Consistency is Always KeyDonovan van Gelder
In this day and age, there are almost as many different approaches to coaching endurance sport as there are events to race but the one thing that all coaches will agree upon is the adage that, “consistency is key.” This is one of the biggest differences that we see between coached and self-coached athletes. Having someone planning and monitoring our training gives us the confidence to not second-guess the plan. If we do have doubts about the approach our training is taking, well, then it is probably time for a different coach, but that is a topic for another discussion.
Self-coached athletes will often be unsure of how to adjust their training when life throws a spanner in the works. The most common scenario is, “I don’t have the time to do the training I had planned for today, but I’ll be able to make it up tomorrow, or on the weekend.” The resulting weeks end up with lots of days completely off and one or two big sessions covering all aspects of training, combining endurance, intervals and tempo all into one ‘empty the tank session’.
As amateur athletes we are always time-crunched. We squeeze our training into very definite time periods in between all the other things that demand allocation of our time. It does not take much to topple this finely balanced house of cards and, nine times out of ten, it is the training time that is squeezed. It seems the obvious choice to drop a session when we can’t do all of it or, if the time we have for the session is much shorter than we planned. Endurance sports by definition are events that require us to perform for extended periods of time. So, jumping on the bike for a thirty minute ride, when we are training for an event which will take us four hours, seems pointless.
This is not the case though. A week of regular, short sessions every day, is better than a week with only two or three big sessions with nothing in between connecting them. Even if the overall duration of the weeks training is higher in the irregular training. We need to think of our bodies as fires. It is far easier to keep the embers of a fire burning with small amounts of kindling and regular attention than it is to restart a fire every time we let it burn out.
With regular sessions we keep the muscles supple and our joints mobile. We keep the metabolic pathways and activity open and functioning optimally. This keeps the body ready for work when our time allows a long, hard session. It is never a good idea to jump into a long, intense workout off a complete rest day and, even if there are no serious issues like injury as a result, our performance will never be what it could have been had we kept the body ticking over, resulting in a diminished training effect from the precious, quality training session.
The modern training philosophy of ‘quality over quantity’ seems to fit perfectly with this discussion. Many will already follow this principle and not be bothered with how short their training session is, as long as it is hard. But, and there is always a but, when we are forced to cut short an endurance session, this can not be replaced by an interval session at threshold or even V02 level intensity without causing major adjustments to the rest of our training week. If we are experienced in the construction of our training week, and this kind of disruption is not a regular occurrence, we can juggle some sessions but, if this sort of thing is a way of life, then it is better to stick to the planned intensity allowing the body to be ready to resume the planned training after the disruption.
A lot of handling disruptions to our training, for whatever reason, is a mental game. Not getting disheartened and feeling like we are losing all our hard-won fitness because we’ve had to shorten the odd session can be tough but we can be sure that the effects of consistent weeks of training are not lost overnight and keeping the engine idling along will, at the very least, allow is to hold position rather than falling back. Consistency is key.