When Consistency Falters

This past winter I wrote about motivation, consistency, and discipline.  It’s really funny that, as someone with less than one full season under her racebelt, I thought I had any right to speak authoritatively on the subject.  Not to say I don’t agree with everything I wrote then…I still do!  But consistency looks a lot different during the back half of the season.  I can only imagine what I’ll have to say on the subject a few years from now.

The fact is that I’ve been slipping.  Nothing terrible.  There have been missed workouts, but the wheels haven’t come completely off the bus.  If you were to just analyze my training graphs from the last year, nothing would really seem to be out of place.  In fact, July was my biggest month ever, volume-wise.  But still, I can feel myself cracking along the edges.  Truth be told, I never really got my mojo back once I got back into training after the Reston Sprint.  And therein lies the problem.  I can see it, staring at me: I never took an off season.

Monthly Training volume - YTD 2016

Monthly Training volume - YTD 2016

I had this big plan, starting as a resolution in January of 2015.  First I was walking, then in May 2015 I added swimming.  August brought Peggy and time on the bike, and October was when I started adding run intervals.  Then it was headlong into sprint training over the winter, getting up to speed on the road bike, and suddenly it was June 2016.  I toed the line at Reston Sprint feeling almost over prepared.  I took a full week off after that race, and then eased back into training as I prepped for my first Olympic distance.  When you count strength training sessions, I was clocking two workouts a day more often than not.  Oh, and rest days?  Hardly ever took one.  “Easy swim!” I would declare.  “My volume is low, so I don’t need a full day of rest.”  In race terms, I went out too hard, overcooked it, and now I’m limping my way toward the end of the season.  I’m constantly rearranging my schedule, trying to find the combination that feels fun, and keeps me from feeling exhausted.  After all, it wasn’t so very long ago that I was completely sedentary, spending every waking minute sitting in a chair at the office or on the couch at home.  Did I really think I could be Instant Athlete – Just Add Water without consequences?

Consequences makes it sound so dire.  I’m not injured, I’m still getting most of my workouts done, and I have every confidence that I’ll finish my Oly in style.  Slow style…but hey, it was never part of the plan to be speedy this season.  Mentally I’m just done, though.  It is a lot harder to get up in the morning and make it to the pool, and sometimes I have to really argue with myself to get on the bike.  Running is a little bit easier because I don’t have to drive to the pool or concentrate like I do when cycling.  In fact, I’m really looking forward to the fall running season.  It used to just be part of the routine to hit the alarm, get out of bed, and start my workout.  Now I have to play mind games with myself to get going.  I remind myself of my goals, both long and short term.  I reread old training logs from years ago, when I did nothing but make excuses.  Do I want to be like that again?  Of course not.  Yet sometimes the idea of spending a very large chunk of time laying on the couch watching Star Trek sounds really good.  In case you’re really interested, I went with Deep Space Nine.  For an entire weekend.  And you know what happened?  I didn’t feel any better.  Between this mental fog and my missing weekly training recaps, I had reached a tipping point of mediocrity.

What’s the point of mentioning the lack of consistency if it hasn’t been particularly noticeable?  Accountability, I suppose.  That, and I try my best to keep things in perspective, which often means working through stuff like this.   Like I said, I’m healthy.  We’re not hugely wealthy or anything, but we’re living a pretty good life, and it feels wrong to whine when in the grand scheme of things, I have it pretty good.  Boo ooh, I don’t feel like working out for the expensive race I voluntarily signed up for?  Ridiculous.  Yet the feelings are there, so I must share.

And there we go.  A bit of a ramble, but I think I got there eventually.  Takeaways:

  • I’m not a robot, and rules about rest do apply to me. 

  • I’m looking forward to structuring my season better for next year. 

  • My life is pretty great. 

That is all!

Motivation, Discipline, & Consistency

I’m part of an online mentor group, and there was a string of comments on the forum asking about motivation.  The person in question was asking for tips to help them find their motivation, and a lot of members of the group chimed in with comments about needing to harden up mentally.  People in sport often seem to comment about lacking motivation, and while that may be true, this particular series of comments made me think a lot about my past issues with motivation, and how motivation isn’t the same as discipline and consistency.

In the past, I struggled with all three: motivation, discipline, and consistency.  In simple terms, I consider motivation to be the “why” I do triathlon, discipline is the rules I set for myself in how I approach my hobby, and consistency is how well I follow those rules.  When I first got into triathlon, I didn’t really have a good reason for doing it, beyond the fact that I thought it would be cool.  While that is good motivation for getting to the first starting line, it isn’t enough to keep triathlon as a lifestyle.  My discipline was quite loose, as I didn’t give myself any concrete goals, and didn’t have any rules for how I would train.  This left consistency languishing, because when there are no rules, then there are no consequences for breaking them.  Needless to say, when looked at from that lens, it's totally understandable why my past forays into triathlon ended with me phoning it in for weeks before the race, and giving up entirely after the face.

When compared to this time around, it's a complete 180.  My motivation now is based in a big BIG dream that I’m not quite ready to share.  With such big dreams, and such a very long way to go, I have to have a plan and pack my patience.  I will do the work, and keep working until I get there.

Which leads to discipline.  I have to set up some rules for myself so I know when I’m on track to meet my goals.  For the 2016 season, that means following the BT 16 Week Sprint 3x Plan, followed by the BT 16 Week Olympic 3x Plan to gently build my volume up.  In addition to the 9 planned triathlon workouts a week, I have two strength training sessions, along with stretching and foam rolling.  The rules are simple: follow the plan!  In the event of weather, workouts can be moved indoors or shuffled around.  In the event of illness, workouts can be missed if I’m too sick to go to work or otherwise sick in bed.  If I’m contagious, I won’t do workouts at the REC.  Other than that, find a way to get the workouts done.

Consistency for me is adherence to the rules.  I think that this is the one that people really mean when they say they’re lacking discipline.  Sleeping in, shortening workouts due to bad weather, or skipping workouts due to not “feeling it” are all things I’ve used as excuses.  I’ve wondered why I lack motivation, but with my definitions in place, it’s easy to see that what I really was missing was consistency.  Like brushing my teeth and eating my vegetables, sometimes the right path isn’t always the one that sounds most immediately appealing.  But with time, these right decisions pay off.

Here’s the end of the analysis, and the interesting part: now that my motivation and discipline are taken care of and humming along, the only thing I really have to worry about is consistency.  And because letting go of consistency means possibly missing out on reaching my BIG DREAM, it is an easier decision each day to get the workout it.

I started out talking about my mentor group, so it seems a good thing to come back around to my favorite quote from the thread to round out this ramble.  A wise person said, “I have never regretted doing a workout, but I always regret missing one.”