We’re right smack in the middle of the holiday season, so it’s a great time to talk about how consistency is key. Anyone who has talked to me about endurance sports for more than 2.5 seconds knows that I preach consistency. It is the foundation from which all other gains are possible. Without it, an athlete will never reach his or her full potential. Therefore, it’s one of my core coaching principles.
What am I specifically referring to when I preach (errr….talk ;) ) about consistency? I’m talking about staying active for (ideally for 4-6 days per week) all year long.
This time of year, when life gets so busy with holiday parties, shopping outings, travel plans, and family time, it can be hard to stay consistent. It’s especially hard because this time of year also falls during Maintenance/Transition Phases for most endurance athletes, so there isn’t a goal looming right on the horizon to help keep motivation high.
I see this pattern a lot: athletes complete a goal race, and then they cease all activity. Some athletes feel that they’ve “earned” this time off. Other athletes might be overtrained and burned out, and therefore have no desire to keep up with planned workouts. It might start off innocently - “Oh, I’ll just take a week off.” A week becomes two weeks, and before you know it, two months has gone by.
I’ll say something that’s a bit of a bomb-drop: I don’t think athletes “earn” time off. I think that they earn the physical and mental gains that they make from their training. Unfortunately, taking extended periods of time off effectively reverses those hard-earned gains, and - to put it mildly - I think that’s a bummer for the athlete. I personally do feel that having at least one “Week Off” from structured training per year is a GREAT idea (sometimes I’ll even include two of those in the plans that I write for the athletes who I work for, depending on what their situations are).
However, on the whole, I work really hard on the plans that I develop for athletes to try and keep them motivated and engaged in their workouts. After a goal race, I schedule and monitor recovery (which can be a Maintenance/Transition Phase that lasts anywhere from one to twelve weeks, depending on the time of year).
During time periods like this time of year, I aim to keep them consistently active - in any way - so that things are fun for them, but also so that they’re not losing too many gains and too much fitness. So, that may include some things that we don’t normally include during the main season: hiking, snowshoeing, family walks, strength training sessions, mountain biking, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, Nordic skiing, family bike rides, stair machines, and more.
In my experience, athletes who remain consistently active year-round have a lower injury risk since they’re not starting over from a “zero” and trying to build back up. Additionally, they don’t have as hard of a road ahead of them when they do start their Base/Build Phases of training, and they progress faster over time (long-term, as in over consecutive seasons) than athletes who start/stop. Like I’ve talked about before, a bit of deconditioning should take place every year, but reverting back to a zero is potentially dangerous, not to mention harder. :)
Consistency is key, my friends. If you’re struggling with staying consistent, or don’t know where to begin to start back up or find your fitness mojo again, you know where to find me. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.