Consistency and Variability: Two Key Ingredients for Successful Endurance Training
Updated: Feb 12, 2020
If you are struggling to get to the next level in your endurance journey, you may need to look at your Consistency and Variability. You may be thinking…”Aren’t these words are contradictory?” In fact, they are complimentary. By consistently hitting your training sessions with a variety of workout intensities you will see an improvement in overall performance. Within the endurance training community, consistency and variability are frequently overlooked, especially by self-coached athletes.
First let’s look at consistency. The foundation of endurance training is based on steadily increasing the amount of training stress (load) you put on your body. This increase in load must be followed by recovery to allow the body to adapt to training stress. This process is repeated over and over during the training season. Gradually, the body adapts to the increased load with hypertrophy, strength, and improved cardiovascular endurance. For the body to get the maximum benefit from the training, you must consistently apply the increasing load.
The majority of us do endurance sports as a hobby, and for most, consistency in training is the biggest challenge. Triathletes at all levels have other priorities, like work and family, making it difficult to complete all the workouts necessary for adaptation, growth and improvements.
Let’s say an athlete has a great month of consistent training. The body is adapting to the increased training load as evidenced by an increased cardiac stroke volume, an improved circulatory system resulting in more capillaries to feed the muscles, hypertrophy, and many other beneficial adaptations. However, if the next month, the athlete misses half of the workouts, the body sees a decrease in load and the adaptations stop or even start to reverse. So, while none of us can do all of the workouts on our schedule, the more consistently you complete the workouts, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.
Next let’s talk about variability. To reach your endurance potential you need variability in the intensity of your workouts. Many self-coached athletes do workouts of varying length but not the intensity (Speed/Pace). The body is an amazing thing, if all of your workouts are at the same intensity, your body will adapt to make that intensity as efficient as possible. For example, if you are training for a marathon and all of your runs are at about a 10 minute per mile pace, your body will make itself as efficient as possible at that pace. Then on race day, if you try to hold a faster pace your body becomes very inefficient and you end up struggling through the race.
The body needs variability in the workouts for cardiovascular and neuromuscular reasons. This means you should incorporate swim, bike, and run workouts at various intensities from easy to intense, including some at above race pace. Speed work can include short bursts of high intensity or longer tempo style intervals.
Having a coach is the best way to ensure that both consistency and variability are a part of your endurance training. Your coach will keep you accountable to complete your workouts consistently throughout the season as well as incorporate the necessary intensity variables that your body needs to adapt, grow and avoid injury while becoming more efficient.
If you would like to know more about training consistency and adding the variability element into your training program please email me at david@teamMPI.com.