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Maximum vs marginal gains - Consistency

Onto the next in my series of big improvements you can make to your training to help prevent you getting stuck down a rabbit hole looking for marginal gains before you've got the basics in place.

This one is very obvious and not nearly as sexy as new aero kit or likely to dominate the headlines like the latest diet fad will. Yet it's one of the things that can make the most impact in terms of our training. And it's one of the ones we struggle most with.

To get fitter we need to actually get the training done! You can have the best training plan in the world, but it’s worthless if you don’t do it. So again some pointers:

  • Always start the week by looking at your plan and checking where you’re going to get the planned sessions in. If you can’t do sessions when they’re planned then think when you can do them, put them all in your diary so you can’t double book, and if the reminder pops up and you know you wont make it, think when you’ll do it instead. If you know you wont get in all the sessions then think which are the ones to prioritise (and whether it mysteriously happened to be the same session that you missed last week, and the week before…).

  • Look back at any missed training sessions on your plan and see if you can spot a pattern to why sessions get missed. It’s usually the smallest things that can derail us, so try and eliminate any of the barriers to getting sessions done. If you’ve got an early swim session, pack the bag the night before. If you can, leave your bike set up on the turbo ready to go, if that’s not practical then make sure you’ve everything else ready (heart rate monitor, bottle, nutrition, any entertainment, garmin charged etc etc). Can you get your training done in the morning, so no amount of bosses throwing something your way at the end of the day can derail it, and even if the pool is unexpectedly shut, you’ve got a second chance to try again that evening. If you’re running after work, could you do the run by work rather than coming home first and getting tempted by a quick sit on the sofa….

  • Make sure that your plan is based on the right number of hours for you. Not what you would like to do/ think you should do / your friend who is really fast is doing / you did once that week when all the stars aligned. Think what is possible, week after week. And not just how many hours you have free that you could train in, but whether your body is able to effectively recover from that amount of training.

  • You’re far better committing to a smaller amount of training and getting it all done than planning to do far more but missing loads of sessions. Once you start not completing the sessions you start to lose your feeling of accountability to the plan, plus you’re failing to achieve the adaptations that the person writing the plan had forecast for you, therefore undermining the groundwork for future weeks.

  • And try not to fall into the trap of feeling great one week and so adding on a whole chunk more training, and then end up doing far less, or struggling to do sessions to the required intensity, the following week because you’re too tired. Your body prefers consistency so aim to keep training roughly the same each week, adding a little each week so that you’re always progressing, including rest weeks every few weeks, but avoid any big changes from week to week.

Next up it's Diet.


Want some help on putting these tips into practice? Following a training plan is the best way to guarantee consistency. And if you’re on one of my plans I’ll work with you to find the best, sustainable training load for your body and goals. Find out more about my training plans.

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