Consistency: The Essential Pillar to Long-Term Running Success

Whether you’re just starting out, maintaining your current condition, or looking to improve, the element that must always be present in your training, and life in general, is consistency. 

There are no shortcuts in distance running.

If we want to achieve our goals, improve, and avoid a decline in our fitness levels, we need to put in the time

In this article, I will discuss the importance of consistency in all aspects of our training:

  • Speedwork,
  • Long runs,
  • Racing,
  • Strength Training,
  • Nutrition, 
  • Rest

I’ll also give you some tips on how to help you stay consistent.

CONSISTENCY THE ESSENTIAL PILLAR TO RUNNING SUCCESS Pinterest

Training

There are a lot of different factors that can contribute to a decline in training consistency.

A busy schedule, injury, or bout of unsuccessful training sessions can wear on you and lead you to feel discouraged, overwhelmed, or plain old unmotivated to train. 

In addition, if you don’t have a specific running goal that you’re currently working towards, you may begin to allow your training sessions to slip by.

But wait! 

You’ve worked too hard to build up to the fitness level you are currently at, so don’t sit back and watch your gains dwindle right in front of your eyes.

Choose a goal, get motivated, and get out there!

If you begin to miss sessions, your performance will decline.

At a generous estimate, you’ll begin to lose your endurance after about 10 days of no training, and at 14 days, your aerobic benefits will begin to deteriorate as well. 

Sure, you can always build your conditioning back up, but you lose it much faster than you gain it, so let’s try to avoid that loss at all costs by staying consistent.

Consistency The Essential Pillar to Running Success

Speedwork

Depending on your current training cycle, your coach will program specific workouts aimed at achieving your set goals.

To accomplish each workout’s objective, it’s important to follow the set instructions and stick to the determined effort levels presented in the plan whether you train using your heart rate, perception, or paces.

Don’t push too hard or hold back. If you do, you will jeopardize your chances of having a successful workout and obtaining your goal. 

If you have an interval session to work on your running economy and speed, be sure to run each repetition as consistently as possible. If you begin to see a big decline in your times, I suggest skipping the last rep or two instead of pushing through a “garbage rep” with poor form and spent legs.

This will not only result in missing the mark and feeling discouraged but make you more prone to injury.

Consistency Running Success

Long Runs

Long runs call for a considerably different pace than speed workouts.

Although they can vary, and at times, include intervals, the majority of long-run training is in a comfortable, easy zone focusing on improving your endurance.

Running too hard can jeopardize the goal of these sessions.

If you are running in a group, this can become an issue as you may have runners who are at different levels.

I suggest that if your training calls for you to run at a comfortable pace, and you have to choose between the faster and slower runners, choose to accompany the slower sub-group.

If you try to keep up with the faster runners and push too hard, you are again, preventing yourself from working towards the specific training goal and will risk burning out before you are able to finish your session.

Racing

After months of training for an event, you should be comfortable with your paces, and have created a race strategy

Stick to the strategy and stay consistent with what you have practiced over and over during your race simulations. This is one of the most vital moments to be consistent to ensure success and reach your race goal. 

Starting out too hard will throw off your whole plan and be detrimental to the outcome of your race. Once you burn out, it is very hard to get back on track and feel energized again.

Consistency The Essential Pillar to Running Success

Strength Training

Strength training is a key component to being a strong runner, and consistent gym sessions will not only help you improve your running but avoid injury as well. Unfortunately, your gains at the gym are also quickly lost if sessions are missed. 

So find ways to make it exciting and something to look forward to! Going to the gym with a friend or joining group classes will help push you to show up.

Nutrition

Sticking to a well-balanced healthy diet is fundamental for an active lifestyle in general, but even more so for athletes. 

What we eat and drink is our fuel. It keeps up strong, healthy, and raring and ready to go. If we don’t feed our body what it needs, we could risk falling into fatigue or getting sick more often by impairing our immune system. 

To know what and when you need to consume, see a nutritionist to help you build a plan.

This will get you on track and develop great habits that will last a lifetime. You will also surely see improvement in your performance in general. 

Consistency The Essential Pillar to Running Success

Hydration

Keeping your body well-hydrated not only ensures maximum performance in your running, but according to Harvard School of Public Health, is also “crucial for your day to day functions such as regulating body temperature, keeping joints lubricated, preventing infections, delivering nutrients to cells, and keeping organs functioning properly while at the same time improving your sleep quality, cognition, and mood”. 

Those are some pretty important reasons to drink up! 

Consistent hydration and nutrition during training and racing is key to success. Be sure and practice a schedule which includes how much and how often you must drink and fuel while running. You can set alarms on your watch to keep you on track. 

Check out our sweat test and carbohydrate calculating equation in this article for a general idea of what you need to consume.

Consistency The Essential Pillar to Running Success

Rest Days

We are all clear that to improve, we need to be consistent with our training but this also includes rest. Respect your rest days because they are just as important as your training sessions. They ensure your muscles have enough time to recuperate and help avoid injury. 

We work hard, train hard, and need to rest hard.

Getting a good night’s sleep consistently will let your body and brain recover and will improve your cognitive function, mood and overall performance. Having a set time to wake up and go to bed will help ensure you get your necessary Zzs to feel your best. 

Falling Behind

If you get injured and are unable to run, look for alternatives that will help you maintain your current condition, such as cross training. Ask your doctor or physical therapist what options you do have, and figure out a plan that will work for you.

If you are unable to stay consistent in your training, you will start to fall behind, your performance will decline, and this will cause unnecessary stress that could lead to demotivation, and even ultimately deciding to take a serious break from running!

Running is your happy place, an enjoyable escape, it shouldn’t feel like an obligation that you don’t want to fulfill. If it begins to feel like a burden, and you become overwhelmed, you can try out these tips to help organize your schedule and stay consistent!

Develop Good Habits

The best way to stay consistent is to develop good habits, and we can achieve this by setting up routines. Organizing our time and setting schedules allow us to fit everything in comfortably. It may seem silly to actually put your schedule to pen and paper but it will become second nature after a while.

Consistency The Essential Pillar to Running Success

Morning Routine

To be sure you have enough time to complete your training without rushing, schedule ahead of time when you need to wake up.

Leave enough time to be able to prepare and eat your pre-work out snack and get dressed and ready to hit the pavement.

I suggest training first thing in the morning if your schedule allows for it. That way, you avoid potential session-skipping due to exhaustion from a tiring day, or the chance that something “more important” comes up like binge-watching your favorite tv show.

In addition to ensuring you complete your training, working out in the morning will make you feel wonderfully energized for your day!

Diet

Meals and snacks must also be scheduled. Most of us have difficult work schedules and tend to skip meals or snacks due to rushing around from meeting to meeting, or working straight through our lunch hour. 

Be sure to organize your snacks and meals to ensure you are fueling properly. You want to have plenty of energy not just for your training, but for everything else life throws at you.

Sleep

Another important time slot to carve out is your sleep schedule. Everyone’s needs are different, but athletes tend to need a bit more sleep than the average person. You may need up to 9 hours a night to feel you best the next day! 

Plan accordingly, and set up a pre-bedtime routine to unplug and relax so you are able to drift off at the necessary time. 

It may seem overwhelming, but sticking to these schedules will ultimately reduce your stress level and you will be completing all of your training components without giving it a second thought.

Consistency The Essential Pillar to Running Success

The work you need to do is now: set your schedules, follow them, and watch how they turn into great habits which will lead to optimum performance in your running and your life in general!

Consistency The Essential Pillar to Running Success
Katelyn Tocci

Katelyn Tocci

Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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