Diversity Rules but Consistency is King

A few days ago, Tom over at The Runner’s Lounge posted about Consistency.  It really struck a cord with me.

I often joke that I have "fitness ADD".  I like to do a lot of different things and sometimes it can be hard to manage them all.  I’m passionate about running, curious and determined about cycling, in love with yoga, committed to weight-training, and to top it all off, I play softball at a very competitive level each spring and summer.

That’s a lot.

The risk here, of course, is that I spread myself so thin across all these different activities, that I never really see my full potential at any one of them individually.  For years I have struggled with the idea of the "niche" – in business they say "Niche = Rich".  In other words, pick one thing, become really, really good at it, and you’ll be successful.

Unfortunately, that model doesn’t work for me.  Not in my professional life, and not in my athletic life.  I need diversity.  I demand diversity.  It’s just how I tick.  I have totally come to terms with that.

Which is why I like the word consistency. 

Consistency and diversity can very easily walk hand in hand.  Consistency is getting up every day and doing something.  Diversity is constantly changing up what that something is. 

I have always shied away from the idea of cycling competitively because I look around me and all the cyclists that I know are people who ride their bikes every single day.  I mean, Sal gets up and talks about bikes, and then goes and rides bikes, and then buys things related to bikes, and then reads things related to bikes online, and then goes home and talks more about bikes… and then goes to sleep and dreams about bikes.  When he designs our holiday cards, there are bikes on them.

You get the point.

I’m not like that.  So, this year, I wondered… would it be possible to be competitive on a bike and not have to ride a bike 6 days a week?  To get my answer, I went to experts.  I talked to a lot of people.  I asked for help.  I don’t know anything about cycling, so I needed guidance as to whether my perception about competitive cycling as an all-or-nothing engagement was correct.

Of course, it wasn’t.

And now I’ve got a plan for how I can reach some of my cycling goals, while still enjoying a healthy serving of workout diversity each week.  Sure, I’m riding my bike consistently more than I ever have in the past (and purposefully, I should add) but I’m also still doing the other things that make me who I am, and make me happy.

I’d say the biggest factor for success here is planning.  I say this over and over again so much that you are probably covering your eyes screaming, "Not this planning shit again!!!!"

But here it is.

To successfully put together a consistent yet diverse training schedule, planning becomes absolutely essential.  Because if you don’t plan, it’s way, way, way too easy to just get completely scattershot with five major activities to balance.  So I am getting really kick-ass about planning this year. 

And, just as important, I’m getting really kick-ass about follow through.  If it’s in the plan, it happens.

Period.

I’m excited to feel like I have come to a point where I have a handle on my engagement with all these different passions. I’m excited to have figured out how to take what I love and put them together in a way that is effective, pointed toward specific goals, and still extremely enjoyable.

Eat it up, Frank Sinatra.  I’m doing it my way too.

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7 comments

  1. Okay, I’m sitting down tonight with my notebook and planning out my fitness year. Last year the plan was all about the Leadville 100 MTB. This year, so far, no goals, no plan. No wonder I’m going nowhere.

    I’m gettin’ me a plan. A diverse and consistent plan.

    Preach on sister.

  2. I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns on the “just ride your bike” model of training. My training plan doesn’t have me on the bike every day, and this time of year it doesn’t have me on the bike (outside) at all! Fortunately everything fits in with “the plan”: more running and yoga in the fall and winter, more weight training in the winter and spring, more cycling in the summer and fall. I totally agree, planning is the key. Don’t know how you fit softball in there though!

  3. Although my long distance cycling requires lots of time on the bike, I also like to mix it up. During the winter I like snowshoeing and backcountry skiing. Summer I like to hike and backpack. I only run when something big and scary is chasing me and I like to keep those situations to a minimum.

    I think the key is learning when some other activity is too close to a big event. Close to events I think you need to be focused on the primary sport but other times cross training is beneficial both physically and mentally.

  4. I’ve gotten pretty overwhelmed in the past with other “bikers” and “skiers”. The absolute singlemindedness with which some people can pursue a single sport just astounds me. So it’s nice to hear that someone else is as ADD about sports as I am.

  5. Timely post, cuz. We’re thinking along the same lines. I’m looking forward to geeking out on the planning and reaping the rewards of it this summer!

  6. What do you think about rest and recovery? Are those on the bike every day going to keep gaining over time or suffer fatigue and burnout? Nobody seems to give the couch the credit it deserves as a valuable training partner. Most people seem to think recovery is something you drink or a supplement you use to keep banging out reps. If you have a nice schedule do you stick to that or listen to your body? Trust me, I’m so a.d.d. I’ve been typing and retyping this for an hour. I like to hike, run (hard on my knees,) bike, and inline skate, and now having seen some really cool alternatives to boring gym routines on youtube I would like to start doing anaerobic exercise. Not to mention I gotta fit the dog in too!

  7. Jason,
    I am BIG on recovery. In fact, I’ve been writing a post about it in my head for a few days now. You are absolutely right… nobody is giving the couch the credit it deserves.
    My coach and I had a big ho-down about recovery the other day. I am the type who will overtrain if allowed to… he set me straight (and sat my ass on the couch for two days after a brutal three-day training barrage that left me nearly lifeless).
    Recovery is when the magic happens. It’s when the rebuilding happens. I am constantly adjusting my schedule (and did this prior to having a coach as well) according to the results I’m getting, and the feedback from my body. Working it all in is a challenge for a lot of us, I think, but who doesn’t love a challenge? :)

    As far as being on the bike everyday, I think it’s fine. It’s what you’re doing on the bike… rest/recovery can be active – but you actually have to be diligent about those “recovery workouts” giving you true recovery. Many people aren’t good at this (they get out there and just start hammering, no matter what) and for those people, it might just be better to mix in some full days of rest off the bike.

    The key is to plan and then track. Tracking let’s you know what you did, so you can see what you should do. If you don’t have information, you can’t make informed decisions about your plan.

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