The Consistency/Persistence Continuum

I’m going to share a story about myself that is as pathetic as it is true.

As Brene Brown says, vulnerability is not a source of weakness but our greatest measure of courage.

This is me being courageous.

OK, back to the embarrassing story.

When I was an unpaid intern at Peak Performance, the great personal training gym Kyle and I worked at prior to opening The Fort, one of my main goals was to beat the air freshener.

Now, if you are still paying attention you are likely asking, “what the fuck does ‘beat the air freshener’ mean?” Allow me to explain.

The bathroom at Peak had a wall-mounted automatic air freshener that would spray an (often much needed) floral mist at a predetermined interval. I think it was every 5 minutes or so.

Another feature of this fancy dispenser was a digital display that would count down how many days remained until the can of freshener needed to be replaced.

(Quick aside: it somewhat amazes me that someone at Proctor and Gamble or wherever was tasked with figuring out the algorithm that determined the timing of air freshener can contents to frequency of mist to time to replacement. This is how my brain works.)

Keep in mind that even though I was the lowest man on the totem pole, I was very eager and enthusiastic and grateful to have my internship position at Peak. I had come off a more than decade long career in advertising where I felt dispassionate and unsuccessful and was now remarkably optimistic about my situation. Learning from the best people in my area in a very professional and well regarded facility felt like a huge departure from my days as an associate creative director at middling agencies – a job I never particularly excelled at.

My days training at Peak Performance

Again, back to the story.

Every day I would walk into that men’s room, look at that digital display that was counting down the days and say to myself, “I have to stay here longer than that air freshener can.”

I promised you it was pathetic.

But this does bring me to my very important, very relevant and thankfully, after last week’s epically long blog post, brief point.

There is likely nothing more critical to your success in training (and probably business, relationships and most other aspects of life) than persistence and consistency.

That air freshener system had both. I needed to have more.

I will warn you of this: you cannot just have one. While they seem similar on the surface, there is a key difference between persistence and consistency and, again, you need both to be successful.

Consistency is basically the act of showing up over and over and over again. The longer you can maintain consistency, the greater the probability that you will get stronger, leaner and fitter. Also, ironically enough, the longer you stay consistent, the more frequently you can stray away without a backslide in your results.

Here’s an easy to understand example. Someone who trains consistently for 10 years could not train at all for two weeks and see absolutely no deleterious effects from the break. Someone who trains for 10 weeks and then takes 2 weeks off will nearly be back to square one.

Persistence, in my mind, requires some tenacity and effort over time. And this is where consistency and persistence differ. With consistency you just need to keep walking through the door. Persistence dictates that you have focus and effort and intention every time you lace up your sneakers or grab the handle of a rower or put the barbell on your back.

Great coaching, training partners, equipment, programming – certainly those things are important. But if you have none of them and simply have persistence and consistency you will go far. Conversely you can have all those things but if your training schedule is haphazard and unfocused you are never going to realize the results that you are hoping to achieve.

I’m not sure how many cans had to be replaced before I stopped placing my focus on beating them. But eventually I became a paid coach, Director of Training, book author, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and major fitness magazine advisory board member during my time at Peak. And not only did I outlast the air freshener, I outlasted the facility itself. Sadly, Peak closed down over 5 years ago.

But I’m still standing here. I’m still training five or six days per week and learning and working in an industry that I care about just as much as I did during my days as an unpaid intern.

When my only real skills were consistency and persistence. And my only rival smelled like roses and eucalyptus.