One of may favourite topics when discussing performance improvement, not just with athletes, but with mentoring coaches as well, is consistency. In fact, consistency can actually be better described as ‘CONSISTENT EFFORT’. After all, consistently just showing up isn’t really going to improve performance is it.
So why is consistency important in endurance sport? Basically it comes from 2 Concepts: The “Overload / Recovery / Adaptation Cycle” and
the “Reversibility Concept”.
Overload / Adaptation
First thing we need to get right is get the Overload part…. (Challenging but achievable training sessions). Next, we recover and then adaptation or super compensation plays its part in enabling your body to handle the new workload.
So it’s recovery part that’s the key.
Get the recovery right and the body will super compensate ….. get it wrong and start training again too early after a hard session and it doesn’t – it sends it into fatigue. Fatigue will make you sleep in, or not want to go to training, or even worse …. get sick. Which brings me to the next point.
The next thing to consider is that if you get the recovery part wrong the other way … your recovery is too long – in other words, you miss sessions, or days or even weeks of training …. well, then you get the dreaded reversibility thing happening. You go backwards !!! Not good.
So consistency really is this – Consistent effort, with the correct recovery periods (not too long and not too short) and watch yourself improve.
WHAT ARE OUR CHALLENGES ?
There are many challenges when it comes to consistency, but a lot of the time they are based around other life factors. Work, family, relaxation time etc. Basically, we are wanting to go in one direction but there are other things “pulling” us away from our goals. Have a look at the following diagrams…..
Arrow 1 (otherwise known as “Chaos”) – This athlete is having trouble with consistency and improvement. The boss is struggling with you leaving work on time, your spouse is wondering if you will ever be able to sit down at night and not fall asleep, your garden and house is falling down around your ears. You get the idea.
Arrow 2 (otherwise known as “Smooth Sailing”) – everyone headed in the same direction, everybody’s goals being accomplished, and basically – everyone is happy and headed in the same direction!
So how can we get from Arrow 1 to Arrow 2 where its all aligned and working in your favour?
One of the best tools when it comes to this is communication. Say your boss is concerned as you walk out the office door at 5pm to go to training. Sit down and talk with them. Tell them how important your training is to you and your family. Tell them how it helps your health and allows you to be more energised. Then ask how you can get around this. Maybe it means working through lunch occasionally…or not going home early on Tuesdays. Basically you need to align both of your arrows.
Another good way of aligning arrows is adjusting your arrow occasionally based on how important the arrows are. Say your wife just had a baby, would it make sense to get her to turn her arrow around to yours? Yeah – good luck with that. Nor should it !! What if your budgets had to be done at work and handed into head office in 2 weeks. Wouldn’t it make sense to align your training to the bosses for a couple of weeks and then enjoy some guilt free training time? Of course !
Finally, environment. My favourite. Always try to establish a great environment to train in. Run on great trails, ride through National Parks, swim open water in great locations. It makes you want to be there.
All of this removing chaos will contribute to less stress……less stress will improves consistency …. better consistency then equals better performance !
HOW DOES CONSISTENCY WORK?
It works in a many ways … but here’s my best 2.
1. If you stay consistent it allows you to keep building on what you have built. You are simply taking steps forward and not taking any backwards. Think of it as a game of snakes and ladders. You get higher and higher up the game if you aren’t constantly landing on a snake and going backwards.
2. It gives you a foundation upon which we can try different protocols to see what works best for you. If we are always trying to hold a steady base we aren’t able to see if more volume might work, or possibly more intensity. We just don’t have that “traction” and are continually losing momentum and a feel for where we are going