I realized that that sucks for me. Does that irritate you too? I don’t enjoy the feeling of starting running after taking months off. I realized that the pain and annoyance of starting running again was a thing that I didn’t want in my life. To the point that I wanted to keep running, consistently. So that I wouldn’t have to go through the process of starting running again.
So that’s really where my consistent running routine started. I just didn’t want to have to start again. From there, my choices were, don’t run, or don’t stop running. I chose, don’t stop running.
Track your progress, but don’t let the numbers define you
Another truth from the way back machine is that I’ve always tracked my running. It’s one of those things that they tell you to do, and I just always did. Long ago, I had a “Running Journal”. A lovely spiral bound journal with a page or two for every day of the year, and I would log my miles, pace, workout, all the things. Nowadays, I have a Garmin fitness watch and my workouts are automatically tacked via GPS, and all the stats are calculated for me, as well as a map of my running locations. It’s pretty nifty, honestly.
So, these days tracking your progress is pretty easy. Even the most basic smartphone can run an app that will give you at least minimal information about your run, or your lifting session, or whatever you are doing to move your body.
All that being said, totally track your numbers, however, don’t let them define you. I tend to get lost in the numbers, and sometimes get worried if the numbers don’t always improve. In case you didn’t know, that’s actually totally normal. Stress, sleep, hormones, weather, and any number of unknown factors can change your performance. So, while it’s good to keep track of your overall performance and any improvements you’re making. It’s also ok to progress in a scattershot pattern, better some days, worse others. The thing is, you can prove to yourself that you went out and did the thing. Regardless of if you were faster or stronger than last time, when you look at your month in review, you will see that you were out moving your body, and that alone is enough to improve your health.
Fitness Consistency Key #3: Cross train – do different things, but don’t overdo it
Which brings us to where I am today. While I was very consistent all year, as November came to a close, I got a teensy bit greedy, and a tiny bit over confident. I ran just a few more miles per week than I had been. Unfortunately, it was too much, and my body gifted me an overuse injury to let me know that consistency is important, and at the same time, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
And now here we are
I’m not allowed to run for a few weeks so that this overuse injury has time to heal. However, I didn’t want to just quit. Remember, I decided that coming back from a break was just suck-tastic and I never want to do it again? Yeah. So, I prioritized my fitness and set my alarm for 5am and hauled my butt to my local gym to lift weights, and swim laps at their pool.
And here’s where things got funny, in a silver lining kind of way. I had been struggling with an achy shoulder for several months. My PT had been working on loosening it up, and it was VERY slowly getting better. The first few laps, ok pretty much the first entire session in the pool, my shoulder was cranky. Yet, I kept moving it around, kept swimming and gradually, it loosened up. I can now move my shoulder without pain, after just one session in the pool, forcing it to move around and through all the planes. How about that? If I hadn’t hurt myself by running too much, I wouldn’t have bothered to swim laps, and I wouldn’t have gotten my shoulder to feel better so fast. How’s that for a silver lining?
Since I’m at the gym, I also have access to heavier weights than I have at home, so I’ve been doing heavier lifting as well. All that to say, that while I’d rather be running, this injury has allowed me to fix other problems instead.
I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I like running alone, because, if there are other people around, I get very judgmental, and competitive. I’ve also learned that it might be worth it (if I can afford it) to keep swimming in my rotation of cross training activities. It’s really good for working on my mobility in all three dimensions.
And speaking of my cross training, I wanted to mention the one other thing that I’ve been regularly doing to work on my mobility and flexibility, and that is yoga. Again, I like to work out alone so that I can focus on myself, and not others.
I use an app called “Down Dog” for my yoga practice. The things that I really like about Down Dog are that, even the free version is super customizable. You can set the voice, music and actual practice length and type to whatever you’re feeling up to. I know a lot of people love Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube, and she’s ok. It just doesn’t suit me. Down Dog also gives you a different routine every time. Since I need to keep my workouts fresh and interesting, that’s something I really appreciate. If you are someone who like to do the same thing over and over, you can save a workout and just keep repeating it if you want.
If you’re learning anything from all this it’s that the most important part of developing consistency is finding what suits your personality, style, needs, and life.
Fitness Consistency Key #4: Adapt to Challenges
Ending 2023 on a different foot
And so, here I am, stepping into 2024, still consistent, injured again, and adapting as always. Currently my weekly fitness workout split looks like this:
This is very flexible. If, like today, I get to the gym and realize that I packed two left shoes, and no right shoe, then I just skip lifting for today. I can do it tomorrow instead.
And as always, this is an ideal, goal week. Sometimes, I just don’t feel up to it, and I’ll take partial or whole days off. That’s ok. I’m an adult, and I get to choose my own activities. And I choose to be consistently active.
Standard disclaimer, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Oh! And this is part of my series called Life is a Puzzle. You can find the overview here. It’s all about learning how to put the pieces of your life together in a way that makes sense for you.
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