Ask any credible coach and they will tell you that consistency is the best way to improve your long term fitness. ‘Smash’ yourself on a regular basis if you like, but the probable result is that you’ll get injured or ill more often and your fitness will yo-yo in response. Take a more measured approach (for example, polarised works well. You can listen to a podcast about polarised training HERE), and you’ll still make the same gains but without the frustration.
How to be consistent
Building long term fitness is like building a wall. There are many bricks in the wall and it’s made up from many average sized ones, not just a few big blocks. So, to ensure that your winter training has this desired outcome you should ask yourself, “What would I have to do to be as consistent as possible?” How about:
- Complete as many planned workouts as possible
- Don’t get ill
- Avoid injury
- Turn up ready to do the work
- Be patient
In fact, if you get your planning right then your winter training diary should be similar to the picture. Note:
- 80-85% green bricks represent “green zone” workouts in Zone 2 (65-75%mhr)
- 10% red bricks represent “red zone” workouts (> 90% mhr)
- 5% orange bricks representing “threshold” workouts (80-90%mhr)
- White bricks represent missed sessions due to family or work commitments, or when you may be feeling off colour
- NO heroic workouts
- You don’t need new tech or gadgets for this! Even without knowing your heart rate or power, you can gauge your effort. When you’re somewhat in tune with your body, you know what hard is and you know what easy is. But be honest with yourself, and don’t end up in your comfort zone all the time, doing sessions that are comfortably between easy and hard.
More about the ‘bricks’
The strength of the wall is in the number of bricks. One green brick on its own does very little, but when put together they become like snowflakes.
Green zone sessions aren’t that exciting but they have a huge impact. Because you don’t feel fatigued after these, its easy to feel guilty (TIP: Just get the work done!)
Red zone sessions only make up 10% and have a small impact on the wall. In fact, you could build an impressive structure without them. These are sooo hard they can make you feel sick, so many people go a bit easier.(TIP: HIT workouts are the icing on the cake if you can face them, but if not, you’ll still make good progress).
Orange zone sessions are few in number and are not generally part of the winter training plan. This is ‘sweet spot’ training and is ‘kinda hard’. They might happen by accident when you’re riding/running in the hills, as a small part of a workout like the last 10 minutes of a run or as part of a race such as cross country or a time trial. You breathe hard, sweat and release endorphins so they make you feel good feel good and you do more of them. (TIP: these sessions might make you feel good, but training like this all the time won’t have the effect you think).
White bricks – Occasionally you will miss a workout. It happens, and usually it’s when something comes up in your day that prevents you getting to the pool or out for a run (TIP: don’t beat yourself up. As you can see, they have little effect on the overall integrity of the wall).
You may have some questions:
- Where is mobility, strength, sleep or nutrition? They are the foundations of the wall. You never really see those BUT they’re there, and that’s what keeps the wall standing.
- Do I train like this year round? No, this relates to winter base ONLY. Planned threshold work (Orange) is more prominent during the weeks before an A race.
So, how do you make sure your winter training turns out like this?
Lets go back to the headline “consistency is the best way to improve your long term fitness”. But how do you make this happen?
- Understand and appreciate the value of ‘boring’ workouts
- Be patient and think long term
- Put the ego away and be willing to get dropped in group sessions with your mates
- Forget about pace/power/speed apart from key sessions or races
- Arrange your lifestyle to support your training
- Avoid compromising future workouts with ‘hero’ sessions
- Enjoy (most) of your workouts – if it’s a chore, you need a rethink
- Be relaxed about training, it’s a hobby