Regularity and consistency
I’ve talked so far in this mini-series about training, reading and diet, and in this post I wanted to talk about regularity and consistency. Eating right two days out of seven, reading one book per year, riding to work just in the summer, running three times one week and not at all for three weeks is, in my opinion, definitely better than nothing. But it isn’t going to take you on a journey of self-discovery. And that is what this blog is all about, realising that there are no limits to what your mind and body can do.
I’ve been terribly inconsistent in the past with both my running and my diet. The only thing which has really been a constant since my early life is reading. I’ve definitely started back at square one on many occasions with my running, either through injury or lack of motivation. As for my diet, it’s only really these past couple of years that I’ve started to take that side of things more seriously. I do struggle massively here though – the cravings that my full set of sweet-teeth sing to my ears, lead my brain down the track of telling me that ‘it’s ok, you could do with putting a bit of weight on, one piece won’t hurt’. I was happy to read this article recently, and realise that I’m in good company when it comes to food cravings – the fastest man on the planet struggles too!
However, I am trying to sort this, and am much more aware nowadays of what I’m putting into my body. I’m in control and will regularly abstain from the sugar (for 4-5 days per week – I aim for at least 4 days then I know that I’m over 50% of a week, which psychologically makes me feel better!). And for me, this regularity and consistency is really starting to pay off. And this consistency is crucial for all of the factors I’ve so far discussed in this short series.
‘You don’t get good at anything doing it once a week’
So said my old art teacher. To a class of 15-year olds, this caused a great deal of sniggering! Smut aside, the statement it is very true. Consistency is the cement which holds the bricks together. It’s taken time and concentrated effort, but I am now very consistent with my training, reading and cycling.
When I first started cycling, I’d do maybe two or three times a week (admittedly, I went from no cycling at all to a 32-mile round commute, and struggled initially). But now I ride 99% of the time. I rode to work and back every day in 2015, and this year have only driven/taken lifts six times – four due to injury and two because Sharon needed dropping at the railway station. The consistency has meant that I have got so much stronger – hills that were once difficult and which could only be gained in the lowest gears are now much easier and can be done in harder gears (even Georges Lane!). But I know that I have to keep doing it, otherwise the fitness gained will soon leave my body. Sharon and me recently went on a three-week holiday to South Africa. The first time I cycled again after this trip, I felt it. In my lungs, my legs and my backside! Just three weeks made such a difference. Consistency is key.
I aim to read at least a book a month, and it’s almost always a book on exploration, running or travel, a story which is inspirational and thought-provoking (although I also have an addiction for Harry Potter at the minute! I’m a little late to the party here, currently up to The Order of the Phoenix, and am absolutely loving them all!). The books I read continually fill my mind with positive, life-enriching thoughts. There’s never an ebb, so the effect builds upon itself. Consistency is key.
I used to drive to work and then try to cram runs in at the weekend, with no consistency at all in the week. This inevitably lead to injuries (shins, foot), which then exacerbated the situation, and I’d be back at square one, starting off with 2-3 mile runs to ease myself back in. This lead to feelings of not progressing, which lead to periods of low motivation, meaning I didn’t run for a while. Then I’d start again, do too much and get injured. Arggggh! Not good. The consistency now means that I am running further, faster and recovering quickly too. I’m now 38 and have never felt fitter or stronger. Consistency is key.
So now I have to work hard at turning the 4-5 days without sugar into 6-7, regularly and consistently. It’s a challenge for me, but one I look forward to taking on and achieving. The accumulated strength, both physical and mental, gained from doing the same thing again and again cannot be underestimated. Once those things that I have had to work hard at making my routing became my ‘norm’, I could then look at tackling other elements of my life, and applying the same approach to those. Like cakes, for example… ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.’