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The Power of Consistency: How it Leads to Running Success

Why is consistency such an important principle for running?

The easiest way to arrive at an answer for this question is to flip the question on its head; 'consistent athletes improve'. It's a terrible cliche, but there are no shortcuts in distance running. Consistency is the most important factor in developing the brain and the nervous system, the heart and lungs, aerobic metabolism, endocrine system and the musculoskeletal system. These systems need exposure to stress in order to adapt and the best way to repeatedly expose these systems is by being consistent. Some of these systems respond as a result of acute (short-term) adaptations to exercise, others respond as a result of chronic (long-term) adaptations.

Acute adaptations are seen in things such as cardiac output, changes to blood pressure, increased blood flow and vasodilation, growth of mitochondria density and capillary growth. Chronic adaptations include reduced cardiac output at rest and increased cardiac output during training, improvement in arterial function (increased blood volume travelling through arteries), increased strength in ligaments and tendons as well as increases in muscle strength and (sometimes) size. It's worth noting that there may be some crossover between acute and chronic adaptations and the common denominator to seeking out these adaptations is consistency. 

Perhaps one of the most important responses to endurance training when we talk about consistency is the need to stay engaged with musculoskeletal adaptations. Inconsistent training and training cessation makes managing progressive overload more difficult and bone stress or soft tissue injuries can be unfortunate byproducts.  

Lisa Weightman: A four time Olympian in the marathon. She has also run 12 marathons under 2:30 (the most by any Australian).

Anecdotally, we see the greatest improvement in athletes who are invested in the process of long term development and understand that development takes years of consistent work - consistent weeks into consistent months into consistent years. Developing endurance is a simple process that a lot of people like to over complicate.

Because of its simplicity, people often become bored engaging with the basics and want to seek out a glamorous way of short cutting the system. It only takes a ten minute scroll on social media to see someone preaching the latest recovery tool, newest training gadget, or how groundbreaking double threshold training is. The reality is that we get better by engaging with simple concepts and repeating them over a long period of time.

Yuki Kawauchi: Is the first person to have run under 2:20 for the marathon over 100 times.

Improvement is not limited to the physiological stuff we've mentioned above, it can also be linked to an athlete's psychology as well. 

The more exposure an athlete has to training, the more confidence they are likely to hold regarding their ability to undertake hard things.  If an athlete has been able to string together years of consistent and unbroken training, they're able to rely on that experience when it comes to racing and undertaking further training.  They're also likely to have experienced challenging or difficult situations that they've needed to navigate in training and / or racing previously that allows them to step into any situation confident with the tools they have.

As we touched on during the blog post on the principle of individual differences, it's important to look at training as an experiment of 1. What this means is that everyone will arrive at their genetic potential at differing rates and your journey is your journey and nobody else's.

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