Killing My Consistency Killers

by Mike Coughlin

Short-term consistency is my personal Achilles heel when it comes to training. While long-term improvement in endurance sport is a function of consistent training over months and years, the degree of this improvement depends as much (or more) on day-to-day training habits than big weeks or breakthrough workouts. As a coach I do an excellent job of teaching and reinforcing this concept. As an athlete, however, I often struggle with its application.

Recognizing that this was my primary limiter to improvement, I have paid close attention to the factors that killed my consistency and have taken measures to address them. As a result, I’m happy to report that after 10 years in triathlon, 2011 is my most consistent season yet. Here is what I learned:

  • Work with, not against, your nature: There are several aspects of my personality that don’t gel well with traditional endurance training practices. I abhor routine, and will never be accused of being a morning person. After fighting these tendencies for years and repeatedly failing to consistently make it to morning swims or follow a daily training schedule, I shifted my approach to doing something every day towards a weekly set of workout goals, and to do so at times that suited me. While occasionally this meant finishing a training session after midnight, it worked!

  • Prepare for the unexpected: Once I knew what my weekly goals were, I prepared mentally (by memorizing my workouts), physically (by packing for all my workouts so I was ready to go), and logistically (by front-loading my week to create back-up slots later on). On any given day I had a plan B (and C) that were still specific to my goals, and I was prepared to implement them if required.

  • Be well equipped: I’ll admit to being cheap at times and historically have only bought training equipment and supplies when I needed them. I realized that having spare clothing, goggles, tubes, running shoes and other training essentials on hand at all times still costs the same amount of money long-term, and ensures that no training session is missed when faced with an unexpected malfunction or loss.

  • Replace sugar with healthy fat: I have always had a sweet tooth and like many have used exercise to hide a sugar addiction. However, this year the light bulb finally went on that healthy fats boost your immune system while sugar weakens it (apparently this is common knowledge in nutrition circles… who knew?). I lost count of the amount of avocados, nuts and olive oil I have consumed in the past six months, but this was the first winter in memory where I did not get sick once.

While the above lessons were specific to my personal consistency-killers, learning them flowed from a decision I made to be consistent in the first place. By viewing all my training and lifestyle decisions with tomorrow’s training in mind, challenges were quickly met with solutions.

Keep on keepin’ on

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