Being Consistent: A personal experience

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Consistency is king/queen when it comes to development. What do you think is more important. A) doing two really good workouts over a 30 day period, but having to miss 5 days of running anything of significance after each one. Or B) string 30 days together of moderate training without interruption? You probably said B, but do you know why? 

Below is a graph of the typical response to an SOS type workout. You complete the workout and experience immediate fatigue that is noticeable. Gradually, over the next couple of days, your body recovers to get you back to that baseline fitness level. The kicker is, if you give it enough time, your fitness will actually continue trending upward, to a point. So, if you do another workout in the 36-72 hour window, that whole cycle repeats itself. Training is essentially repeating this cycle over and over, but with each time, that new baseline creeps up and up and up. Oversimplification, but you can get the point. 

The general workout cycle. For best results, your next running workout should be 2-4 days after your previous workout.

Ideally, your fitness is represented by a) in the second graph below. If we are over our head, it can look like b). We’ll have to save that one for another time. What I am interested in is c). What happens when we work out too infrequently? That’s what c) represents. You can see in the first chart, that if you don’t provide another stimulus, fitness starts to gradually decrease over 3-7 days. Now, don’t panic, it’s not disastrous if it’s a once in a while thing. I can also sense wheels turning and wondering what about tapering? You’re fine! That’s a different story. 

Ideally, every run workout you do builds on the last, which is represented in a). In b) we see how working out to frequently leads to excessive fatigue and probably burnout. The last- c), shows us how hard it is to increase our baseline fitness if we work out too infrequently.

So, by looking at this, you can see that if you don’t work out often enough, building that fitness can be a long and tedious road. Let me tell you from recent personal experience. I have been working out with LHR coach Alex Wilson for a couple of years now. This winter we decided that spring 2022 was going to be the spring of speed. So, we started laying out some groundwork and looking at some races. Then we started working out. We started out pretty low level and we were making progress. Then the wheels started to fall off. I had minor setbacks after minor setbacks. They weren’t big, but it caused me to miss a couple of days of running and then a few more easy days of running before I could do another workout. So, it would be anywhere from 5-10 days before I could do another workout. This happened three times over a two-month period! So, every time I started coming back around, I ended up taking a step back. It would take me two weeks to get where I was 3-4 weeks prior. I was c) on the chart- just fighting to get back to baseline. What was hard was that I could see where Al was getting to with his fitness. He was able to add workouts on top of workouts He was doing harder and harder workouts while I was scaling back. He’s already raced while I have had to reconfigure my schedule. It’s a real eye-opener because we convince ourselves that it’s not that bad, but then we see our training partner walk away from me in workouts and in week-to-week progress! 

The moral of the story is this. There are always going to be things out of your control, but things like developing injuries have steps we can take to minimize. Mor importantly though is that there are days that we don’t want to train and we convince ourselves ok, but that’s when the things we can’t control show up and compound the issue. Do everything you can do to get out there and get something in on the days that you just don’t feel like it. I am not saying that you should push through an injury, rather when you just have a list of 10 excuses and any one of them will do. Even if it’s just going through the motions, it keeps the fitness train inching forward and raising that baseline fitness. When the uncontrollable do show up, it makes the interruptions less damaging. 

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