5 tips for staying consistent

Real talk on a tricky but critical training component

This topic has been stomping around my brain cloud for a month of Sundays, and I ain't even mad. The battle of staying consistent is usually only brought into question at times when the battle is being lost.  

 

I'll be the first to admit-

I have had my own bouts with keeping on top of my game in swimming, biking, running, and strength, as does everyone else and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, if they do they are lying. For me, one discipline will dominate, while others fall shy; or all 3 would drop off and lame ass excuses such as "but it's cold out!" would reign supreme. I'm definitely no professional athlete training 30+ hours a week, I work like a regular human, have life stresses, and as much as I would love to live on a beach with nothing to do but swim, bike, run and play outside, it's just not reality, and reality is the primary culprit for consistency struggles. I get it. It weasels its way into our best laid plans unless we make reality work for us. So in an effort to give some practical advice on how one actually goes about "becoming consistent", here are 5 tips that you can implement to get with the damn program. 


1. Embrace the reality that is "consistency"

Here is the blunt truth. Consistency isn't one of those things that people are simply "better at" than you. It is a learned skill that takes work, and a lot of it. You practice it like anything else. Like training a high elbow catch while you are already exhausted in the water and you can physically feel your form falling to pieces, or hearing your labored breathing while you struggle to keep your death march of a run to an acceptable turnover rate, when it gets hard, you focus your attention on the pieces you can control. Consistency favors the determined. 

Once one realizes consistency isn't a magical talent bestowed on others (and not themselves), they can start getting over the fact that they struggle with it.  Be prepared to slip up, make mistakes, and fail. Always give yourself credit for the small accomplishments that get you one step closer to your goals.

Admitting defeat and telling yourself you "aren't hardwired to be consistent" is like telling yourself you can't train to improve your cycling strength, which is just absurd. Aim for improvement. If you are currently only nailing 50% of your scheduled routine, don't set out for 100% and expect to crush it. Set your target for 60-70% and then build up as you go. 

2. Plan it out

This point breaks down into two categories- making approachable goals to becoming consistent, and creating a schedule. Creating a schedule can seem mundane but a little bit of accountability can work wonders

  • Make the goal. This is separate from your seasons goals, and apart from any outcome based goals (like times to hit or what place to take). I will help you out, "become more consistent", isn't a goal that is going to help you in the slightest. A better example is "I will give myself till 8pm to work on this blog post before I must depart for the pool to go swim my face off" (my exact goal for tonight). These little daily goals will contribute to your big picture. 
  • Schedule it out. Whether you are coached, or just going your own way, a simple schedule can go a long way to help keep the machine running with no hiccups. Have the schedule somewhere accessible, and yes in your head can count, as long as you actually remember what you wrote down on your schedule.

3. Make it convenient

The easier it is for you to accomplish your workout, the more likely you will do so. Keep your bike in working order, make sure your gear is easily accessed, (I always keep my swim bag in my questionably sized Juke so I can go to the pool without a second thought apart from *lame ass excuses*), and schedule your workouts (when possible) for the times of day that are more suited to fit your lifestyle. 

If you are struggling though a rough patch, do not schedule some elaborate workout that is going to take loads of prep, require you to travel far, or anything else that would fall in the realm of "complicated". Just put your damn running shoes on, and run out your door. Again, and again, and again. Introduce complicated when you can get the handle back on frequent. 

 

4. Fu*k excuses

Everyone has them. Even the consistent people who don't seem like they struggle when they wake up every day at 4:30am with a bounce in their step. The large majority of excuses are bupkis. Especially if time has been spent planning (step 2, we just went over that.. like 2 steps ago). I would wager that the majority of the time, if you simply convinced yourself that your excuses did not matter and pushed them aside, the only thing that would happen is, wait for it...

Your workout would get done. The end. 

Unfortunately it is far easier to yield to excuses the more we let them take the reins. On the flip side of that coin, the more you say "up yours" (or any other colorful language you prefer) the easier it gets to shove your lousy excuses into the dark corner that they belong in. The corner with the spiders. You know the one.  

5. Make it enjoyable

If you are struggling to keep steady in your workouts, mix up some fun into the process. If you have a workout that you are dreading because it's a suffer fest, find a cheerleader (a dog in a tutu could do the trick) or find some poor soul to do it with, so you can watch them suffer. This method works best if that poor soul is somewhat slower than you so you can get a little confidence boost as well. If you are dreading a workout because it's ultra-boring (this happens a lot in base season as we build mileage in easier training zones) here are a few things you can do

  • Find a good audiobook or podcast to listen to
  • Mix up your route
  • Bring along that unusually bubbly friend who always seems a tad too enthusiastic (there's always one)
  • Name your workout routines something entertaining. A name can go a long way in your perception of the workout. 

Apart from making your workouts more fun, you can also bring back some motivation to make it enjoyable. Where is your love, why did you start, what are you trying to accomplish? Focus your attention on questions like this when times get dark to ignite the spark of motivation. This is not a post about getting motivated, however if you are able to dig deep into the space of your "being" that gives you the jitters, I guarantee you will have an easier time lacing up your shoes. When you are motivated, the work seems less like work and has the purpose of reaching a goal. 


BONUS

Know yourself. keep a mental (or better yet, written) memory of thought processes that get your ass out the door, as well as the ones that don't, and learn from them. Not one to wake up at 4:30 in the morning? That's fine, nor am I, so I train at 10pm a lot of times. I know I am more likely to get in a workout at that time then I am at the butt crack of dawn, so I've adapted my schedule to fit my needs and make my reality work for me. 

Keep track of simple things, like workouts you enjoyed or training days you had a smile on your face and reflect on the behaviors, patterns and thoughts that lead to those pleasant outcomes. 

All in all, we are in endurance sport to find ourselves, not to find misery, even if we do stumble across it sometimes. Remember this is a journey that is meant to be enjoyed. I am a firm believer if you are not enjoying yourself and you lose track of your "why" You need to take time to do so. Life is short, don't waste is doing shit you don't like.