Article Written by Simon Ward, 6-Time Winner of the 220 Triathlon Awards 'Triathlon Coach of the Year'
Consistency of training is a big limiter for a lot of athletes. I see too many athletes searching for 10% increases in FTP or looking to reduce their 1500m swim time or 10K run time by 4-5 minutes when I think that for the majority, a focus on consistency would take them pretty close to their goals. Please do not misinterpret this comment, though. There is nothing at all wrong with lofty performance goals unless the pursuit of them leads to illness or injury.
The question then is “How DO you stay consistent?”
These are my thoughts…
This means doing everything possible to make the next training session. See points below for how to do this.
For each person there is a bandwidth of training hours that they can achieve on a weekly basis. If your weekly average in the last few years has been 10 hours then it's not going to move very far from there unless you make some serious changes to your lifestyle. Try adding 10% to this and see what happens. The same goes for getting faster. Aiming to knock 4 minutes off your 40’ 10k time is possible in the long term but not generally 6 months. In the short term, set your sights a bit lower and you wont be tempted to over do it.
On a weekly basis life can get in the way. You may be healthy and uninjured but there might be other less predictable events which derail your training plans. If you cant do a 60 minute session just do 30 minutes.
To avoid illness, protect your immune system and be mindful of your personal hygiene and of those around you. To avoid injury, pay full attention to proper warm ups and full cool downs; make sure that for every 60 minutes of training time you have 15 minutes of mobility work, see the physio pro-actively each month, be aware of minor niggles and do something about them before they get worse. Get more sleep, eat quality food.
Yes, these are great for the ego and thats about all. The turbo session where you absolutely smash it, the 3 hour run with mates, an 8 hour ride or a 3 hour swim session. Finishing a set like this will give you confidence in your fitness but if it means you need to rest for 2-3 days after, or that going further than you have ever done before leads to a sore shoulder or tight calf, then the net result will leave you worse off. To adapt and get stronger you only need to a little bit more than the last session. Leave the “hero” workouts for proper events and plan to have time off after.
There is no doubt that a resilient frame will help your body withstand the hundreds of thousand of almost (and definitely not 100% perfect) identical movements each year. Additionally, at the end of long events its a lack of postural control and failing technique which will be slowing you down. If necessary reduce your swim, bike, run training by 10% and replace it with strength work.
It's total stress (work, family, environment, travel) which governs recovery, not how much training you do. Just because a tough session is in the plan, you can always move it and do an easier session. That said, if you carefully plan ahead it shouldn’t often come to this.
This is ‘polarized training.’ 90% of your workouts below 75-80% intensity (what I call Zone 1) and 10% of your work above 90% MHR (what I call Zone 3). Just avoid ‘kinda hard’ as much as you possibly can! Training ‘easy’ means that when it comes round to the ‘hard’ days, you should ALWAYS be ready.
Endurance takes time to develop so long term thinking is vital. Days missed through injury or illness means that your fitness gains are halted and weeks missed mean that your fitness goes into reverse. Focus on making small positive steps on a daily basis and you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make in 12 months.
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