Becoming a consistent runner is paramount to becoming a successful runner, there’s simply no way around it. To see progress in your fitness and to reach your long term running goals you need to put in the work over a long period of time. Fitness, unfortunately, doesn’t come through quick fixes. Consistency is the key to running success.
We all know what it feels like to get one or two great weeks of training in, then things just start to go wrong. Perhaps we get overly tired, injured or simply lose the motivation that gets us out of the door. In this article we’ll cover a couple of ways that will help you become a more consistent runner, and consequently helping you become a better runner in the long run.
Make your training realistic
Its often for runners, especially those who are coaching themselves, to overestimate their weekly training. For example, a runner may have the ability to pull of an 80 mile week, so they’ll try and hold that for as long as possible. This can lead to burn out, injuries and a whole host of other problems. You shouldn’t be training at your maximum every single week. To put this into perspective: 6 weeks at 50 miles a week will be far more beneficial than 2 weeks at 80 miles a week. Not only will it be more beneficial, it’ll be easier to sustain and overall it will be more enjoyable.
Another way of making your training realistic is by balancing your easy and hard efforts correctly. There are a few ways to do this, but one of the best ways is through the 80/20 principle. This means that only 20% of your weekly training is considered as intense, and the other 80% is taken easy. The difference between easy/intense can be considered in terms of heart rate. If you’re pacing yourself with your mileage and using the majority of your time to train easily then you are more likely to become a consistent runner.
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Prioritise your recovery
In a previous article we’ve covered how you can rest your way to higher levels of fitness. Rest is just one method for recovery that you can use to help you become a more consistent runner. Essentially, when we train hard, we start to break down our muscles. If we don’t give our body the opportunity to fix this damage, then we will become fatigued, injured or both. Becoming injured and fatigued is one sure fire way to mess with your consistency.
As we’ve mentioned in a few articles before, sleep and periods of inactivity are a must for runners. If you are consistently getting less than 8 hours sleep per night, then you are consistently defying your body the time to recover properly. It’ll simply be impossible to consistently maintain high levels of training if you are not sleeping very well. The same can be said for periods of inactivity. If you are never taking time to relax, then you are limiting the opportunities for your body to recover.
However, these aren’t the only means of recovery. Putting away time for stretching and rolling is important to. A stretching routing helps to maintain and increase your levels of flexibility. This will help to free up your range of motion whilst running, in turn decreasing your chances of injury. Rolling (massaging, essentially), will help loosen your muscles. When this happens, blood can flow more freely around your damaged muscles which helps to improve the rate that they fully recover.
Rolling is traditionally done with a foam roller, which is a close companion for many runners. However there are many other tools to help you recover. There are resistance bands, that help you get a deeper stretch for flexibility benefits. There are massage balls, which help to pin point a deeper tension release. Massage sticks allow you to apply more pressure to targeted areas. I’ve personally even been trying out a muscle scraping tool, which has had a great impact on my recovery.
These are just a few common recovery tools. Many more exist and we would be here for a long time if we wanted to list off every recovery tool possible. Try and acquaint yourself with a few of these and use them regularly throughout your training weeks. Sufficient recovery through rest and self help methods will most certainly help you become a more sufficient runner.
Increase your muscle strength
If your muscles are stronger, they can tolerate more. Running is a very high impact activity. If your muscles (especially your leg muscles) are not strong enough, they won’t be able to cope during periods of intense training. Introducing strength and conditioning into your training can help increase the durability of your muscles. This will help you become a more efficient runner and reduce your chances of injury.
Now, runners do not have to go to the gym every day and lift heavy weights. Strength training 1-3 times per week, for 30-60minutes will provide all the benefits without impeding on your running. We have written an article on when runners should strength train before, as timing is important to maximise your results. The best advice would be to search on YouTube for runner specific strength workouts and find one which you enjoy and could feasibly complete. Increasing your running strength will help you become a more consistent runner because of the reduced injury risk. In addition, introducing a new mode of training in your week can help provide variation to your training. This could help increase your enjoyment and thus your motivation to continue training – again having an impact on your consistency.
Periodise your training
This can be one of the trickiest topics in running. In fact, the implication of it is similar to the first point we made in this article about keeping your training realistic. What do we mean by periodising your training? We mean splitting your training into manageable blocks, usually oriented around a race. For example, I am in the middle of a 12 week training block. I have split this block up into 4 periods of 3 weeks, with each 3 weeks having different intensities and purposes.
Taking this approach allows you to slowly build up your mileage, schedule down weeks (also very important) and help you peak for races. This can have a huge physical implication, as it introduces progressive overload into your training. Rather than jumping into a hard week and trying to hold it for as long as possible, you get to work your way up to a ‘peak’ training segment. We will cover this topic in further detail in a future article. Using another example, lets consider a marathon runner. In their first 3 weeks of training they should be on moderate mileage which mainly consist of easy running. However, their last 3 weeks of training they will be on much higher mileage whilst completing some intense workouts (before tapering down, of course).
Consider the mental benefits of this
The physical benefits aside, periodising your training can have a positive impact on your mentality. If you approach your training in 3 week blocks, rather than the 12 week block as a whole (for example), then it is much easier to retain focus and motivation. 3 weeks isn’t a long period of time, so it appears easier to complete every bit of training in your plan for just a few weeks. When that period is complete, you reset and attack another 3 weeks. Before you know it, you’ve completed the full training block without missing a single workout, and it wasn’t as mentally taxing as you thought it would be.
Both the physical and mental benefits of training periodisation can help your training become more manageable both mentally and physically. These, hand in hand, will help you become a more consistent runner.
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