Consistency in training is the key to long-term success.
By Ed Eyestone
Oscar Wilde once said that consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. Well, if that's true, then most successful runners I've known are downright boring. A good runner follows one workout with another over and over again for days, weeks, months, and years.
In today's quick-fix society, some might confuse consistency in training with being in a rut. To those who say, "What I need is a sure-fire, four-week program to run a new PR," I would advise: Change that to four months and you stand a better chance; make it four years and your odds will improve even more. That's because it takes years to develop your physiology and program the neuromuscular pathways that help you run faster. When you do the same thing over and over again and it leads to progress, you're being consistent. That said, if repetition leads to stagnation, boredom, and a decline in performance, you're in a rut.
It took Dathan Ritzenhein more than a decade to set an American record of 12:56:27 in the 5000 meters in Zurich in August. Back in 1999, Ritzenhein won his first of two Foot Locker National High School Cross-Country Championships. In college, he won a national title in cross-country and broke the American collegiate record in his 10,000- meter debut. In 2004, he made his first Olympic team in the 10,000 meters, and in 2008, beat his much-heralded team-mate, Ryan Hall, in the Olympic Marathon, finishing ninth in Beijing.
Throughout this period, Ritz had four different coaches and trained in at least four different locations. Despite these changes, one principle remained constant—the devotion to putting in the miles. Ritz's dedication drove him out the door day after day to repeat key workouts, be they long intervals, long runs, or two-a- days. Such consistency over time has built the aerobic stores that have propelled him to greatness.
Take that, Oscar Wilde!
Stick to It
These four principles should be part of your training plan throughout the year. Tailor them according to your goals, interests, and needs.
GET MOVING You don't need to run every day, but be sure to run more days than you don't.
GO HARD At least once a week inject speed into your routine. For example, perform four- to five-mile tempo runs or long intervals at 5-K race pace. Mix up repeats by running 4 x 1 mile one week, 5 x 1200 meters another, and 3 x 2000 meters another.
EASE BACK Follow hard workouts with at least one easy day and don't worry about how fast you're going. Let your energy level be your guide.
RUN LONG Once a week, run 1.5 times longer than your normal run.