The consistent athlete - part I

Many athletes tell me that they want to be better, stronger or faster swimmers, cyclists or runners. And in order to make this happen, they tell me they need to train harder.

Sure, we can all improve in one area through hard work and an improvement in our sport-specific skills but many times, it is through consistent training that we experience the most significant performance gains.

In other words, it's often the accumulation of training stress, that occurs overtime, that outweighs any one sport specific block of training or hard-core, intense workouts.

And this training adaptation isn't limited to age-group athletes.
Many top-ranking professional athletes excel because of consistency. Just like any athlete, they may push really, really hard during workouts but there are many more easy days compared to hard effort days.

The human body can only tolerate so much stress until it breaks.

Even with training as a profession, you'd actually be surprised as to how little intensity professional athletes do relative to the aerobic/lower to moderate efforts in their overall weekly training load.
Intensity is important but the main focus to athletic success is consistency and top athletes (or their coaches) recognize how much intensity is too much.

But consistent training is not just about training intensity or volume.

As age-group athletes, it is important to find consistency in training in order to reap fitness gains. If you have convinced yourself that in order to get faster, stronger or better in a specific sport, you simply need to train harder or longer, you may find yourself making less progress than if you told yourself, that the key is training smarter.

With the off-season starting or finishing, this is the perfect time to think about your previous season and what changes, tweaks or modifications you want to make in order to be more consistent with training in 2016. Hopefully, you won't say that in order to be better, you need to simply train harder.

Consistency shouldn't be confused with perfection as a perfect workout is not defined as the workout when you gave it your all and left it all out there.

Unlike a professional triathlete who fits life into training, it is important that you are able to focus on your ability to adapt to your training plan all while juggling a busy family, a high stress work environment and other life commitments.

It's important that you avoid haphazardly checking off workouts just because they show up in a weekly training plan.

Any given training plan must fit into your lifestyle and every workout must have a purpose.

By understanding your life and your personal limitations with your time, you will find it much easier to stay consistent with a smart training plan.

Sometimes you will be able to get in your entire planned workouts, other times you may have to miss a workout or settle for a 10-minute workout (instead of 90 minutes).

With consistency, you will get better, stronger and faster.
And the only way to be consistent is to know how to adjust in order to make progress.

Athletes who are most consistent with training know how to train smart and use their time, energy and efforts wisely. 

The moment you try to train like a professional, train like another athlete or train like the past-you that had more time, you will find yourself struggling to keep-up with unachievable expectations. 

Let's think about some of the most common reasons for inconsistent training.
Are you guilty of any of these?

-Trying to squeeze too much training into your day when you just don't have enough time to properly warm-up, cool down, execute and recover
-Trying to progress too quickly with intensity or volume
-Working out way too hard or way too long, most of the time
-Burn-out from doing too much too soon
-Putting too much time/energy into your favorite sport and not spending time improving your weaknesses
-Training in spite of injury or sickness
-Ignoring an injury just to complete a workout
-Trying to make-up workouts (or do more than needed) for fear of losing fitness or not being race ready
-Making sacrifices with sleep and diet in order to get-in a workout
-Doing too many group workouts, never giving yourself a chance to listen to your body at different paces/intensities for each sport
-Not keeping your easy days easy
-Relying too much on your gadgets to control your workout
-Getting too focused on total time, miles or pace, letting metrics dictate how hard or long you workout
-Finding yourself "catching-up" workouts in your training plan to check off every/most workouts.

You may think that that work, family and travel cause inconsistency in your training but almost every age-group athlete is busy.

Whether you work 20 hours or 40 hours, have no kids or have 6 kids, travel for work or work for home, every athlete has a certain amount of time to train and it is up to you, the athlete to be realistic with how much time you can dedicate to training in order to stay consistent.

Karel and I work from home, we have no kids and we are our own bosses but guess what, life gets in the way for us too and in order to not sacrifice healthy eating/homecooked meals and quality sleep, sometimes we have to miss or modify workouts due to available time and energy.

But we don't stress about it.
Life moves on.
Because training adaptations occur overtime, there must be a great understanding and appreciation for quality workouts and knowing when and how they can occur.

On a daily basis, you can only do the best you can, with the time you have, with the energy you have, to have the best workout possible on that day.

Let consistency drive your athletic choices in 2016 when it comes to training smarter instead of training harder.

What changes will you make this upcoming season in order to train smarter in order to stay more consistent?