Within the first year of Team MPI's formation, we identified three key disciplines or "mantras" that make up the ingredients of successful athletes. They are Frequency, Consistency, and Self-Awareness. Athletes at the highest level practice all three mantras every single day, and we believe age-groupers of all abilities should, too.
Defining the Mantras:
Frequency. This concept refers to moving the body often. If there's one thing the body loves, it's frequency. For example, the more often you run throughout the week, the more fit you will get. If your goal is to run 20 miles in a seven-day week, it's better to run 4 days at five miles than one day of twenty miles. Of course, many factors play into this, including how much running experience the athlete has.
A "rule of thumb" for the athlete who has a couple of years of experience in a sport would be the following:
2 times a week = basic maintenance or even a slight drop of fitness
3 times a week = maintenance or slight improvement of fitness
4 times a week = improvement
5+ a week - improvement and breakthroughs
Again, this is very athlete dependent, but you get the idea.
Consistency. It's essential to make a training plan and stick to it. That's not to say there won't be adjustments or even the occasional complete overhaul and trying something new. It means week in and week out, you commit to executing a plan.
It's this consistency that is critical to achieving your goals. I have seen this as THE #1 trait of elite athletes. It doesn't matter if events outside their control interrupt their regular life routines, they still figure out how to continue.
Consistency requires deep commitment, purpose, and a goal. For new athletes, committing to this will bring you the most significant gains in your fitness.
Self-Awareness. Let's break this down into two areas: physical and mental.
Physical self-awareness is learning your body's Perceived Effort (PE) during training and racing. What does "EASY," "MODERATE," "HARD," and "MAX" actually feel like? This skill is developed over the years and refined from season to season. Nowadays, we have all sorts of data that supposedly tells us how we are doing at any given time (HR, watts, PMCs, etc.). These are all useless without the ability to assess your Perceived Effort.
To help an athlete grow this skill, Team MPI asks that they evaluate their effort after a training session on a scale of 1-10 (1=laying down, 10=almost throwing up). This is called RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). This is a perishable skill, so it's something we must always practice each and every day.
Mental self-awareness is learning through experience. The more you train and race, the more you understand what you are in control of and what you're not. You learn to use your ego as a strength rather than a weakness. And you learn to ride the waves of training on a more level emotional state.
An experienced, successful athlete understands that their mental state affects their body just as much (and arguably more) as their physical state. Stress comes in seemingly endless forms and places and rarely stops. Having the skill to "be aware" and "see" these stresses is a crucial ingredient for success and longevity as an athlete.
If you strive to focus on these mantras or disciplines week in and week out, you will see physical improvement and get far more mental enjoyment from your sport.