Consistency is key. But what is consistency?

Hey everyone,

a question came to my mind recently: we keep hearing that training consistency is key to improvement, but what exactly is consistency?
Consistently doing workouts? Consistently completing workouts? Consistently completing harder and harder workouts?
Is consistency basically uninterrupted progressive overload?

Yes, as far as I can tell. Consistency is the best heuristic that gives you the overload you need to make gains.

It’s being consistent in everything - completing workouts, sleep, nutrition, etc. The question you need to answer for yourself is “what’s the most optimised approach to cycling that I can be consistent at?”. As generally I think it’s better to find an approach that you can stick at and be consistent even if it means being conservative, than to set the bar too high for yourself and then fail.

E.g. Better to do the MV (or LV) plan and nail every workout than to do HV and skip or fail sessions, or worse still lose motivation or burn out and need a month off. Or better to mostly eat well but allow yourself not so healthy treats on a regular basis, than to try and stick to a “perfect” diet and then periodically blow out and binge on crap.


No need to over complicate things with this - if performance improvement is your goal then fundamentally consistency means riding as much as possible as many days as possible over the LONG term.

There have been several meta analysis in the last few years looking at lots of different training approaches and philosophies for us amateurs and weekend wariors, and they basically just said that how you trained mattered far less than how often you trained…


IMO: Yes with a caveat, Yes with a caveat, Yes with a caveat, maybe?.

I think the challenge with thinking about consistency is that people (myself included at times) think about the little-picture consistency (hitting today’s workout 100% as proscribed) at the expense of big-picture consistency (stable weekly/monthly/yearly workout frequency and volume.). Consistency is about putting in the work every day, every week, every month, every year, and executing workouts well.

The caveats are that there are times when sacrificing little-picture consistency is necessary for bigger-picture consistency. Maybe skipping that last interval means you don’t blow up / implode and don’t skip rides the rest of the week or don’t bag your next interval session. Maybe dialing an interval session back to zone 2 or skipping it because you’re insufficiently recovered keeps you from skipping rides the rest of the week. Those might seem like choices that lean towards inconsistency in the short-term but enable better long-term consistency.

Does any one workout / session really matter? yes and no. Long term consistency is the sum of these workouts, so yes. But in the totality of the big picture an individual workout is insignificant, so no. If one is consistently (big-picture) inconsistent (little-picture), that is where I see the problem lying.


Didn’t want to overcomplicate things, genuinely interested.
Allow me to explain a bit further:

  1. Consistently DOING workouts: I consistently DO Carpathian Peak, Picket Guard, Mary Austin etc., but I never complete them;
  2. Consistently completing workouts: I consistently complete Dans, Lazy Mountain and Taku, but I don’t do any other workouts;
  3. Consistently completing harder and harder workouts: I consistently progress through harder workouts and complete them/ complete same workouts with higher power.

Point 3 is basically progressive overload, hence my final question. “Give body the same stimulus it’s already adapted to and you will stop improving” is something guys said on the podcast.

That was my chain of thought and that’s what I was originally trying to ask.

I don’t think you always have to be in overload. To me consistency is riding week after week, year after year. You might take active time off during the winter but then you are hiking up mountains or cross country skiing. You keep building or maintaining the aerobic engine.

Here a story - the fast guys in my club are consistent. They show up to the group ride when it’s 35F in the winter. They ride in the summer when it’s 100F.

The slow guys in my club are the fair weather riders. It gets a little cold or damp or too hot and they don’t show up. They disappear in the fall and then show up totally out of shape in the spring. By the end of the summer they are finally getting into shape and then they disappear again in the fall. They never build on fitness year over year. They perpetually remain the slow guys.


Totally agree. Getting too out of shape in the winter is the most typical failure in consistency I see among amateurs. Middle aged riders (like me) or older riders simply cannot afford to not stay in decent shape year round. It simply takes too long to regain fitness.

Another example of failure in consistency is trying to “cram” before an event leading to very high ramp rates.

What does consistency mean for me?

Intensity discipline

Controlling the effort of my training sessions. A few killer training sessions carries little weight in comparison to 200 good sessions. Execute the prescribed session well, stick to the sessions goals, and don’t turn it into something else.

Mental/physical fatigue

The mental / physical side of training should be manageable. If I’m feeling jaded then it won’t be long before it all comes crashing down. So to be consistent I need to pay attention to what I can handle day in day out, week in , week out both mentally and physically.

Workout discipline

Not skipping workouts because you are unmotivated or feeling a bit tired. You clearly need to listen to what your body is telling you. But there is a difference between a severe malaise and a bit of “can’t be arsed” fatigue or lack of motivation.

You don’t have to feel good to start a workout, but you’ll often feel good once you start a workout.

Patience and focus on the process not outcome

If I’m not patient and / or focus on the outcome I want. Then all too soon my discipline and consistency will fall be the wayside. So I focus on the process, not the outcome. Focus on the process, do it well, repeatedly and over time the outcome will arrive. But be patient.

Don’t take long breaks every year

We all need a break now and again but don’t make it so long you end up back to your previous fitness level a year ago.


Riding / doing workouts X times a week is important for overall progression. So doing them is good. What is your criteria for saying you never complete them? Do you notice any trends for why they are not completed? If you look at your history of a particular workout, are you progressing even if not completing?

I’m only familiar with Lazy Mountain and Taku, but if you’re only completing active recovery / light endurance workouts, you need to figure out why or the whys. Not saying you need to complete 100% of workouts, but if you rarely complete most workouts it seems like there are some things that could be addressed (inaccurate FTP assessment, fueling, recovery?)

When I think of progressive overload in my plan, within a block it is a combination of progressing training load (weekly TSS), volume (hours), and for a particular type of workout progressing interval length and time in zone over the block. Then recovery. Then another block with progression, but typically this doesn’t start exactly where the last left off, I have some overlap. And there are limits to the weekly TSS / volume I can handle without imploding and ruining my long term consistency. And limits to what is realistic for interval length and time in zone progression for various types of workouts.

From your points, I’d make sure #1 is the highest priority and you got it, then figure out how to address #2, then worry about #3 while making sure you keep #1 and #2 going.

All of this, done year after year.

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Consistency for me is when training and everything around it has become the default habit. You don’t have to think about it or fight with yourself anymore. You have automated what you need to do.

Every time I have to stop training for one reason or another, I get quite anxious, believing I could never return to my good ways. I hate that. I currently can’t use my indoor trainer since my LBS forgot to order the XDR driver I asked for (I picked up a new bike with a SRAM 12-speed drive train).

Try putting your bike on and running it with 10 or 11 speed or whatever some gears will probably work fine.

That’d work on a smart trainer. I have a dumb trainer, though, so I have to shift gears to adjust the resistance.

IMO @cartsman hit the nail on the head.

To give an example of inconsistency, I used to ride with a triathlete who would have these monster training weeks where he’d smash out 16-20 hours, get loads of time in on the bike, run workouts, swim regularly etc and eat really well. But these would be like one week per month. Other weeks he’d not do much, eat pretty badly and repeat this same process throughout an IM training block. You can imagine the result.

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making it a lifestyle


The interesting thing is that if your friend is like most people who train like that, he told everyone he was training 16-20 hours per week.