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Consistency, Physiological Flow and the Make-Up Workout

By Christopher Thomas

In today’s fast-paced world, most people are looking for immediate gratification. We want results and we want them fast, especially as multisport athletes. Our type-A personalities kick in and patience goes out the window. As a coach and athlete myself, I am always looking to maximize physiological capabilities. I believe that consistency, proper physiological flow to a training program, and avoiding the make-up workout are vital factors in achieving one’s multisport potential.

consistentI find truth in the expression, “The wider the base, the higher the peak.”  Once athletes are able to maintain consistency in their training, they will be better prepared to sharpen their skills and see significant improvements. Additionally, one is much less likely to get injured while training with consistency. It takes time for muscles to develop. It takes even longer for tendons and ligaments to develop the necessary foundation needed for proper high intensity training.

When athletes are inconsistent with their training, they are able to obtain only a maintenance mode at best. This “maintenance mode” forces an athlete into just working out instead of training and when this happens an athletes will just go through the motions. However, when an athlete trains there is a specific purpose to each workout. Many athletes achieve a level of fitness and then plateau due to the lack of training consistency. The athlete has attempted to sharpen something that has a very narrow foundation. This leads to a lower peak and/or a breaking point (i.e. Injury). A consistent training approach allows an athlete to really dial in on performance gains. I like to monitor athletes’ aerobic running pace (Zone 1 heart rate or perceived effort of 3-5) while they are in their prep phase of the training plan. If athletes have been consistent in their training, there should be a steady progression to this aerobic pace.

A proper physiological flow to a training plan is necessary to transform inconsistent athletes to those that maximize their athletic potential. Each athlete is unique. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses (limiters). One of the most important things an athlete can do to maximize their potential is to determine their weaknesses through critical assessment.

This process is best achieved by working with a professional coach. A knowledgeable coach will be able to identify limiters and build a game plan that will address an athlete’s weaknesses. First the coach will draw up a general outline (annual training plan) for each athlete.  Then the coach will begin the process of fleshing out the training plan depending upon which phase of training the athlete is in.

Generally there are four phases of an endurance athlete’s year: 1. Prep (Base) 2. Build 3. Peak  4. Recovery. There can be mini cycles within these phases. These mini cycles can be used to address individual athlete’s limiters.

There are many factors that need to be determined for each athlete. Some of these factors are: 1.How much time does one have available to train? 2. What is the athletic age (how long has that person been training and competing) and/or chronological age of the individual? 3. Have there been any prior injuries? 4. What training tools are available? (heart rate monitor, power meter, bikes, etc). Once the coach has learned the necessary preliminary factors, then each training phase needs to be broken down into manageable blocks for each athlete. One athlete may be able to handle three weeks of a progressive endurance build while another athlete may only be able to handle two weeks.

Next, each week needs to have an appropriate flow to the training. Every workout should have a purpose. One day may be used to work on technique, while the next day might consist of strength training. One athlete may need an endurance strength focus for their bike build, while another athlete may need to work on gaining more explosive strength. It is critical to determine when to push an athlete and when to let them recover.

Now we get to one of the most common questions a coach will hear from their athletes: “Coach I missed my workout today, should I make it up tomorrow?”  Each athlete and coach needs to be able to dynamically adjust training plans at times. However, one of the easiest ways to sabotage one’s training progression is to overload the body. It’s important to determine why the athlete missed the workout. Once the coach and athlete determine why the workout was missed, the coach can adjust the schedule accordingly so the flow of the week will still have the same or similar purpose as originally planned. The workout might be a key base line test or important threshold work, so it might make sense to build that particular workout back into the future training program. Each situation is unique and it is very important to look at the big picture. Most multisport athletes are very result oriented. We don’t like to see a missed workout in our weekly training report. A coach can help to determine whether the workout should be made up or not. A good coach is a strong partner on the road to health and physical improvement.

Triathlon training and racing is an amazing journey. It’s a lot more enjoyable when done efficiently and properly. There are no excuses, only well-planned choices. Enjoy the journey.

Christopher Thomas is USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach. He has over 10 years of coaching experience and is a top amateur triathlete. He currently is a coach with Lifesport Coaching ( as well as the owner and director of Personal Training Professionals of Southport (