The Importance of Consistency in Athletic Training

By far, the single most important aspect of a training program is consistency. The key to making long term physiological changes in the body is to train consistently over a long period of time. This does not mean one needs to train at a high intensity level all the time, or even every day. But one must not go through manic phases of training, followed by depressed phases. "Shocking" or "whipping" one's self into shape is not a good way to develop sustainable athletic performance.

It is sometimes good to take a prolonged break, and of course it is sometimes forced via injury. However, one should attempt to train at a sustainable level on a week by week basis. Utilizing a training log helps immensely to find a sustainable training volume and intensity. Training too hard leads to over training and burnout, and possibly injury. Training too little does not stimulate the body enough to progress or maintain fitness levels. A sweet spot must be found, and it should be an athlete's goal to train at this level week in and week out.

I do recommend some down time once or twice per year. The downtime should not be longer than one week with no training at all. A second week of downtime would consist of very light exercises or participation in an altogether different sport. Then getting back into the primary sport should be a gradual progression, starting with very low volume and intensity levels, and ramping back up over a period of one or two months. Taking more than two weeks off of an athlete's primary sport will significantly contribute to the amount of time it takes to ramp training back to previous levels.

Through consistent training, the body will adapt to handle higher training volumes and intensities. This allows the athlete to consistently train harder, and progress performance. Taking long breaks lowers the amount of training the body can handle, and hampers athletic performance.

Specific to climbing, consistency is very important in developing strength of connective tissue. The limiting factor in many climbers' ability to train harder is the strength of connective tissue. It is imperative to train consistently in order to develop strength in these connective tissues.

When planning a training program, a rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the longer the training cycle, the longer the peak of the cycle can be sustained. So for example, consider a training cycle which ramps training intensity and volume up to 100% over a period of one month. The athlete may only be able to maintain this fitness level for one or two weeks at the most, before over training sets in, or a scaling back of intensity and volume is required. Contrast this with a training cycle which slowly ramps intensity and volume to a maximum level over a period of six months. The peak in this case can last for a month or longer, before training must be scaled back. And then the recovery period is shorter, and the volume and intensity can rise again without too much fear of injury or over training.

If it is necessary to take a one or two month break away from a sport, I would still recommend participation in said sport at a minimal level during this time period. This will at least maintain some familiarity of the sport within the body, and will maintain some minimum level of fitness specific to the sport, so that when training restarts in earnest, one has not lost all previously developed adaptations.

Being aware of training volume and intensity is very important in finding an optimal training level for an athlete. A training log is an invaluable tool here, and will help an athlete find that optimal training level for long term, consistent performance development.