The life of a student is many things. The one thing that it is not is consistent. Between juggling full time studies, a constantly changing work timetable and an ever present social life, the virtue of consistency is often not made possible, especially at the gym.
At different points in the semester, the balancing act of all these essential life domains can sometimes, and often is, skewed disproportionately to one or the other.
For many students, having the ability to scavenge three meals a day and finding money for the pub is an achievement of consistency in itself.
Many of my friends often ask how I am able to find time to work 15-20 hours a week, attend uni twice a week, intern 13 hours a week, volunteer, study, and still find the time and energy to go to the gym 4-5 times a week. I often find myself reiterating the same thing; it is not easy and requires a lot of sacrifice and discipline. However, although important, sacrifice and discipline are only by-products of setting realistic, practical and achievable goals.
New Semester, New Me.
The new semester often brings with it many new opportunities and a chance to start fresh. For many, the turning over of the academic calendar ignites (or again for many, reignites) that determination to achieve a fitness objective.
The setting of goals also initiates a renewed and overwhelming surge of motivation. This is often accompanied with over-ambitious, idealized fitness visions, whether that be in the frequency, duration or intensity of workouts. Unfortunately, many of these goals are abandoned once the reality of the uni semester commences and the avalanche of assessments start to crumble down on you in light speed.
And this is the exact message I’m trying to convey.
While it is great to set yourself goals, it is also important to set realistic ones. I am not saying that you should aim lower or only try to achieve mediocrity, but rather you should aim for SUSTAINABLE and SPECIFIC goals that you can be CONSISTENT in achieving. While the specificity of goals is hugely important, I am largely only going to focus on the latter.
Consistency and Sustainability.
What I mean by sustainability, is that the more radical and intrusive the fitness goal presents upon daily life (uni, work, family, rest), the LESS sustainable it is. This shock treatment of the body may feel great and sustainable to begin with, but it is inherently nonviable.
Similarly, consistency in training refers to the ability to meet set objectives week after week, month after month despite changing variables.
It requires the ability to meet these objectives come rain, hail or shine.
For a student, goals should be orientated around what works best with your uni timetable and work roster. This may mean sacrificing a bit of both in order to fit a training session in.
For myself, I work afternoon shifts and take later classes in the day to give myself enough time to hit the gym in the morning. I find getting training over and done with early makes me more productive throughout the day and fosters a higher work ethic.
However, while this works for me, it may not work for you.
It is extremely important to find what works best for you and refine that routine until it becomes a positive habit. To try and hit the gym everyday as an initial starting point, may seem feasible to begin with, but will more often than not result in failure and dissatisfaction. More importantly, this can result in resentment and complete abandonment in going to the gym at all.
This method that I am proposing may seem like setting the bar low so you can’t fail. However, I see it as setting the bar realistically so you can consistently and sustainably achieve your goals (you could say I am glass half full type of guy).
Although I’m not the only one, the 2x IPF Junior World Champion John-Paul Cauchi has stated the following:
It’s better to do the minimum amount of work required to progress; for a long time, than to do the maximum amount of work you can cope with but burn out within a short amount of time. Think long term, look at the bigger picture.
So whilst consistency in a student’s life may seem mutually antithetical, it is very much possible to achieve. It requires firstly setting realistic and achievable goals that will create an environment where sustainability and consistency in training is made possible. This will result in allowing you to develop discipline and the ability to sacrifice to achieve and go beyond these goals.
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