The ONLY measure of successful training
18 January 2024
There is a plethora of training metrics we can look at to understand our current fitness and preparation for our next event.
Whether you use a GPS watch, your phone, Strava, or any other platform to monitor and measure your training, we are now able to investigate in minute detail the efficiency of our training, sleep, recovery, heart rate variability, oxygen saturation, VO2Max, training readiness, stress, and the list goes on. The sheer amount of data can feel overwhelming, and often creates more questions than it provides answers, even to those of us with degrees in Exercise Physiology!
The key measure to successful training doesn’t require the newest tech, the fanciest watch, or abstract algorithms. The key measure for your successful training and eventual efforts is “consistency”.
You may want to stop reading at this point because you think consistency is a simple thing, I urge you to read on as it may not be as simple as it seems on the surface.
Consistency refers to the frequency and length of time you have been completing the activity your goals are related to. One of the key factors for improving your fitness in your given sport is the length of time you have remained consistent. Someone who has been consistent for 5 weeks is not equal to someone who has been consistent for 5 years. However, consistency measured over 5 years looks drastically different to what consistency over 5 weeks looks like.
Let me explain.
If I am to be consistent over the next 5 weeks and define this as running 4 x per week for those 5 weeks, I achieve a total of 20 runs. SUCCESS!! However, I often see it happen (and am guilty myself in the past) that we can be consistent for a given goal, but lose track during the rest of the year. Those 20 sessions in 5 weeks are great, but If I then only manage 1-2 runs a week for the remaining 5 months and miss a week here and there, I might only manage 40 runs in 6 months.
Here are my 3 key takeaways regarding consistency:
1. It’s about how we measure it.
If I measure consistency in a short window of time (such as a 12-week block before a race) but lose sight of the last 6 months of inconsistency, I am setting myself up for disappointment on race day. The 12 weeks, whilst beneficial, won’t do what 2 years of semi-consistent running will. Another drawback of this way of measuring is how we feel when we miss a week due to illness or life circumstances. 1 or 2 weeks off in a 12-week block feels like a failure, however measured over a year of running, that week off is inconsequential, and possibly beneficial.
The bonus of measuring this over the longer term, is it gives you perspective in relation to your goals and your overall health and lifestyle. It allows you to miss a week, and then make up some km’s slowly and safely to get back on track, rather than thinking your training week is a failure because you didn’t achieve 70km, or whatever your goal might have been.
2. When you can’t run, walk.
“Time on Feet”. If you haven’t heard this message before, you’re likely new to the trail and ultra running space. Time on feet is an often-mentioned strategy for building your fitness and readiness for trail and ultra runners. Running an event like kMR involves as much walking or hiking as it does running. You’ll be on your feet for multiple hours, and it can be this alone that leads to attrition, cramps and other deleterious effects on race day.
The more time you spend on your feet the better. So that walk on your lunch break, the long way home, an extra walk with the dog, or trip to the shops can count toward the consistent time on your feet that aids you in any event. With this in mind, you’ll find any opportunity to spend more time on your feet!
3. Include your Strength Training.
To gain the most from consistent training, i.e. muscles under load one should think about adding strength training 2-3 x weekly to your routine. Strength training is a great way to add a level of muscular durability to your physiology that running alone cannot. Strength training is a potent injury prevention tool, performance enhancer and cramp reducer.
If you haven’t strength trained before, the great news is any amount of strength training will yield huge benefits to your running economy and uphill speed; but the biggest gains are in your durability. Durability is the greatest physiological factor impacting Ultra Performanc