I don’t have much to offer in the way of actual training tips. I can’t tell you how to do a proper kettle bell swing. I probably don’t hold my plank form correctly. I can’t give counsel on shortening your running stride to increase efficiency. I can’t offer an informed perspective on what it’s like to run 50km. But there is one area in which I feel competent enough to offer insight, and that area is consistency.
Sure, I’m not always a model for exemplary fitness. I go through peaks and valleys. Without question, summer is my peak season and the height of my fitness. But even in my valleys (i.e. dead of winter), I’m still relatively fit. There’s just an extra layer of (delightfully jiggly) cushioning around all that muscle and a slower, more clodhopper-ish pace to everything I do. On the definitive spectrum of fitness below, I’m the one in the sassy denim-ish looking skirt. I’m not extreme, but I am consistent.
You may be wondering, when I say “consistent”, what do I mean? Barring illness or significant injury, I work out 6 days a week. Every week. Did you catch that? Every. Week.
As long as I do that, I don’t fear my inner sloth taking over. Even more importantly, as long as I do that I can decide on a whim to do ridiculous things like run an ultra marathon. Know why? Consistency means you are never starting from scratch. It means you always have a base of fitness to (somewhat) ease the pain of taking your fitness goals to the next level. For those of you who prefer to think in metaphor, consistency is a warm hug and glass of wine after a crappy day. Wine’s not your thing? How about this: consistency is that first sip of beer after a long hike on an excruciatingly hot day.
Please note, I’m not saying 6 days a week (specifically) is required to be considered “consistent” with training. That’s just what works for me. But you’ve got to find the frequency that works for you to reach your goals–and then stick with it.
Unfortunately, like most things in life, there is no magic trick to getting consistent with your workouts and training. I hate to quote Nike, but they captured it best in three little words: just do it. For me, this ultimately boils down to one thing:
I had this whole lengthy list of tips and considerations but ultimately they all come back to no excuses. If you want to be consistent with your workouts or training and develop a strong base of fitness, you have to make the choice to be consistent each and every day. Life constantly throws things our way that can take us off course from the things we say are important. When that happens, we can choose to make excuses for why we need to give up on our goals, or we can cut the crap and hold true to what matters.
Here’s a list of all the excuses I’ve made (and maybe some of you have made them too), all of which can be counteracted by our new mantra of NO EXCUSES:
- I don’t have time. If you watch any TV or spend any time on the internet or social media, you have the time. Consistency requires sacrifice from time to time. Also, you are not that busy.
- But I don’t feel like it. Pssst, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I don’t actually feel like working out either. Days when I step outside thinking “Yes! Time for a run!” are unicorns. I am a sloth on the inside but I’ve learned I can can beat my inner sloth into submission with some good, old-fashioned consistency.
- Other stuff always seems to come up. We plan for so much in life: vacations, dinners with friends, binge-watching Netflix parties (or is that just me?). Why do we treat workouts and training any differently? Although it sounds nerdy, I look at my calendar every single week to see what day looks so overwhelming I can’t possibly fit in a workout. That is my rest day. On every other day, I block time in my calendar and/or plan for a pre- or post-work workout.
- It’s so HARD. Yes, there are hard days. But as you get more consistent and develop a base of solid fitness, incremental gains feel less and less difficult. I vividly recall my first run, which lasted precisely 23 minutes and left me feeling ready to vomit. I wondered why anyone would ever want to run. I gave up on running that very second. For some reason, years later I tried again. It still sucked but I had a different mindset the second time around and so I pushed through. Now, eleven years later, I can comfortably run 3-4 days per week for an hour. That’s nowhere near “elite runner” status but it’s sure not terrible.
- I’m just not built for it. One of the great things about running is that virtually anyone can do it. Consistency doesn’t mean you’ll be the fastest or best runner. I’m not built for speedy running and I’ll never win a race but endurance is important to me so I focus on the long, slow burn. If you want to be a runner, you can find a style of running that works for you. If you don’t want to be a runner, I believe there’s an activity out there for everyone. Find what you love and be consistent with that.
There you have it, an antidote for virtually any excuse you can throw at me. Repeat after me: consistency, consistency, consistency, no excuses, no excuses, no excuses. And just like that, you are on your way to running an ultra marathon just like me.