Consistency Key to Running and Racing Success
People often ask, “What is the most important thing I should be doing to ensure success in running?” They are often surprised at my answer. It doesn’t really matter what time of day you run or if you run before or after your strength training or if you run on Saturday versus Sunday. What matters most is that you pick the times of day, workout order and days of the week that will allow you to run consistently. There are several reasons why consistency is the key to running success.
Adaptation: Your body will adapt to its workload. Therefore, if you load your body consistently 3-5 times per week with bouts of running, your body will adapt to those stresses and you will optimize your training effect, maximizing the benefit from your workouts. If you miss workouts, your body will start to become detrained in just a few days.
Injury prevention: One of the most common causes of injury I see in my clients originates with training inconsistency. Often the story of the injury begins with, “I took a couple of weeks off because I was on vacation/tired/lazy/busy at work and then I went back to my normal routine and now I’m hurt.” This is not a surprising result. As stated earlier, your body adapts to its workload. It’s only natural that when the workload isn¹t there for a few weeks, your body adapts. When you suddenly go back to the original routine, your body is not prepared for the sudden increase in workload. The result is often high levels of soreness and in some cases, injury. Don’t worry about missing the occasional single run. It is missing 3-4 runs in a row (a week of runs or more) that will cause the detraining effect that can result in injury. If you are busy and can’t fit all of your runs into a given week, try to get at least 1-2 runs in, even if they need to be shortened. Just make sure to keep them at your normal intensity.
Racing performance: If you are training for a specific time at a goal race, consistency is even more important. Your training program likely includes progressive bouts of speed work, hill training or both. If you miss these runs, you will not be able to progressively improve your speed and strength to achieve your race time goals. In this case, if you need to miss a run (or two) in a given week, try to miss one of your “conversation pace” runs. Make sure you do all of your long runs, speed work runs and hill training runs. Even if you have to adjust your schedule a bit, try not to miss these key training runs.
Year-round running: Given how important it is to stay consistent with running, make sure you are maintaining a strong base of running mileage all year long. Ramping up each spring after running zero mileage in the winter to get ready for warm weather running and racing season is a recipe for poor performance and injury. You are much better off running throughout the year. The base mileage you maintain throughout the year will depend on your distance goals, but at a minimum, 10-12 miles per week should be maintained throughout the year.
Stay consistent in your training all year long and you will enjoy decreased soreness, higher performance and lower risk of injury.