The Consistency Principle of Training

We all want results and we want them as soon as possible. Assuming you are putting in the proper work consistently you will get results.
Tomorrow you will be a little bit stronger. The next day you will be a little bit faster. The day after that you will be a little bit more flexible. Next week you will be able to run a little bit farther. All of this will continue a little bit at a time.
Then one day you will surprise yourself when all those little bits from all those training sessions add up to something great.
You will all be successful to some degree. How successful will depend on one thing. Above all else, being consistent in your training will be the predictor of how successful you are on that day.
I call this the Consistency Principle of Training.
The principle is simple and has two points so here it is:
Consistency Principle of Training:
  • Have a plan and write it down in pencil
  • Follow the plan daily
The first point seem easy enough, but I am continually surprised at how many people don’t have a plan. How can you get to where you want to go or achieve the results you want if you have no road map to get there? Writing it down in pencil simply means that life happens and when you come to a fork in the road you may need to take the shorter route. Life is adventure, but life is also realistic so don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel for your own success every time you set your sights on a new goal.
I recognize that stuff happens. If you can’t run 10 miles today because something unforeseen derailed your plan and now you don’t have the time, I understand. But can you run 5 miles instead?
If you can’t do five 1-mile repeats today because your work needs you to come in early and you could really use the overtime…can you do three 1-mile repeats or six 800m intervals instead?
If you can’t make it to the gym today because the school called and you need to pick up your kid because they are sick, can you do a 20-minute body weight workout from YouTube at home instead? Can you do something…anything…rather than nothing at all? This adds to being consistent.
When are you doing your long run this weekend? I’m doing mine Sunday at 8:00am. Since I know I am starting my run at 8:00am then I know I need to get up before 8:00am. I do the same prep for every long run the same as I would for race day. On race day, I am awake 1.5 to 2 hours before the start of the race. I need time to eat, allow my stomach to settle from breakfast and also hit the restroom a couple times before I start my run at 8:00am. Then, at 7:30am I take a gel
That being said, if you find yourself cutting your workouts in half or missing your workouts altogether more consistently than you are making it to the gym or completing a training session 100% then I would suggest reassessing your goals and your priorities because it sounds like the work that needs to be done isn’t aligned with your life at the moment. Maybe now isn’t the time for a marathon? Maybe a half would suit your schedule better? I’ve had years where a full marathon just was not in the schedule. I had to focus on a new job, my dissertation, or new additions to my family so I kept my race schedule to a couple races in spring and winter and did maintenance training throughout the summer…and that’s okay!
I knew I could not be consistent in my training so I adjusted my goals to fit my schedule.
So Brian, how do you stay consistent?
The second dot point of the consistent principle of training answers this question. I follow my plan daily. I know what training is coming up days or weeks ahead of time and everything else is planned around that training session. Most days it is simple as I train at 5:00am and have the training completed before work. Weekends can be a challenge unless I plan well. I have major long runs on the family calendar blocked off.
If I have to mow the yard, plant the garden, and have friends coming over that night then I have to get up and do my long run early. Also, if you’re wondering, yes, I have scheduled friends and family on different weekends when a major training session like a 20-miler is on the plan for the weekend. Remember, you made a commitment to a goal. Believe me, your friend or family member will be proud that you have not only committed yourself to a goal, but have also planned ahead. It’s okay, really.
Another method or tool I use to stay consistent is an MS Excel spreadsheet. I keep it on the desktop of my laptop…staring at me. As I complete my workouts I use a red, yellow, green system.  If I completed what I have written down then I fill in that cell as green, if I only do part of the workout then I fill in the cell as yellow, if I missed a workout all together then I fill in the cell as red. This gives me a quick look visually of how I’m doing with consistency. Sometimes we are doing a crappy job just because we don’t know that we’re doing a crappy job that’s why keeping track is so important. You don’t need MS Excel. You can use a regular wall calendar and a few colored sharpies.
That’s it! Have a plan and follow the plan. To review…
Consistency Principle of Training:
  • Have a plan and write it down in pencil
  • Follow the plan daily

I ask the athletes I train to look at their calendars for the next year when they decide to train for a marathon. I ask them to look at holidays, family obligations, school schedules, vacations, work schedules, conferences, church schedules, graduations, annual events, family visits, and to try as much as possible to see the unforeseeable.

I ask them to do this so we can write a more realistic training plan from the beginning (still in pencil) so they can follow that plan daily with greater ease.

P.S.S. – Post Script Seriousness

A word on inconsistency… If things have not gone well during training, there comes a time in a training plan when you have to make the decision if your training thus far can support the goal you made for yourself. It’s a tough decision too. If you have not been consistent… If you have skipped training sessions… If you have missed whole weeks of training on the plan… If you have had to “start over” multiple times… If you have more red cells on the MS Excel sheet than green cellsthen you have to decide if what you HAVE done is enough. The answer may be, “No.” This is when I give the advice to defer or DNS (Do Not Start). 

Why DNS? Ask yourself, “Is attempting a goal that you are not prepared for worth an injury at best and your life at worst?” Some think that’s an easy answer, but I’ve seen countless people toe the line completely unprepared for a race due to lack of consistency in their training and come up injured. I see this and am very happy that it was just an injury.

I loathe having to give this advice because no one wants to hear that they have failed. However, I would rather see you fail now, in the short term, than get injured or worse…think that your inconsistency is in some way “good enough” because you succeeded at this round of Russian Roulette.

I used to be proud to say I had NEVER DNF’d or DNS’d. Now, my personal motto is that if I’m not prepared then I don’t toe the line regardless of how expensive the registration. My life and my physical health is worth much more than a shiny piece of metal on a ribbon. My life and my physical health is worth much more than my pride.

Sorry to get so serious at the end, but some folks need to hear it. They need to hear that it’s okay to fail, learn, and try again next year.

Happy Consistent Training!


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