The consistent athlete: Part III, tips


Don’t freak out if you oversleep, have to stay late at work, have an unexpected trip or event to attend or experience a niggle or ache in your body. Sure, it would be great if we could always plan for these things but we can’t. A chance for inconsistency in training (and possible injury, burnout, health issues) is trying to constantly make-up workouts,  push-through fatigue/exhaustion or squeezing too much on your daily plate. When things come up in life, adjust and be flexible. Do the best you can with the time that you do have to train or just start fresh tomorrow. Look at your week of training and remind yourself of how many key workouts you have each week that can build fitness – most of the time, missing a workout here or there will have no impact (negatively)  on your overall development in your season.
If you don't know how to adjust (or refuse to adjust), inconsistency in training can increase the risk for injuries and a plateau in fitness gains.
Be realistic with your available time so that you can experience consistency in training.

This is the most easy, yet most overlooked, component in helping your body perform well so that you can stay consistent with your training. You must make it a priority to fuel smart and to nourish your body. It is critical that you have a strong passion for healthy eating throughout the day and that you do not neglect proper sport nutrition and hydration before, during and after workouts. Plan ahead so that you are equipped to eat nourishing foods and you can snack smart throughout the day. And same goes for your gym bag or at home when it comes to sport nutrition/hydration -don’t let it be an afterthought to address the best sport nutrition for your body before, during and after workouts (to fuel, recover and to minimize GI distress). You will be surprised how much better you feel and how much better you will perform if you keep your body in good health, with the right fuels at the right time. Smart athletes focus on the daily diet AND sport nutrition regime and if they struggle, they reach out to an expert to help. 

Time and time again we see athletes pushing too hard on an easy day or using an easy day to make up workouts. With too much adjustment in the weekly plan, athletes are unable to perform well on the days that call for hard efforts due to carrying around lingering, unplanned, fatigue. Trust your training plan as every workout counts – even the easy days. And when it comes to the important workouts, don’t let your mind call it quits just because you don't like the main set or you are getting bored. As a coach, I want to challenge my athletes with a variety of workouts so a smart training plan is key. But if my athletes are giving in mentally, every time the mind or body feels tired, the athlete may not improve. Training smart requires a special balance of intensity, volume and recovery/easy workouts. For the athlete, if you do not trust the training plan, you may find yourself struggling to keep up with the plan (or taking too many detours, delaying your fitness, by not following your plan). The road to fitness success is being able to tolerate planned fatigue with good form and a strong mindset and to use the recovery or easy days to recover and maintain fitness from the harder efforts.
And your training is only as good as your ability to prioritize good sleep, mobility and healthy eating on a daily basis. 

In addition to supporting your training load with a healthy diet, great restful sleep and good stress management are critical to ensuring consistency in training. Working out with 10 things on your mind (like laundry, grocery shopping or what you are doing with your kids this weekend) will not help you focus on the workout you are doing. Learn how to turn your mind off from life (to the best of your ability) while you are working out. An easy strategy is to keep a to-do list by your side so that you are not thinking about what you need to do when you can’t do it, especially when you are working out. Additionally, quality sleep is the cheapest, easiest and most effective way to recover and get stronger. Rather than spending money on recovery modalities (ex. recovery boots, compression gear, trigger point/foam rolling sets, etc.), first work on your sleep habits. I suggest no less than 7 hours of restful sleep (that means not waking up throughout the night) on most days per week, with an additional 30-60 minutes of sleep on the weekends to catch up for the occasional super early morning workout or intense workouts.  

Many niggles turn to injuries simply because of the little time that athletes spend warming up and staying mobile throughout the day. Often times, athletes will increase the risk of injury between workouts as the body gets tight from sitting and commuting. Or, athletes will jump out of bed (early) and start working out with a tight and stiff body, hoping to warm-up before the main set. Take time every day to perform simple mobility exercises for your neck, back and hips which tend to take the biggest toll from a sedentary lifestyle (yes – even despite working out 10+ hours per week the body is still quite sedentary). Additionally, do not neglect a proper warm-up! It is critical that you make the time to perform dynamic warm-ups for at least 5-10 minutes before all of your workouts. Many times, you can turn an ok workouts into a great workouts, simply by warming up before you actually start your workout.
Also, every time you feel a niggle or ache, you do not need to rush out and get a massage, see the chiropracter or trigger point yourself until you turn black and blue. Just chill-out for 2-3 days and let the niggle/ache calm down. As an athlete, it is important to know what is a normal ache/niggle that can be healed through activity versus a niggle/ache that disrupts form and pacing and can turn into a potential injury.

Currently injured?
All of these tips, including a healthy diet, proper mobility, good sleep and effective sport nutrition fueling/hydrating are not limited to injury-free athletes. If you are injured, you must find a way to maintain fitness with activities that are pain-free as you spend extra time rehabbing and working on weaknesses that may have contributed to the injury. Yes, injured athletes must train smart even during the recovery and rehab process.

Next time you find yourself being a slave to your training plan, refusing to make modifications, feeling guilty when you miss a workout and simply going through the motions, stop and ask yourself if you are training smart.

Work with what life throws at you because if you are stubborn ,and fight with your life to-do’s just to get in a workout, you will find yourself losing enjoyment for your “hobby” which also helps to keep you in good health. 

What consistency tips will you focus on in 2016?