Learning how to achieve consistency in training is what separates the great from the good, and this question—how do I ensure my training is consistent?—really is the million dollar question when it comes to achieving success. It is easy to explain, and the principle is simple (in theory), however, its execution isn’t always so straightforward. Here we will dive into why consistency is so important, why it can be so hard to execute, and things you can do as an athlete to help make consistent practice a part of your lifestyle.
Why is consistent training so important?
Consistency is crucial in training, especially if you are a performance-driven athlete. Doing something over and over again while adding intensity and/or volume over time is what we call progression overload training and has been backed by science as the leading way to make gains in any discipline. With this type of training, athletes work a specific muscle set or function (in our case, swim, bike, run) in a specific and repetitive manner, working for prolonged periods of intensity followed by important periods of recovery. In order to achieve gains, repetition and consistency are key, as is learning to understand and accept that results will not happen overnight, but rather after months—or maybe even years—of sticking to the same routine.
Why is consistency so hard to execute?
This type of training is difficult to execute because it is so repetitive in nature, can become monotonous and takes time and patience to see results. As we are immersed in a culture of instant gratification, we often feel the need to “switch it up” in order to be constantly stimulated by a workout, rather than sticking to the boring “same old” routine. However, remember that some of the greatest athletes of all time have earned their accolades through consistent, monotonous hard work: You didn’t see Michael Phelps training different sports to get better at swimming and you don’t see Mirinda Carfrae taking up tennis as a cross-training activity. They are the best at what they do because they train their respective disciplines day-in and day-out, over the course of months and years. This training takes mental fortitude and massive discipline, something that is very hard for most of us to execute over long periods of time.
How can you make consistency a part of your athletic habits?
Let’s start with a great quote: “You don’t have to feel good to get started, you just have to get started to feel good.” This is a great motivator to give yourself permission to start an activity, especially on those days where anything else seems more enticing than getting your workout in. Giving yourself permission to start something and then assess whether or not you should continue will more often than not lead to more completions and consistency than choosing your couch or comfy sweatpants. (Ironman champ and pro triathlete Meredith Kessler had a lot to say about consistent training when she appeared on our Triathlete Live show earlier this summer).
Another helpful tip is to lay out your workout clothes as the first thing you put on when you get up, or if you come home and put on your workout clothes after work, you are more inclined to get yourself out the door and complete the workout. Don’t tempt yourself by stating “I’ll do it later.” Once you’re nestled into your couch with your sweats on, the chances of your workout happening will diminish exponentially!
The key to achieving your own consistency is through understanding the purpose and process of why you are doing this in the first place. Find your purpose (your why, your end goal) for your training, and revisit this purpose often. It will be your constant motivator when things get hard. Then, focus on the process, the individual workouts which, over time, will lead you to your end goal successfully.
Finally, hiring a coach can help, by giving you the accountability you need to establish consistent training, but also give you the daily focus to help you know why every single workout is an important stepping stone towards achieving your goal.