Consistency is an important concept when it comes to developing health and fitness. Being consistent with proper training, a healthy diet, and overall lifestyle habits will not only provide improved health and fitness but it will help you remain injury-free too. In this post I want to discuss training consistency. A lot of people lack training consistency; they train a few days a week for a marathon and often these workouts are anaerobic for some if not all training sessions. Those who are consistently inconsistent will end up sick, injured, and run-down, while wondering why they can’t get faster, stronger, and more fit. Let’s learn how to be consistent!
Being Consistent With Training
The way to train consistently is actually pretty simple – find the time to train and don’t train above your ability. Athletes who don’t train enough are just about as common as those who train too hard. Actually, I think it’s safe to say that most don’t train enough and when they train they train too hard. Most often when someone trains at their current ability they enjoy it a whole lot more because they’re not finishing the workout exhausted and maybe even in pain. They look forward to the next workout and will be much less likely to skip a workout. Finding the time to train may be difficult for many but if you don’t have the time to properly train for a long race then don’t register for it in the first place. Instead, train for something you have time for. If you only have time for a fifteen minute workout every workday then that’s fine – just don’t use those fifteen minutes to run hard two or more miles and then train three hours on Saturday to try to make up those miles.
It’s easy to miss a workout and it’s easy for those missed workouts to add up quickly. Next thing you know, you trained one or two times in the past week. If you had been developing some fitness, it doesn’t take long to lose it. If you haven’t yet got into a progression of consistent training, a workout here or there isn’t going to do much to get your fitness going. Most people live high-stress lifestyles and are already pressed for time, so they turn to high intensity training (HIT or HIIT – the second ‘I’ for interval), to try to slap on some quick fitness gains. Hey – the research says that this is the way to train today. All we need is about ten minutes a few times a week and maybe even a thirty minute session every so often. It’s what all the cool people are doing – train less and become more fit. Unfortunately, these gains from such high-intensity training bouts will be short-lived at best, as those who only train in such a way are recipes for disaster. That disaster is an injury. As I’ve discussed in Part II of the Sock Doc Training Principles, there is a time and a place for this type of training. If and when you’re ready to train hard(er) then you also need to be consistent with that high intensity training for a set duration (session, sessions per week, and weeks of high intensity). One HIIT workout a week for a few weeks is more risk than reward.
Train Something Somehow and Do it Often
So how often should you train? Well that depends on what you’re training for but ideally you should be doing something almost every day. That means at least six days a week you should be doing some type of training, even if one or two of those days are active “easy” recovery days. Training every day doesn’t mean you’re training long miles or hard miles or heavy weight day after day with inadequate recovery. You’ve got to sprinkle in the light training days, walking and movement days (yoga is good here), and even just good old fun play days where you’re outside running around or playing a different sport with your kids or others.
Training Properly is All About Adaptation
Marathons, half-marathons, mud runs, and ultra distance races are becoming more and more popular over the years and many enter these races as their first running event feeling as though they have something to prove to themselves or others and the shorter races just won’t do. Even the Tri-Geeks don’t let you in their special club unless you do an Ironman. I see a lot of people train for a marathon or other long distance event by running just a few times a week. They typically do three to five miles per run twice during the week and then they fit in their long run on the weekend – a good ten, fifteen, if not twenty or more miles. It’s just not enough training, and it’s definitely not consistent. Most people don’t have the time to train for these events but they want to do them because it’s what everybody else is doing. They (you) could instead train for a 5K or 10K, not 13.1 miles or more. You will have a more positive overall experience with less chance of injury or compromising your overall health.
Consistent training and logging in quality time to build an efficient aerobic base is what will get you through a long distance event. Many think that they only need to train more if they want to be competitive. This is simply not the case. It’s about training properly to stay healthy before, during, and after the race. So if you don’t have the time to train a consistent five days minimum a week for a marathon, don’t do it. If you do have the time, then follow a plan of slowly building your aerobic capacity and overall fitness. Runs during the week of just a few miles followed by the “weekend long run” isn’t consistent, smart training.
It’s not how many miles you’re running as a total, but how you allow your body to adapt to the training. If many of your workouts are two to three miles, then your body will adapt very well to this and you will be a great two to three mile runner. So rather than run 30 miles a week where 20 of those is your weekend long run, change it to a run of ten, seven, five, five and three during the week. When you slowly build up to 40 miles a week then you can add several of those additional miles into the long run, but not all into the long run. Let your body adapt, which has to do with training and recovery. A twelve week half or full marathon training schedule is great if you’re already conditioned but if you’re not, then you need a twelve week 5K or 10K training schedule. There’s nothing wrong with that. Actually for most it’s more right than wrong.
So if you want to be fit and healthy then start slow and low – slow pace and low miles. As your fitness develops with no expense to your health, you will soon be adding duration and intensity to your workouts. But let it come to you; don’t chase fitness down impatiently, it’s a guarantee you will pay the price and probably despise training too, none of which is good. So get moving and don’t procrastinate!